The Brackets are set. The field is locked. The bubbles have burst. And the ACC is well-represented moving forward. Here is our early analysis. (Stay tuned for the Confidential bracket contest details!)
Suppose you had to play one game… for all the marbles… and you could use your time machine (or TARDIS) to put together a team of 12 players at their peaks. Who would you pick? Well, the Confidential does not know who YOU would pick. But here is who the Confidential would pick for Clemson:
Suppose you had to play one game… for all the marbles… and you could use your time machine (or TARDIS) to put together a team of 12 players at their peaks. Who would you pick? Well, the Confidential does not know who YOU would pick. But here is who the Confidential would pick for Boston College:
Welcome to this week’s edition of Lineup Card. I was looking through some results from the last few weeks and came to a troubling conclusion: The SEC has absolutely owned the ACC this year in baseball. Let me explain
1. SEC > ACC
Back in football season, all of us were confident after the ACC’s successes against the SEC. As usual, our success continued in basketball. Now as we transition over to baseball season, it doesn’t look good for the conference. The SEC is 9-3 against the ACC this season and could improve to 10-3 if USC beats Clemson tonight. There’s not really an explanation other than the fact that some teams (I’m looking at you FSU and Miami) are underachieving.
2. Palmetto State Fight
Clemson and South Carolina fought this weekend in their yearly battle for the Palmetto state. Game 1 was an easy win for the Tigers. They scored 8 runs in the first 3 innings and the Gamecocks wouldn’t answer until the 4th inning. A final score of 11-4 left Clemson fans feeling confident about the weekend. Game 2 started the same way, but Clemson’s 1 run in the first inning turned out to be their only run as they lost 4-1. Game 3 has been postponed to tonight and will be on SEC Network+. This would be a huge win for Clemson if could take the series from their in-state rival. If they want to get back in the polls, the would surely help.
3. Cavs stay perfect
Another week has gone by and Virginia remains undefeated. They hosted a tournament down in Myrtle Beach this weekend and cruised through all 3 games. Next week will be pretty easy as well facing VMI and Pittsburgh. I don’t see them losing a game until March 20th when Florida State comes to town. Even then, who’s to say UVA won’t sweep them too?
4. Low Scoring Games
7 ACC teams currently post ERA’s below 3. Even better, UVA and Duke post ERA’s below 2. This is an interesting stat since one of those teams, Pitt, owns a losing record. For the most part, if you keep teams from scoring, you’ll win games. Pitt has done just that, but hasn’t scored enough themselves to win. Other than Pitt, the other teams (UVA, Duke, Clemson, VT, Louisville, and ND) all post winning records.
5. Sophomores lead in Average
A couple of second year players currently lead the conference in batting average. Cavan Biggio (ND) and Preston Palmeiro (NCSU) both start the season above the .500 mark. The bigger story is how these averages have effected their teams. There’s no doubt that Biggio’s average has played a huge roll in the Irish improving to 10-1, but NC State is stuck at 5-3. On paper, Palmeiro has more talent around him, but Biggio’s Irish have been better as of late. I’m not completely sold on Notre Dame yet since their schedule has been a little weak, but 10-1 is still impressive.
6. More weather problems
More snow and rain messed with the ACC schedule this week. A total of 10 games were either postponed or canceled due to weather against the teams’ best efforts. NC State moved an entire weekend tournament to Savannah, GA only to have it rained out down there as well. Virginia was forced to postpone their weekday game, but played their weekend games after moving them to Myrtle Beach, SC. On a personal note, I love how easy it is for teams to reschedule games on the fly.
7. FSU bounces back
The Seminoles returned to form this week going 4-0. A win over Jacksonville and a sweep of UNCW may have given the team its confidence back. DJ Stewart added a few more home runs as FSU put up 28 runs in their 4 games this week. When Florida State plays like this, they look unbeatable. When they play like they did the week before, they aren’t tough to beat at all. I’m not completely sure which team is the real one yet.
8. ACC schedule opens this weekend
Of course this coming weekend will be an exciting one as conference play begins. Notable matchups include Duke traveling to UNC and Louisville hosting Miami. You should be able to find at least a few games on ESPN3 and I would encourage you to watch. As I’ve said many times before, ACC baseball is always fun to watch.
9. Here are my ACC Power Rankings
Georgia Tech (7-3)
Notre Dame (10-1)
North Carolina (6-3)
NC State (5-3)
Wake Forest (6-4)
Virginia Tech (5-5)
Boston College (3-6)
Can you believe it? Two weeks from today, we will be doing our brackets. The question, of course, is how many ACC teams will be on those particular brackets.
Lineup Card is a weekly roundup of ACC Baseball. Each week will feature 9 points including power rankings.
Well all in all, it was a good week in ACC baseball. Most teams settled in with an opening tournament somewhere down south. Some teams went farther south than they originally imagined which brings us to our first point:
1. How ’bout that snow?
Teams north of the mason-dixon usually can’t use their own field until mid-March due to snow. This week though, a few southern teams fell victim to the weather. The south got its yearly dose of “Snowmageddon” and NC State and Louisville were forced to cancel games. Virginia planned ahead and moved all their weekend games to various sites in Charleston, SC. Thursday’s game took place at a high school with a reported crowd of around 50 people. They stayed perfect in those games to remain undefeated which says a lot about the team.
2. UCLA cruises to take series in Chapel Hill
UCLA took 2 of 3 from UNC, which was probably the best North Carolina could have hoped for. Yet, something still didn’t feel right about the Tar Heels. They seemed to play right into UCLA’s hands throughout the weekend. Benton Moss only lasted 3.2 innings during which he only gave up 2 runs on 4 hits, but threw 86 pitches. UCLA makes other teams beat themselves and UNC did just that. Let’s take the 6th inning for example. UCLA put up 3 runs on a wild pitch, passed ball, and a fielders choice. UCLA did virtually nothing and still put up 3 runs. Overall, UNC made 6 errors throughout the game which ended up being the difference in an 8-5 loss on Friday. They’re still going to be a solid team this year, but they can’t expect to beat the elite teams unless they can minimize the errors.
3. Disappointing weekend at the beach for NC State
NC State didn’t show well this weekend. They had hoped for some close games and a couple wins at Caravelle Resort’s Baseball at the Beach. An opening loss to Albany turned the whole weekend sour. The following day’s win over FIU did little to help the team’s confidence as it was followed by a 12-3 thumping by Coastal Carolina. The young Wolfpack team showed they have lots of room for improvement. The talent they need is on the field, but the team itself hasn’t quite come together.
4. Georgia Tech doesn’t go down easy
Also at Caravelle Resort’s Baseball at the Beach, Georgia Tech turned in an impressive showing in Myrtle Beach. They started off the weekend right by pounding FIU 16-9, but couldn’t quite get past Coastal Carolina losing 7-5. The Jackets capped off the weekend with a walk-off win over Albany. GT improves to 5-2 on the year with all 5 of those wins coming from behind. While it certainly makes for exciting baseball, I’m sure they wouldn’t mind having the lead a little more.
5. Miami couldn’t get it done in Gainesville
Two top 10 teams battled this weekend as #6 Florida and #8 Miami played a 3 game series. Miami played well, but dropped 2 of the 3 games. These aren’t bad losses but definitely some winnable games for the Hurricanes. They are in the midst of tough times after losing 3 of their last 4.
6. More trouble in the Sunshine State..
#12 Florida State also dropped 3 of their 4 games this week, but all to unranked teams. The ‘Noles lost their weekday game to Jacksonville and then lost 2 of 3 to Georgia. There isn’t just one main problem either. With scores like 4-1 and 10-5, it’s clear that the offense can’t score and pitchers can’t stop the opposition from scoring. A 14 game homestand comes at a perfect time for FSU as they look to regroup.
7. They lost to who?
This week was not without some games that will make you do a double take. Upsets are pretty common in baseball, but it’s more noticeable since many of these upsets feature schools you may not have been aware played baseball. Aside from those already mentioned, Pitt lost to Wofford and East Tennessee State, Virginia Tech lost to Rider, and Louisville dropped a series to Arkansas State.
8. Problems in Louisville
#7 Louisville lost 2 of 3 to Arkansas State this weekend while stranding 20 runners on base in those two games. The Cardinals obviously need to find a way to get these runners in because you can’t expect to be in the top 10 for long only scoring 1 or 2 runs a game. They turned it around in the final game of the series with a 14-8 victory. I’m not completely sold on Louisville yet. One series doesn’t define a season, but when a team struggles early it tends to become a trend.
9. Here are my ACC Power Rankings
1. Virginia (7-0)
2. Miami (5-3)
3. FSU (4-3)
4. Georgia Tech (5-2)
5. North Carolina (4-2)
6. Louisville (3-3)
7. Clemson (4-2)
8. Notre Dame (7-1)
9. Duke (5-1)
10. Wake Forest (4-2)
11. NC State (2-3)
12. Virginia Tech (3-2)
13. Boston College (2-5)
14. Pittsburgh (2-4)
As the weather gets warmer (well, for most of the ACC), spring comes and with spring comes baseball. America’s pastime is alive and well in the ACC as last season saw 6 teams go to the NCAA tournament. The addition of Louisville makes an already competitive league ever tougher. Here’s a quick overview of some of the storylines for ACC baseball.
(Pre-season rankings according to Baseball America)
2014 Record: 22-33 (10-20)
Player to Watch: OF Chris Shaw
The Eagles have never really been known as a baseball school. In fact, their baseball field is actually a fenced off corner of a soccer field. The team is usually towards the bottom of the ACC standings. This year looks like it may be the same, but there is a twist. That twist is outfielder Chris Shaw. The outfielder had a tremendous 2014 during which he led the league in home runs and was named All-ACC. Baseball is by no means an individual game, but if BC can get their star some support, it could be a different year.
2014 Record: 36-25 (15-14)
Postseason: Lost @ Nashville Regional
Player to Watch: OF Steven Duggar
Clemson opens the season ranked 24th according to Baseball America and for good reason. They return most of their core from last year and have brought in some solid recruits. Steven Duggar was All-ACC last year, but he’s not the only star. Aside from him, the Tigers have two elite left handed pitchers in Zack Erwin and Alex Bostic. On the other end of the battery is sophomore Chis Okey who batted .286 in his freshman year. On the surface, Clemson has the pieces it takes to get to Omaha. You can be sure that the loss in regionals last year will drive this team to work for a better result this year.
2014 Record: 33-25 (16-14)
Postseason: Lost @ ACC Tournament
Player to Watch: RHP Michael Matuella
One of the more intriguing teams from 2014 was Duke. Armed with a 2nd year head coach and lots of veterans, the Blue Devils won 30 games for only the 10th time in program history and the first time since 2009. Now is when the rubber meets the road for coach Chris Pollard. The team is now mostly his players and many will play key roles for Duke this year. Even though the team lost much of their offense last year, they return most of their pitching talent. Junior Michael Matuella is a pre-season All-American and Baseball America even named him the top draft prospect in the ACC. Behind him is senior Andrew Istler who is known for his versatility. He will start the season as the no. 2 starter, but don’t be surprised to see him come out of the bullpen especially in key games.
#21 Florida State
2014 Record: 43-17 (21-9)
Postseason: Lost @ Tallahassee Regional
Player to Watch: OF DJ Stewart
There’s no question this year as to who the Seminoles will turn to as their star. DJ Stewart hopes to repeat as the ACC player of the year. The junior garnered just about every award last year and will return this season to do it once more. Aside from Stewart, a veteran heavy rotation is led by junior Mike Compton and senior Bryant Holtmann. The Seminoles suffered a disappointing loss at their own regional last season suffering losses to Georgia Southern and Alabama. That was certainly not the outcome they hoped for and will be hungry for more this season.
2014 Record: 37-27 (14-16)
Postseason: Lost @ Oxford Regional
Player to Watch: DH AJ Murray
After an improbable run to the ACC title last season, the Yellow Jackets return with most of their core looking to repeat. AJ Murray leads an offense that tends to be a little all-or-nothing. At times, they can easily score 10 or more runs. Other times, they are apt to being shut out. On the other side, Georgia Tech relied on the strength of their bullpen last year. This year should see the reverse since their star relievers graduated. The team now finds strength in their starters. If the Jackets’ hitting can find some consistency this year, they have the pieces in place to make a run for the title again.
2014 Record: 50-17 (19-5 in AAC)
Postseason: Lost in CWS (went undefeated through Regionals and Supers)
Player to Watch: RHP Kyle Funkhouser
If you thought adding Louisville to the conference would just boost basketball, you clearly haven’t seen the Cardinals play baseball. The team went undefeated in their own regional and super regional only to fall in the College World Series to eventual champion Vanderbilt. Junior returns Kyle Funkhouser and will be one of the top draft prospects this year as he leads the veteran heavy team. With much of the team returning this season, there’s no reason to think the Cardinals won’t return to Omaha for the 3rd straight year.
2014 Record: 44-19 (24-6)
Postseason: Lost @ Coral Gables Regional final
Player to Watch: C Zack Collins
Many teams in the nation would have loved to have Miami’s last season. They were the top seed in the ACC tourney, and even though they didn’t win, they still hosted their own regional. It took a double elimination final but Texas Tech outlasted the Hurricanes to advance to the next round. By most standards, this wasn’t a bad season at all. With the talent they had though, many felt they could have done more. This year, the Hurricanes are back and ready to do just that. The team is anchored by a number of All-Americans including ace Andrew Suarez, one of the conference’s top pitchers. But the star of the team is sophomore catcher Zack Collins. After an amazing freshman season where he hit almost .300 with 11 home runs, Collins will try to continue his legacy at Miami. With expectations even higher than last year, anything short of a CWS berth may be seen as a disappointment. With the talent here though, there’s no reason to expect the Hurricanes won’t find themselves in Omaha.
#17 North Carolina
2014 Record: 35-27 (15-15)
Postseason: Lost @ Gainesville Regional
Player to Watch: OF Skye Bolt
After the 2013 season saw both UNC and NC State meet in the CWS, fans of both teams anxiously awaited 2014. Unfortunately for them, both teams failed to meet expectations as their only meeting was the ACC play-in game. North Carolina came out on the better end as they won the play-in and squeaked into the Gainesville regional. This year, with many of the same players returning, UNC once again hopes to live up to the lofty expectations. Skye Bolt and Landon Lassiter anchor a solid lineup and Trent Thornton leads an elite rotation. Not much has changed for the Tar Heels and hopefully that means they can build off last year’s disappointment and get back to to the College World Series.
2014 Record: 32-23 (13-17)
Postseason: Lost ACC play-in game
Player to Watch: C Andrew Knizner
As previously mentioned, the Wolfpack had a disappointing season a year ago. Expectations were sky high and with 2 first round draft picks, everything indicated that the Wolfpack would have a memorable year. Sadly, the supporting cast underperformed and the stars even faltered a bit at times. It was a year that many would like to forget. Now starts a new year for NC State and with it, a fresh start. After losing 7 draft picks, the team will look to its youth this year. Andrew Knizner shifts from 3B to catcher and will likely be the team’s top hitter. Knizner should get some help from veteran outfielder Jake Fincher, but there are still quite a few holes to fill. Most likely, 2015 will be a rebuilding year for the Wolfpack, but they may not be too far out of contention.
2014 Record: 22-31 (9-21)
Player to Watch: 2B Cavan Biggio
The Irish didn’t get the warm welcome they were hoping for last season. Their first year in the conference saw them finish tied for last place. With nowhere to go but up, Notre Dame turns to their star player with his star legacy: Cavan Biggio. The son of MLB great Craig Biggio, Cavan led the team last year in several categories as a freshman. As he returns for his second year, Biggio looks for consistency, something he struggled with last year. Also of note is the late addition of Tori Hunter Jr, a wide receiver on the football team. Hunter Jr. hasn’t played baseball since high school and while dual sport athletes aren’t unusual, it’s interesting seeing an addition to the team so late. Also the son of a Major Leaguer, Hunter Jr. will get a chance to show off his athleticism on the diamond this year.
2014 Record: 22-30 (11-19)
Player to Watch: OF Boo Vazquez
Pitt was another team that had a rude awakening in their first season of ACC. They pulled a few upset victories, but overall were not good enough for the ACC tournament. This year, the Panthers hope to improve from last year and make the tourney. With a top 50 recruiting class, Pittsburgh could very easily find themselves in the tournament especially if senior Boo Vazquez has a year like the last one. He was the leading power hitter for the Panthers and even had a 10 game hitting streak last year. Though it may be a few years off, Pittsburgh appears to be a team that’s on its way up.
2014 Record: 53-16 (22-8)
Postseason: Lost in CWS final
Player to Watch: LHP Nathan Kirby
The Cavaliers enjoyed a special year that was a few outs away from being even more. In the 3 game College World Series final, Virginia outscored Vanderbilt 17-14 but lost 2 games by a single run. It was a tough way to end a season that was one to remember. Even though they lost a few stars to the draft, the Cavaliers return a majority of the players from their Omaha run. Most notably, Nathan Kirby is a lefty who throws around 92mph. Add in his junk pitches, and you can easily see how Kirby no-hit Pittsburgh last year. With several more names popping up on draft boards everywhere, Virginia looks like a strong candidate to win the ACC and more this year.
2014 Record: 21-31-1 (9-21)
Player to Watch: OF Saige Jenco
2014 was tough year for Virginia Tech baseball. They finished tied for last place in the conference winning only 9 conference games. After losing some key seniors, the Hokies look to rebuild under 2nd year coach Patrick Mason. Saige Jenco is only a sophomore this year and will attempt to lead the young team back to their former glory. Jenco will probably bat lead off as to create some runs which were hard to come by last season. Things will not get better overnight, but this is a team that could become a conference power in a few years.
2014 Record: 30-26 (15-15)
Postseason: Lost ACC play-in game
Player to Watch: 3B/RHP Will Craig
After a few years at the bottom of the conference, Wake Forest returned to the ACC tournament in 2014 yet suffered a quick exit. A 5-3 loss to eventual champion Georgia Tech killed the Deacons’ national tournament hopes. With their star freshmen returning, expect to see them back in the hunt this year. Nate Mondou found his spot at 2B last year and delivered several clutch at bats. On the other side of the diamond, Will Craig became the starting 3B and was also used on the mound where he made 7 appearances. While he hopefully won’t have to take the mound this year, Craig along with Mondou show the talent to take the Demon Deacons back to the NCAA tournament.
Overall, it’s shaping up to be a exciting baseball season in the ACC. Each week, I will be posting updates on the ACC baseball season so stay tuned to The Confidential for all the ACC baseball news.