ACC Baseball Tournament Pool A Preview

With the play-in games in the books, the field has been trimmed from ten to eight with pool play running Wednesday through Saturday. Pool A contains No. 1 Miami, No. 4 Florida State, No. 5 N.C. State and No. 9 Georgia Tech. The team with the best record will advance to Sunday’s ACC Championship game against the winner of Pool B.
The Elite
Pool A truly is Miami and everyone else, as the Hurricanes have been one of the top teams in the nation all season. The Hurricanes fell in only one ACC series all year, as Virginia delivered two of Miami’s six home losses in the late April affair. Since that series, Miami went 11-2 over the final stretch, losing only to Georgia Tech and Florida State.
The Hurricanes are an offensive juggernaut at the dish led by five players hitting .300 or better. Brandon Lopez swings a .390 clip with a team-high 13 doubles. Zack Collins and Willie Abreu bring the thunder at the plate, smacking 11 homers each while adding a combined 101 RBI. Carl Chester paces the Hurricanes from the top of the order with a team-high 70 hits and 16 stolen bases. Chester’s presence on the base paths provides the guys hitting behind him a greater collection of fastballs to hit than when he doesn’t reach safely.
From the hill, Miami has four quality arms it can use in any combination with three of the four around a 3.00 ERA. Jesse Lepore leads the way with a perfect 8-0 record and 2.37 ERA over 64 innings. Danny Garcia and Michael Mediavilla anchor the rotation with Thomas Woodrey a viable option as well. Bryan Garcia works the closing duties for the Hurricanes, earning 14 saves this season while setting a school record for saves.
Scouting the Field
Florida State limps into the tournament losing 6-of-8, falling in series’ to Duke and Miami to end the regular season. The Seminoles’ top half of the lineup has been stellar throughout the year, with John Sansone and Taylor Walls swinging above .360 over the 53-game season. The issue with the Seminoles recent struggles rest firmly in the lack of consistent production from the middle and bottom of the order. When Dylan Busby and Quincy Nieporte find their stride, FSU’s offensive production begins to roll, making their output important in the Seminoles’ success.
N.C. State dropped two of its last three conference series, closing with a 10-1 series-clinching win over UNC. The Wolfpack ran into a buzz saw in Louisville the week prior, falling in three straight after dropping a pair at Clemson. Holes don’t exist in the Wolfpack’s lineup and every stick possesses long ball power. Evan Mendonza and Preston Palmeiro pace the attack with several supporting cast members in the mix. State owns a duo of Ryan Williamson and Brian Brown that will lead the charge from the bump, with Cory Wilder and Joe O’Donnell possibly seeing starting action.
After falling in a pair to Boston College to end the regular season, Georgia Tech got the win that mattered, knocking out the Eagles in the play-in game to secure a position in pool play. However, there’s no rest for Danny Hall’s Yellow Jackets, as they square off against No. 1 Miami to begin pool play.
Coaches Corner
“I'm proud the way our guys have played all year. They have played hard. We have had some hot streaks and some real hot streaks to be honest with you. We've been very consistent, our defense in particular. Of course, Zack Collins is our best offensive guy, and he's improved tremendously defense. If you take my vote, I would vote him as Player of the Year of the conference. Batista, he's a player that's got a chance to go very high in the draft. Our bullpen's outstanding, led by Garcia. Brian has set the record for the most saves at the University of Miami, and it's been a pretty good program, so that speaks for itself. I feel good about our entire team.” –Miami skipper Jim Morris.
“You're dead on the problems that we have had the last two weeks is lack of production of Nieporte and because by. But don't forget, Cal Raleigh has been one reason that we have been able to win a few ballgames, because that young man is one of the top prospects in the country, played this past weekend a doubleheader against Miami and with 102-degree temperature, but would not let me take him out of the ballgame. He's a special guy, but to further answer your question, it makes us so much better when we're getting quality at-bats from those other two guys, and we're not, and it's unfortunate. We're hoping that we can work a couple of days and straighten some problems out.” –FSU Head Coach Mike Martin on the need for production throughout the lineup.
“Yeah, I'm not sure we have a rotation right now to be honest with you. We're going to have to get some people to step up. We haven't touched as much this year. We are going to have to change things around. We are probably going to shut Joe down this week and we may shut another arm down, as well. We are trying to get a little more healthy for the regional and we're just going to have to piece some things together this week it looks like.” –Wolfpack Head Coach Elliott Avent on getting his pitching staff healthy for the NCAA Tournament.
Projecting the Pool
1. Miami                      3-0
2. FSU                         2-1
3. NC State                  1-2
4. GT                           1-2