Exam Breakdown: ACC Baseball Storylines To Watch

Virginia's Kyle Crockett is one of nine ACC players on the Golden Spikes midseason watch list.
Virginia’s Kyle Crockett is one of nine ACC players on the Golden Spikes midseason watch list.

Six ACC teams will hit the diamond today, but only Virginia Tech and Boston College will be playing each other as conference opponents. Clemson and Maryland will play a three-game series from Saturday to Monday. For most teams, this weekend officially serves as a break for final exams. It also gives us a chance to prepare for the sprint to the finish of the regular season.

Duking it out: While the ACC standings are broken into the Atlantic and Coastal divisions for baseball, the top eight teams in the conference qualify for the ACC Baseball Tournament (Durham, NC; May 22-26) regardless of division.

Currently, there’s a two game cushion between separating eighth place (Miami and No. 25 Virginia Tech are 11-13) from ninth (Duke, 9-15). Virginia Tech could get to the doorstep of securing an ACC Tournament berth with a strong showing this weekend against a struggling BC team (10-35, 2-21 ACC).

Miami will visit Wake Forest May 10-12 before hosting Georgia Tech. Miami is admittedly reeling from two losses to Boston College, but the Hurricanes can get back on track with a non-conference series against St. John’s this weekend.

Duke, meanwhile, has the toughest road of the three teams to a tournament berth.  They play three games at No. 7 Virginia next weekend, followed by a series in Durham against No. 5 NC State. It seems unlikely that the Blue Devils can sneak into the field and participate in the hometown tournament, but mathematically it is still in the cards.

Divisional Debates: Through an odd twist, No. 1 North Carolina has played two fewer ACC games than most conference teams.  The Tar Heels lost games to Mother Nature against Boston College and NC State, the latter of which coming this past weekend.

This will complicate the battle for the Coastal Division championship and the top-two seed in the ACC Tournament that accompanies it.  The Tar Heels are currently 19-3 in ACC play, while second place Virginia is 17-7.  Because of the difference in games, if Georgia Tech sweeps UNC next weekend and Virginia sweeps Duke, the Cavaliers would have 20 wins to North Carolina’s 19 and still trail in the division standings on win percentage (having lost more games, 7-6). Of course, that’s all assuming the weather doesn’t throw another wrench into proceedings.

This means that Virginia will trail North Carolina in conference standings entering the season-ending series between the two teams, regardless of the circumstances on May 10-12.  There’s even a chance the Tar Heels could eliminate any such drama before the series. Regardless, it promises to be one of the most thrilling weekends in ACC play, as the top-ten teams will still be able to battle for bragging rights and NCAA Tournament positioning.

The Atlantic battle promises to be far more dramatic, as three teams are within a game of each other. Currently, No. 10 Florida State (16-8) leads NC State (16-9) and No. 18 Clemson (15-9).  Florida State will face both the Wolfpack and Tigers over the final two weekends, which adds to the drama of the regular season conclusion.  Florida State will visit Raleigh to face NC State before hosting Clemson. As mentioned previously, Clemson hosts Maryland this weekend, while NC State will visit Duke in their other conference series.

Going for Gold: Nine ACC players are on the midseason Golden Spikes watch list, searching to become the first ACC winner of the award since Buster Posey in 2008.  Presented by USA Baseball, the award goes to the best amateur baseball player in the nation each year.

Georgia Tech has three representatives on the 60-player list, with Zane Evans, Buck Farmer, and Daniel Palka.  Evans leads the ACC with 13 home runs, tied for fourth-most in the nation.  Palka is tied for second in the conference with 12 home runs, while Farmer is behind NC State’s Carlos Rodon in strikeouts (83).

Rodon is also on the watch list, alongside NC State teammate Trea Turner. Rodon’s 105 strikeouts lead the nation, while Turner’s .430 batting average is fourth among Division I hitters.  On Wednesday, NC State announced Turner and Rodon would represent the United States on the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team for the second consecutive season.

North Carolina placed Colin Moran and Kent Emanuel on the Golden Spikes list, while Miami’s Bryan Radziewski and Virginia’s Kyle Crockett round out the ACC representation.  Radziewski and Crockett both have sub 1.00 earned run averages, with Radziewski dominating in the starting rotation for the Hurricanes while Crockett has recorded ten saves out of the bullpen for Virginia.  Both Emanuel and Radziewski have pitched two shutouts in 2013 as the aces of their respective staffs, while Moran is third in batting average and fourth in slugging percentage in the conference.


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