Elimination Game Awaits UNC, GT

North Carolina's spectacular season could end tonight with a loss to FAU.
North Carolina’s spectacular season could end tonight with a loss to FAU.

North Carolina and Vanderbilt have both been in the top three of every weekly ranking released by Baseball America this season. Both teams are playing with their seasons on the line tonight.

North Carolina’s Hobbs Johnson left Sunday night’s game with a 2-0 lead and a no-hitter against Florida Atlantic after a leadoff walk in the seventh. Reliever Trevor Kelley walked the next batter, which set up Ricky Santiago for a three-run homer that gave the Owls a 3-2 lead.

UNC would not recover, falling 3-2 and forcing a rematch between the two teams this evening. Last night, the Tar Heels left 15 runners on base. North Carolina has not lost back-to-back games at any point this season, but a repeat of that performance would likely be costly for the top seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Meanwhile, Georgia Tech threw a wrench into plans for the team Baseball America voted No. 1 this week despite North Carolina’s selection as the top overall seed. The Commodores had rolled through the Nashville Regional, but Georgia Tech sophomore Josh Heddinger pitched a two-hit shutout to lead the Jackets to a 5-0 win.

Thus, the Yellow Jackets and Commodores will also return to the field Monday to determine who will advance to Super Regionals. GT has proven they can beat the best teams in the nation, with a 6-5 record against national seeds North Carolina, Virginia, and Florida State this season, However, they have also proven to be inconsistent, losses to Georgia, Georgia Southern, and St. John’s.

Moving On: Florida State, NC State, and Virginia will advance to Super Regionals after sweeping their respective regionals this weekend.

The Seminoles were dominant in Tallahassee, outscoring their opponents 32-4 over three games. Junior Brett Knief was the highlight of the regional-clinching 11-4 win over Troy, launching a grand slam to left for his first career home run.

Luke Weaver was awarded MVP of the regional, pitching eight shutout innings against Troy on Saturday while striking out 14 batters and allowing four hits. On the offensive side, DJ Stewart was 7-for-11 with three doubles, six runs scored, five runs batted in, and a Saturday home run.

NC State and Virginia were less dominant, but equally as effective. The Wolfpack wrapped up the weekend with a 9-2 victory over William & Mary. Like Luke Weaver in Tallahassee, though, pitcher Carlos Rodon stole the show on Saturday. In the first game between NC State and the Tribe, Rodon pitched a complete game shutout, allowing two hits and striking out 10 batters.

Trea Turner and Tarran Senay had big weekends for NC State as well. Turner was 4-for-10 with three runs, three stolen bases, and a home run on Friday. Senay 5-for-11 with seven runs batted in, including five on Sunday with a three-run homer in the first inning.

In Charlottesville, Kyle Crockett was named the regional’s Most Valuable Player thanks to his relief work for the Cavaliers. He struck out seven batters in four shutout innings to close out wins over Army and Elon.

In the finale against Elon, Derek Fisher snapped an 0-for-23 skid with a two run single to right field to tie the game, 3-3. This opened the floodgates for an 11-3 win which secured a trip to Super Regionals, where they will face the winner of tonight’s game between Central Arkansas and Mississippi State.

Bidding Farewell: The first weekend of the NCAA Baseball Tournament trims the field of championship contenders from 64 to 16. Clemson, Miami and Virginia Tech were eliminated Sunday, bringing an end to a journey that began officially in February and started well before that for those teams.

Clemson appeared to be a young team putting pieces together for a postseason run during their eleven-game winning streak in April. However, the team sputtered into the playoffs, dropping two games against Florida State and three in the ACC Tournament. The Tigers snapped their slide with a win against St. Louis, but it was bookended in the Columbia Regional with losses to Liberty.

Miami was another team that struggled at season’s end, with the Hurricanes’ struggles tied to their offensive woes. The team averaged just 4.5 runs per game on the season, which falls in line with the 12 runs they scored in three games in Louisville. 7 of those 12 came in the opener, when Miami blew out Oklahoma State. However, losses to Louisville and the Cowboys followed as a result of the offensive issues.

Virginia Tech earned hosting privileges after a run to the ACC Championship. While their offense was one of the most explosive in the nation, defensive miscues were an issue for the team throughout 2013. During two losses this weekend, the Hokies committed six errors, including four in their elimination game against Oklahoma.


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