Trio of Triangle teams set for ACC baseball tournament

Christine T. Nguyen—North State Journal
N.C. State's Preston Palmeiro (12) celebrates with associate coach Chris Hart after hitting a home run during the N.C. State-North Carolina baseball game Friday

DURHAM — The ACC baseball tournament kicks off with two play-in games Tuesday at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Duke and Wake Forest open the tournament with the 11 a.m. game followed by No. 8 Boston College against No. 9 Georgia Tech. The Game 1 winner gets a date with No. 2 Louisville Wednesday night at 7 p.m and the Game 2 winner will take on No. 1 Miami at 3 p.m.
N.C. State will open tournament play against No. 4 Florida State Wednesday morning at 11 a.m.
What’s happening the rest of the week? Here’s the full schedule with TV info.
Who will be there? The top 10 teams in the ACC. Locally, that includes No. 5 N.C. State, No. 7 Duke and No. 10 Wake Forest.
Who won’t be there? UNC. With a loss to N.C. State Saturday afternoon, the Tar Heels are one of the bottom four conference teams and will miss the ACC tournament for the first time since 2010. UNC started out the season strong with an THIS mark, but the faltered in the final month and a half of the season, only winning one of six final weekend series. At No. 15 in the RPI, UNC has a shot to make the NCAA tournament field but without an ACC tournament bid, a postseason bid isn’t likely.
So about the Wolfpack … At the No. 5 seed, N.C. State (34-18) is pretty much a lock to get a bid to the NCAA tournament, but they’re also in the conversation to host a regional round. With that in mind, Wolfpack coach Elliott Avent is focused on keeping his players as healthy as possible for the final tournament, which may mean shutting down some of his arms for the conference tournament. On the ACC coaches teleconference Monday morning, Avent confirmed that junior righthander Joe O’Donnell would miss the ACC tournament. The Friday night starter strained his forearm against Florida State and hasn’t played since that March 25 game. However, the WIlmington, N.C. native could be back for the NCAA regionals.
“Right now it looks like he will not be available for the ACC tournament,” Avent said. “We may shut another arm down as well. We’re trying to get a little more healthy for the regional and we’ll just have to piece some things together this week it looks like. He certainly has a chance to come back for the regional.”
What about Duke and Wake Forest? In a matchup befitting of a church-league softball tournament, the Blue Devils and the Demon Deacons (32-23) are playing Tuesday morning for the right to join Pool B along with Louisville, Virginia and Clemson.
Without a senior in its starting lineup, Duke is a pretty inexperienced team that benefitted from playing loose in the final games of the season to pick up series wins against Florida State and Georgia Tech. The Blue Devils, who played home games at the DBAP this season, earned the No. 7 seed with a series win on the road against Pittsburgh.
“We’ve had to play elimination games on the road at Pitt,” Duke coach Chris Pollard said. “Our guys have responded well to that environment and they’ve done a great job of staying focused, staying loose and staying committed to the moment. Even though we’re young, we’re well-seasoned for tournament play because in essence, our tournament started two or three weeks ago.”
With arguably the best college baseball player on its roster in Will Craig, Wake Forest is an intriguing team to follow. The Demon Deacons lost the final series of the season against Louisville but claimed the final spot in the tournament thanks to UNC’s series loss at N.C. State and Wake’s earlier sweep of the Tar Heels.
Earlier this season, Wake Forest won the series against the Blue Devils, picking up a 10-0 win on Friday night followed by a 3-2 win in 10 innings the next day. Duke (33-21) took the final game of the series with a 3-2 win of its own.
To try and stop Wake Forest, Duke will be putting Friday night starter Kellen Urbon on the mound Tuesday morning.
“Wake has a tremendous amount of power in the lineup they do it from both sides of the plate,” Pollard said. “You’ve got Will Craig and Fairchild from the right side and then you’ve got (Nate) Mondu and (Gavin) Sheets from the left side. And obviously Will Craig is arguably the best player in college baseball. He’s had another unbelievable season. When I last checked in the last week, He’s leading the country in OPS. There’s not a part of that lineup where you can catch your breath.”
How can I go to the games? Glad you asked.