ACC baseball outlook: NC State in trouble, Duke, UNC in good shape to make tournament

cwright@newsobserver.comApril 23, 2014 

Omaha! Omaha!

Forget the College World Series. N.C. State, in full desperation mode, needs to steal a page out of Peyton Manning’s playbook and call an audible just to make the ACC tournament in Greensboro.

It’s clearly third-and-forever for the Wolfpack. Ten teams will make the tournament. The Pack enters Friday’s pivotal series against Georgia Tech tied for 11th and running out of time – and timely hits.

Nationally ranked Florida State, Virginia and Miami will reach Greensboro. Bottom-feeders Boston College and Notre Dame will not. What remains are nine tightly bunched teams racing toward a moving target, likely 14 league wins, in hopes of securing a spot in the field.

“Win, win. We just have to win,” UNC coach Mike Fox said Tuesday night, specifically addressing his team but summing up the mood for plenty of others. “We have nine games left, three series, and we have to play well and get some wins in those nine games.”

None of the Triangle schools is a lock, though at least one is assured of making it.

Duke is tied for fifth with Wake Forest, but trouble potentially awaits if the Blue Devils don’t win their weekend series at Winston-Salem.

North Carolina is in eighth place, but like Duke, the Tar Heels close the season against national powers FSU and Miami.

And then there is N.C. State, which opened the season proclaiming Omaha or bust but finds itself two games out of the final spot to reach Greensboro.

With three series remaining, here’s a look at each contender’s condition:

4. Clemson 12-8 ACC

•  What’s left: Miami (16-5), at Notre Dame (4-17), Boston College (5-16).

•  Postseason party/pity party: Party. The soft ending will have the No. 22-ranked Tigers safely in the field.

T5. Duke 12-9

•  What’s left: at Wake Forest (12-9), Miami (16-5), at FSU (16-5).

•  Postseason party/pity party: Party. Ignore the No. 90 RPI. The final two series are daunting, but realistically, the Blue Devils did enough early that they can go 3-6 and feel very safe. Winning this weekend’s series at Wake would provide a little breathing room, and the goal is to earn a top-six seed. Seeds 7 through 10 play a single-game elimination to get into pool play.

T5. Wake Forest 12-9

•  What’s left: Duke (12-9), at N.C. State (7-14), Virginia (16-5).

•  Postseason party/pity party: Party. Similar situation as Duke. The team that wins this weekend’s series is in excellent shape to make the tourney. Wake Forest could have a chance to eliminate N.C. State next week.

7. Ga. Tech 11-10

•  What’s left: at N.C. State (7-14), Virginia Tech (7-14), at Virginia (16-5).

•  Postseason party/pity party: Party. The Yellow Jackets can essentially eliminate N.C. State with a sweep this weekend, but their goal is securing a top-six seed.

8. UNC 10-11

•  What’s left: Virginia Tech (7-14), FSU (16-5) at Miami (16-5).

•  Postseason party/pity party: Party. In the race to 14 wins, the Tar Heels have the toughest road. Unless they sweep the Hokies, they’ll have to win a series against No. 4-ranked FSU or No. 15 Miami. But that’s assuming N.C. State and Virginia Tech make a run, which is far from a given. N.C. State and UNC won’t play a conference game against each other, but they could end up battling for the 10th and final spot.

9. Maryland 9-11

•  What’s left: at Boston College (5-16), Notre Dame (4-17), at Pitt (9-12).

•  Postseason party/pity party: Party. With a No. 19 RPI, the Terps are better than their ACC record suggests. The soft schedule will allow them a proper good-bye in Greensboro.

10. Pitt 9-12

•  What’s left: at Boston College (5-16), Maryland (9-11), at Notre Dame (4-17).

•  Postseason party/pity party: Reserve the hotel, but make sure you can cancel. Pitt’s path is easier than the only two teams with a realistic shot of passing them for the 10th and final spot. But the Panthers are No. 116 in RPI for a reason, so a collapse is possible.

T11. N.C. State 7-14

•  What’s left: Georgia Tech (11-10), Wake Forest (12-9), at Virginia Tech (7-14).

•  Postseason party/pity party: Pity party. Even a 6-3 finish, as unlikely as that seems given the way they’re playing and who they still play, probably wouldn’t be enough to extend Carlos Rodon’s and Trea Turner’s college careers. There’s always the draft day party.

T11. Virginia Tech 7-14

•  What’s left: at UNC (10-11), at Ga. Tech (11-10), N.C. State (7-14).

•  Postseason party/pity party: Pity party. If the Hokies scramble out of this mess, they will have earned it. They have three contenders remaining and likely need to go 7-2 to keep playing.

Brian Haines contributed to this report.

Wright: 919-829-4643

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service