Florida State would be an example of this. They have a top-eight national seed locked up and nothing is going to change that. They could lose all three games in pool play by ten runs and it wouldn’t knock them out of a national seed. They could also win the whole thing and it wouldn’t improve their positioning whatsoever.
For others, it’s an opportunity. The Miami Hurricanes fall into this group.
In the most literal sense, Miami has a chance, albeit a slight one, to move into the hosting conversation. The hosting sites will have been announced by the time the ACC tournament championship is decided, so the best Miami could do up to that point is go 3-0. That would put their overall record at 37-19. They would likely still need some help in the form of losses from other borderline host schools, but it would put them in the discussion.
And maybe more importantly, it will give them another chance to grab some momentum before the regionals are here. A couple of notable hitters, Brad Fieger and Rony Rodriguez come to mind, have heated up of late, but there are still some guys Jim Morris would love to get going.
The tournament might also give UM a chance to get Peter O’Brien some at-bats. There was some hope he would be back for the Georgia Tech series, but obviously, that didn’t happen. If he is anywhere close to full strength, I would think they would want to get him some time now rather than having him return in the regionals.
The first road block in the way of Miami trying to accomplish these goals is North Carolina State. The Wolfpack have had quite a season. After being somewhat lightly regarded in the preseason, they finished the season with an overall record of 38-15 and a conference record of 19-11.
The biggest reason for NC State’s breakout season is probably the ace pitcher Miami will likely see in the opener, Carlos Rodon.
The freshman who was just recently named the ACC Pitcher of the Year and ACC Rookie of the Year finished the season with a 9-0 record and a 1.59 ERA. In 96 innings pitched, he struck out 114 and walked only 34. Hitters managed a meager .184 average off of him.
But he wasn’t the only starting pitcher who had a great season. Ethan Ogburn (4-3, 2.04 ERA, .249 BAA), Anthony Tzamtzis (5-4, 3.31 ERA, .181 BAA) and Logan Jernigan (5-1, 4.88 ERA, .175 BAA) have all had their fair share of quality starts. Ogburn and Tzamtzis are also guys that head coach Elliott Avent has used out of the bullpen when needed.
Chris Overman is the most often-used reliever for the Wolfpack. In 30.1 innings spread over 24 appearances, he has a 2.67 ERA, a 37/13 strikeout to walk ratio, a .224 batting average against and six saves.
Dillon Frye (1.77 ERA, .182 BAA), Travis Orwig (2.45 ERA), Vance Williams (3.28 ERA, 46.2 IP) and Danny Healey (3.42) are all arms that give Avent a ton of depth in the bullpen.
The offense has done a good job of holding up its end of the bargain as well.
As a team, the Wolfpack sport a .294 batting average and they boast unique threats up and down their entire lineup.
Junior Chris Diaz leads the way with a .369 batting average, 23 doubles and 49 RBI. Trea Turner is a classic table setter with a .340 batting average, .449 on-base percentage and 54 stolen bases.
Much of the power in this lineup comes from the bats of Ryan Mathews and Danny Canela. Mathews, a senior, is hitting .343 with a team-leading 14 home runs and 52 RBI. Canela, a junior, is hitting .340 with six home runs and 42 RBI.
As much as I would like to think Miami can start a run to the ACC tournament championship by beating NC State, I just can’t see it happening. Even if NC State holds Carlos Rodon back for another game, which I don’t see them doing by the way, there are a number of other pitchers that could have success against UM’s lineup.