Omaha Update: ‘Hoos Keep Rolling, Canes Stay Alive On Successful Monday Night For ACC
The 2015 College World Series marks 60 years since the ACC has seen one of its teams lift the national title trophy, but two wins by conference teams Monday night saw the league take an important step towards ending that drought.
Miami beat SEC foe Arkansas in thrilling fashion when Jacob Heyward laced a 1-2 pitch into the left-center field gap, scoring Carl Chester to earn his team a 4-3 win. The younger brother of the St. Louis Cardinals right fielder Jason Heyward is undoubtedly the hottest No. 9 hitter in Omaha right now, as the sophomore has reached base in 75% (6 of 8) of his plate appearances in Omaha.
The Hurricanes advance to play in-state rival Florida Wednesday night at 8 o’clock in a rematch of a 15-3 Gator win earlier in the tournament.
While Miami’s win was great for the ACC as a whole, Virginia’s win was even greater. The ‘Hoos stifled Florida’s top offense to the tune of a 1-0 victory, a game that saw UVA starter Brandon Waddell go seven strong innings. The Cavalier junior ran into some trouble early in the eighth inning, however, as he left the game with runners on first and third and nobody out.
But Waddell was seemingly just setting the stage for closer Josh Sborz to come in and be the hero.
After entering the jam with the top of Florida’s lineup due to bat, Sborz used his electric slider to retire six consecutive Gator hitters while not allowing any batted ball to leave the infield. The save was Sborz’s 15th of the season but, more importantly, his ability to pitch out of trouble will afford the ‘Hoos three days of rest before their next game on Friday. The UVA closer hasn’t allowed a run in his last 18.0 innings pitched.
By going 2-0 Monday night, the ACC is inching closer to finally breaking the long stretch of years without a College World Series title. What initially looked like a tough break for the conference, when both ACC teams headed to Omaha were on the same side of the bracket with national powerhouse Florida, now looks like an advantage.
If Miami beats the Gators Wednesday in an elimination game, the ACC is guaranteed to have a team in the championship series. The Canes need to beat Florida and then knock off UVA twice, while the ‘Hoos simply need to win one of their next two games to advance to the best 2-of-3 title series.
While there are still, admittedly, long odds for Miami to make the final series, Virginia is now in the driver’s seat on their side of the bracket, a feat that seemed almost impossible just a few weeks ago. The Cavaliers had to play well at regular season’s end just to make the conference tournament but now sit just three wins away from a national title, a stat that points to the depth and talent of the ACC this season.
Virginia’s pitching was as remarkable Monday night, as the ‘Hoos shut out a Florida team that had scored 68 runs on 75 hits in the postseason before running into Sborz and company. Not only did the Gators manufacture just two hits against the Cavaliers, but only five balls left the infield in what turned out to be Florida’s third shutout loss of the season.
The Gators definitely shouldn’t be overlooked, but fans of Miami and Virginia, as well as fans of the ACC as a whole, should feel pretty good about the league’s chances of winning a championship for the first time since 1955. The Hurricanes explosive offense and the Cavaliers stifling pitching staff make for two contrasting but effective styles that should make ACC fans excited about the conclusion of the college baseball season.