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May 22, 2012
By Bill Hass
GREENSBORO, N.C. (theACC.com) – Two years ago, Florida State found NewBridge Bank Park to its liking when it won the 2010 ACC Baseball Championship.
The Seminoles will try it again this week when the tournament unfolds in the same venue beginning Wednesday and concluding with the title game Sunday at noon. In 2010, Greensboro hosted the championship for the first time and the Seminoles downed NC State to win it 8-3. Florida State, the top seed, is looking for the same kind of success Virginia found in Durham, where the Cavaliers won titles in 2011 and 2009.
The format is not the typical win-and-advance tournament. The eight qualifiers are divided into two pools and play round-robin for four days, with each team receiving a day off. The two teams with the best records in each pool meet for the title, which carries an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament.
Pool A consists of the Nos. 1, 4, 5, and 8 seeds – Florida State, Virginia, Clemson and Georgia Tech. Pool B is made up of the Nos. 2, 3, 6 and 7 seeds – North Carolina, NC State, Miami and Wake Forest.
Here’s a brief look at each team.
NO. 1 FLORIDA STATE: The Seminoles went 24-6 in the ACC, stand 43-12 overall and are ranked No. 1 in the country in the USA Today coaches’ poll. They open play at 11 a.m. Wednesday against Georgia Tech, a team they swept during the season. FSU slumped slightly at the end of the season, losing four of its last seven, but won its final two games over NC State.
Outfielder James Ramsey, the ACC Player of the Year, leads the way. He’s hitting .380, second-best in the league, with 11 homers and 45 RBI. He ranks first with 67 runs, a .520 on base percentage and .674 slugging percentage.
Ramsey was joined on the All-ACC first team by first baseman Jayce Boyd, who leads the league with a .399 average and has driven in 54 runs; second baseman Devon Travis, who hit .315; and closer Robert Benincasa, who recorded 13 saves and a 0.56 ERA.
Freshman pitcher Mike Compton leads the league with 10 wins against only one loss.
NO. 2 NORTH CAROLINA: The Tar Heels went 22-8 in the league and are 42-13, tied for fifth in the coaches’ poll. They are the hottest team coming in, having won 13 straight. Their first game is Wednesday at 7 p.m. against Wake Forest, a team they beat two of three during the season.
Starting pitcher Kent Emanuel (8-3, 1.80 ERA, 90 strikeouts) and closer Michael Morin (5-3, 0.91, league-high 17 saves) are All-ACC selections. The Tar Heels lead the league by a wide margin with a team ERA of 2.61. Other players to watch are starter Benton Moss (6-2, 2.13 ERA), catcher Jacob Stallings (.297, 36 RBIs) and utility player Brian Holberton (.301).
But the key for the Tar Heels might be Colin Moran, who broke his hand during the season when he punched a door. He missed 21 games but since his return the Heels haven’t lost in 12 games. He’s hitting .384 with 34 RBIs.
NO. 3 NC STATE: The Wolfpack (19-11 ACC, 38-15 overall, tied for 14th in the coaches poll) has the ACC Pitcher of the Year in Carlos Rodon, who is also the Freshman of the Year. The left-hander has put up a 9-0 record, leads the league with a 1.59 ERA and is second with 114 strikeouts.
State has some offensive weapons in Ryan Mathews, who’s hitting 314 with 14 home runs and 52 RBIs; Chris Diaz (.369, 49 RBIs); Danny Canela (.340, 42 RBIs) and Jake Fincher (.302).
And then there’s freshman Trea Turner, hitting .340 with 38 RBIs and 54 stolen bases in 58 attempts.
State lost its last two games against Florida State after winning 14 of 15. The Pack opens Wednesday at 3 p.m. against Miami, the only team it didn’t play during the season.
NO. 4 VIRGINIA: The Cavaliers went 18-12 in the ACC, are 36-16-1 overall and ranked No. 19. They split their final four games after a 10-game winning streak.
Virginia leads the league with a .299 team batting average. Stephen Bruno has the top mark at .370 with six homers and 47 RBIs. Second baseman Keith Werman is hitting.282 and outfielder Derek Fisher .297 with seven homers and 47 RBIs.
Starter Brendan Kline has gone 6-3 with a 3.89 ERA and 84 strikeouts. Shane Halley has a 9-1 record with a 1.71 ERA coming out of the bullpen. Closer Justin Thompson has 11 saves.
Virginia opens against Clemson, a team it swept, on Thursday at 11 a.m.
NO. 5 CLEMSON: The Tigers come in looking to rebound after having been swept by Wake Forest in their final series. They went 16-14 in the league and are 32-24 overall.
Clemson’s top hitter is Richie Shaffer, hitting.344 with 10 homers and 45 RBIs. Other threats are Phil Pohl (.296-8-50), Steve Wilkerson (.316, 29 RBIs) and Thomas Brittle (.313-2-33).
There is no one ace on the pitching staff, but Kevin Pohle, Daniel Gossett and Dominic Leone each have six wins.
NO. 6 MIAMI: This hasn’t been a vintage season for the Hurricanes, who went 16-14 in the ACC. But they’re 34-19 overall, ranked No. 21 and have won seven of their last nine games.
The strength of the team is the pitching staff, which has fashioned a 2.93 ERA, second in the league. Starter Eric Erickson is 8-5 with a 2.96 ERA.
Catcher Peter O’Brien is the top offensive threat at .354-10-38. Brad Fieger has hit .299 with 32 RBIs.
NO. 7 WAKE FOREST: The Deacons bring a lot of momentum into the week, having swept Clemson to end the regular season. That brought their ACC mark to 13-17 and their overall record to 32-22.
Outfielder Mac Williamson leads the ACC with 17 home runs and has 52 RBIs. Carlos Lopez adds punch with nine homers and 50 RBIs.
Starter Brian Holmes is the top pitcher with a 7-2 mark and 2.59 ERA. Closer Michael Dimock has racked up 12 saves.
NO. 8 GEORGIA TECH: The Yellow Jackets were the last team to earn a spot in the championship field, beating Miami on the final day of the regular season. They went 12-18 in the conference and are 32-24 overall, but have struggled with just two wins in their last nine games.
The hitters have some pop. Brandon Thomas is hitting .359 with 38 RBIs, Jake Davies has nine homers and leads the ACC with 58 RBIs, Daniel Palka has 12 homers with 45 RBIs, and Sam Dove is hitting .335.
Buck Farmer is one of the league’s top starters at 7-3, 3.36 and 104 strikeouts. Alex Cruz has a 7-3 record and 2.04 ERA in 27 games out of the bullpen.
Bill Hass is a long-time observer of ACC sports. His career at the Greensboro News & Record spanned 36 years, from 1969 until his retirement in March 2006. He is now writing "Bill Hass on the ACC" for theACC.com. His weekly columns will keep fans plugged in to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
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