Taking a look at the ACC

By Eric Sorenson. Posted on February 3rd, 2010 in ACC
 

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The road to Omaha has on-ramps from the ACC. A couple of teams seem like shoe-ins again this season, but the question is, will they be too black and blue from conference play to make it?

2009 in a Paragraph:
Once again the ACC was a king of a conference, finishing as the second-best in Boyd Nation’s RPI rankings and having the best non-conference winning percentage at 76%. They also continued the habit of sending multiple teams to Omaha with UNC and Virginia making it to the main stage of Rosenblatt. This conference is R-E-D-D, H-O-T-T, red hot! The post-season was a mixed bag of success, with Florida State and Georgia Tech losing out on their home fields and very few non-conference series wins to speak of – Miami’s three-game sweep of Florida back in February notwithstanding.

Conference RPI: 2

2009 Results:
Atlantic Division:
1- Florida State, 19-9
2- Clemson, 19-11
3- Boston College, 13-15
4- Maryland, 10-20
4- N.C. State, 10-20
6- Wake Forest, 6-24

Coastal Division:
1- North Carolina, 19-10
2- Georgia Tech, 17-10
3- Miami, 18-12
4- Virginia, 16-11
5- Duke, 15-15
6- Virginia Tech, 12-17

2010 in a Paragraph:
Can the ACC heavies keep riding the momentum? Will the conference ever reach a down cycle? Not bloody likely at this stage in the game. Getting multiple representatives in Omaha is becoming an annual ritual as Virginia, Florida State and Georgia Tech will have few holes to fill and should be locked and loaded. As is usually the case, their getting to Omaha all depends on their regional assignments. Clemson and Miami aren’t far off. And good golly miss molly, did I forget about North Carolina in this analysis? Oh hell’s no. With Mike Fox as the man behind the curtain controlling things, don’t ever count out the Heels. Also, keep a watch to how Boston College reacts now that they’ve achieved some national success, that could be the most interesting story to follow in the ACC this season. And Duke and Wake Forest bring in some big time talent that should put them into contention soon.

Favorite: Virginia

Contenders: Georgia Tech, Miami, Florida State, Clemson

Darkhorse: North Carolina

Can’t-Miss Series of the Year: Virginia at Florida State, March 12-13-14.
Close Second: Georgia Tech at Virginia, April 9-10-11.

Best Non-Conference Series: Florida at Miami, March 5-6-7.
Close Second: Virginia at East Carolina, February 19-20-21.

Hot Coach: Brian O’Connor, Virginia

Hot Seat Coach: Eliot Avent, North Carolina State

The “You Gotta See” Player: Tyler Holt, Florida State.

Three Non-Conference Series The ACC Better Not Overlook:
1- Georgia State at Florida State, February 19-20-21.
2- Rhode Island at Virginia, February 26-27-28.
3- Manhattan at Miami, February 26-27-28.

Three Bold Predictions:
1- The ACC will finish the 2010 season as the top rated conference in the RPI.
2- The Coastal Division will dominate with five NCAA teams. The Atlantic Division will have just two.
3- Wake will make the biggest jump, finally escaping the cellar in team ERA and having a winning season. (Go ahead and call it the Coach Walter effect)

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Atlantic Division

- BOSTON COLLEGE (34-26, 13-15)
2009 RPI: 30
Starters Returning: 5
Weekend Starters: 2
Mid-Week Starters: 2
Key Relievers (20+inns.): 3

All Conference Candidates:
3B Mickey Wiswall (.320-14-63)
LHP Pat Dean (6-4, 3.30)
RHP Kevin Moran (5-2, 2.75, .258OBA)
OF Robbie Anston (.344, 15SBs)

The Good News:
How about that 2009 season? Won 34 games, had a series win at Florida State, split with Georgia Tech and Miami, went to the NCAA tournament and played one of the most famous games in NCAA history. Wicked-pissah! And keep in mind, BC did all this while returning very few pitchers from the ’08 team too. This year, they’ll have a good bit of experience returning to the hill, including Dean (a weekend starter), Moran (the top reliever) and two other starters coming back in RHP John Leonard (only 1-5, 7.09, but a Cape Cod All Star last summer) and RHP Mike Dennhardt (5-2, 4.96, .249OBA). Also keep an eye on RHP Chris Kowalski (4-1, 5.10), who was a New England League All Star over the summer. Three-fourths of the infield return with Wiswall at 3rd, SS Garret Smith (.297) and soph 2B Brad Zapenas (.287) locking things down. Anston was a huge key in a more aggressive approach for last year’s offense. Look for incoming frosh C Matt Watson to be a Tony Sanchez-type leader in the future.

The Bad News:
Missing from this year’s roster will be a pair of 1st round draftees in team leader Tony Sanchez (4th overall pick) and valuable two-way threat Mike Belfiore. Those are two huge losses that were the identity of this team. Friday starter J.B. MacDonald was the most-used pitcher on the staff and he’s also gonzo. And although the offense improved from .275 in ’08 to .304 last year, out-doing that production this season may be a tall order. The schedule isn’t exactly a confidence-builder… well, you’ll see what I mean below.

Schedule Note:
Not exactly a confidence builder.
Don’t look for another 10-3 start this season. They’ll face some stiff competition with trips to Tulane, Auburn, Florida Atlantic and Florida International in the pre-conference play. They’ll also play Missouri in there as part of the Auburn weekend. As if that wasn’t enough of a death sentence, they’ll also start up ACC play with roadies to – gulp! – Miami and Virginia back-to-back.

Jack Leggett has hard-hitting Jeff Schauss back for more home run trots.

Jack Leggett has hard-hitting Jeff Schauss back for more home run trots.

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- CLEMSON (44-22, 19-11)
2009 RPI: 12
Starters Returning: 8
Weekend Starters: 1
Mid-Week Starters: 1
Key Relievers (20+inns.): 4

All Conference Candidates:
OF Jeff Schaus (.320-13-50)
LHP Casey Harman (7-3, 3.95)
2B Mike Freeman (.329, 11SBs)
SS Brad Miller (.273, 16SBs)
OF Wilson Boyd (.341)

The Good News:
Put it in writing, IPTAY is happy. The Tigers went from near-.500 in 2008 to 44 wins and a trip to the Super Regionals in 2009. Way to bury that “off” season in no time short, coach Leggett. We knew you would though. Miller spent his summer on Team USA and will be a lead-by-example type this coming spring. He’ll provide the spark and Schaus will provide the power to the lineup. Speaking of good summers, Will Lamb (0-0, 2.45/.268) and Kevin Brady (0-0, 1.69) were named the top prospects of the Coastal Plain and Cal Ripken summer leagues by Baseball America. Let’s hope that translates well to this season. The staff ERA was 3.68 last year, 2nd best in the ACC. If they even come close to that number again this season (and with what Coach Leggett calls “a deep staff,” they can), it will still be another good year for the Tigers. Freeman and Miller are both fast and a burgeoning double-play duo that should spark the defense.

The Bad News:
Well until we see paws in Omaha, this program won’t officially be all the way back, right? That’s just the Clemson expectation level talkin’ there. Starting pitchers like Chris Dwyer, Graham Stoneburner and Trey Delk will be sorely missed and CU could have a tough time matching last year’s stellar team ERA of 3.68. The .299 team average was below what we’re used to seeing from the Tigers too and though there is some pop in there, the batting order will have to deal with the loss of top hitter Ben Paulsen.

Schedule Note:
Finally, we’ve got three in the Palmetto State.
For the first time in what seems like recorded history, Clemson will play South Carolina in a three-game set, instead of that usual two-game crap we’ve seen for years. Seventeen of CU’s first 21 games will be in the cozy confines of Kingsmore Stadium. The Tigers will also get Florida State and North Carolina at home and miss Miami altogether in the ACC rotation. Lucky them.

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- FLORIDA STATE (45-18, 19-9)
2009 RPI: 15
Starters Returning: 7
Weekend Starters: 3
Mid-Week Starters: 2
Key Relievers (20+inns.): 4

All Conference Candidates:
3B Stuart Tapley (.316-13-60)
OF Tyler Holt (.401, 34SBs, All ACC)
OF/RHP Mike McGee (.379-19-78/6-2, 4.04, .258OBA, 2nd team All ACC)
LHP Sean Gilmartin (12-3, 3.49, .221OBA, All ACC, Freshman All Am.)
SS Stephen Cardullo (.376-10-51, 20SBs, 2nd team All ACC)

The Good News:
These Seminoles are ready to chop. So expect a lot of scalps lying on the ground by the time the season ends. See, when Mike Martin gets his hands on an experienced team, it’s usually very good news. That’s the Seminoles for 2010. For most teams, getting a Tyler Holt and Mike McGee would be enough to have them Omaha bound. These two are sure-fire All Americans and nearly impossible to get out. Tapley and Cardullo are fabulous support troops too who would be grade A studs on any other team. But this team is deep, especially on the mound as they return 55 starting assignments from ’09. All three weekend starters come back, including Gilmartin and Brian Busch (6-2, 3.97), who were both thrown to the wolves as frosh last season and were still nails on the mound. McGee is one of the top dual threats in the country and an intimidating power source at the dish. Six of the top seven hitters come back to the order, along with 63 of the 89 home runs. As usual, any Mike Martin team will be aggressive, as witnessed by last year’s 94 stolen bases. Expect more of that this year too.

The Bad News:
Ayyyyyy, I hate to bring this up ‘coz it’s really hard to believe, but the Seminoles lost another home Super Regional last June, marking their sixth SR loss in their last seven tries. I don’t know what it is about FSU, but the last two years the defense has been on the shoddy side, fielding at just a .960 pace both seasons. Damn. The only pitcher missing for 2010 will be ace closer Jimmy Marshall and his 10 saves from last year. 2B Jason Stidham will be sorely missed as well. The last bit of bad news was that promising arm Jack Posey will miss the upcoming season after having that dreaded Tommy John surgery.

Schedule Note:
Not the usual Charmin-soft slate.
Unlike most years, it looks like the ‘Noles will have to break a sweat in the pre-ACC play as they’ll host NCAA tournament teams in Georgia State and Georgia in weekends one and three. Okay, so there IS still yet another Hofstra visit for stat-padding in between those. But check out the beginning of ACC play… Virginia at home then UNC on the road. That’s a good pair of indicators there. The Seminoles close the regular season at Clemson, which could decide the Atlantic Division.

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- MARYLAND (27-27, 10-20)
2009 RPI: 88
Starters Returning: 3
Weekend Starters: 2
Mid-Week Starters: 1
Key Relievers (20+inns.): 6

All Conference Candidates:
2B David Poutier (.321, 10SBs)
RHP Brett Harman (4-5, 5.99, 75Ks in 73inns)
RHP Dan Gentzler (3-2, 3.13, 7svs)
LHP Adam Kolarek (2-1, 4.68)

The Good News:
Vanderbilt assistant Erik Bakich takes over as the head cheese in College Park and hope springs eternal with new energy. Though it’s modest, UMD is coming off back-to-back .500 or better seasons for the first time since 1980-81. A literal wealth of returning pitching will help ease the transition as 355 of the 461 innings thrown last year return to the fold. Harman and Gentzler will make a great duo for competitive Fridays. Keep an eye on three rising sophomores as well in LHP Matt Fullerton, a Sunday starter who went 4-4, 6.05, and relievers RHP Sander Beck (2-0, 5.40) and Kyle Blackwell (2-0, 5.99), who all bring a different look and style to the rubber. Part-timers like C Tyler Bennett (.293-8-31) and SS Alfredo Rodriguez (.252) will be leaned on more this season as well.

The Bad News:
Though Bakich is a known recruiting whiz, it will take time for his style and his players to take root. Six of the top seven regulars from last season have moved on, including three .300+ hitters – led by A.J. Cesario, a three-year stalwart. Staff ace Scott Swinton racked up a lot of impressive Friday wins the last two seasons, and he too is gone from the program now. Beyond Bennett’s 8HRs, there is almost zero power still around. Finding some muscle and some speed on the basepaths will be job one entering this season.

Schedule Note:
Good place to get their feet wet.
UMD has a bit of a daunting trek to play at Florida International to open the season, but weeks two and three should allow for some growth as the Terrapins will host Delaware and Hofstra. And even the first weekend of ACC play will ease them in as a trip to Virginia Tech is winnable. But then, Georgia Tech, Florida State and North Carolina follow… ouch.

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- NORTH CAROLINA STATE (25-31, 10-20)
2009 RPI: 99
Starters Returning: 6
Weekend Starters: 2
Mid-Week Starters: 1
Key Relievers (20+inns.): 1

All Conference Candidates:
3B, Andrew Ciencin (.308)
C, Pratt Maynard (.261-6-41)
1B, Harold Riggins (.284)

The Good News:
Well the best news might be that 2009 is over. There were some flickers of light though, especially winning the weekend series with then-No. 1 North Carolina in May. Lots of experience returns for this year, and when that has been the case in the past, Elliot Avent has put together some of his better teams. Look for increased power numbers all up and down the order and OF Kyle Wilson (.265, 30SBs) could become a great firestarter on offense. But Coach Avent did one of his better recruiting jobs to keep the Pack in contention. So keep an eye on the incoming battery of RHP Dane Williams (15th round, White Sox) and C Danny Canela (37th round, Detroit) who both come from south Florida and also the power potential of slugger Tarran Senay.

The Bad News:
Dear Wolf Pack, get well soon. Not a lot of positives from ’09, including weak hitting (.266), poor pitching (5.12) and really putrid defense (.951). Better numbers all over the field is very much needed. The Poulks, 2B Dallas (.262) and OF Drew (.266-9-36) have potential but need to crank things up. The returning starters on the mound weren’t exactly studly last year, as Jake Buchanan (2-6, 6.54), Alex Sogard (4-2, 6.19) and Cory Mazzoni (1-5, 6.57) all need to up their game.

Schedule Note:
The Pack becomes the hunted.
In week two of the season, NC State will get an early litmus test at the Baseball at the Beach Tournament when they face off with UC Irvine and Coastal Carolina. That’s where we’ll find out if they are stalking wolves or mere pups on the porch. Also, beware of a rough three week stretch in mid-season with Miami, Virginia and UNC that could be a confidence killer for a team that is looking for renewed spirited play.

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- WAKE FOREST (22-30, 6-24)
2009 RPI: 104
Starters Returning: 5
Weekend Starters: 2
Mid-Week Starters: 0
Key Relievers (20+inns.): 3

All Conference Candidates:
1B/LHP Austin Stadler (.279/4-5, 5.15)
C Mike Murray (.306-6-37)
OF Steven Brooks (.313-5-30, 11SBs)
RHP Zach White (4-1, 3.32, 3svs, .237OBA)

The Good News:
New head coach Tom Walter did what I would probably call the best coaching job in the 2000s by leading the Univ. of New Orleans program from the ruins of Hurricane Katrina to a pair of NCAA appearances. But that’s Coach Walter for ya’… no excuses, hell-bent for success. Now the Deacons have him as a head man for their program. There isn’t an overload of good news here, other than the new enthusiasm that Walters will bring. He inherits a sophomore-heavy team that may not make huge waves this season, but I’m telling you, give it a year or two Deac fans. For the rest of the ACC, consider yourselt warned.

The Bad News:
Okay, the usual bugaboo may take hold here: transition. Unless Walter is REALLY a miracle worker (and I’m not putting it past him), this team will have a lot of growing pains because it’s going to be a pretty young squad in Winston-Salem this season. Block-of-granite catcher Mike Murray is the only senior of note. Wake had the worst staff in the ACC for the second straight year in ’09 with a 7.30 team ERA and also the worst defense, at just .951. That’s why there is a new head coach for this season.

Schedule Note:
The cozy confines of home.
The Deacons won’t have to go far to start off as they will play their first 13 games in Winston-Salem, although there are some opponents that will put some hair on your chest in Dayton, Coastal Carolina, Kent State, Winthrop and Xavier peppered in there. They’ll also play their final two weekends of the regular season at home as Clemson and Maryland come calling to end the ACC slate. Not a bad home schedule for the kind of team they’ll have this year.

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Coastal Division

- DUKE (35-24, 15-15)
2009 RPI: 75
Starters Returning: 5
Weekend Starters: 2
Mid-Week Starters:1
Key Relievers (20+inns.): 4

All Conference Candidates:
OF/1B Jeremy Gould (.340-7-37)
LHP Chris Manno (5-6, 4.89, .234OBA)
SS Jake Lemmerman (.287-7-45, 13SBs)
OF Will Piwnica-Worms (.317)
RHP Michael Ness (2-2, 2.44, 3svs)

The Good News:
Really?… Two straight 30+ win seasons? You betcha. Ain’t that a peach? The Dookies will return two weekend starters in the highly-underrated Manno (4-2, 1.22 in Cape Cod League and 38th round pick by Washington) and Eric Pfisterer (3-2, 5.00), plus a couple of big potential relievers in Ness and Dennis O’Grady (2-2, 5.76, 3svs). Best of all, all-world talent Marcus Stroman was an 18th round pick of the Nats and will figure into the mix somewhere. His addition will help keep Duke’s infield stout, as they have led the ACC in fielding percentage the last two seasons. Duke’s last two recruiting classes have been highly regarded and should pay dividends this season. The Devs will also play 18 home games at posh Durham Bulls Athletic Park this season.

The Bad News:
Even with 35 wins, the Devils still could cull an NCAA bid. Too bad. Non-conference games against LaSalle, Quinnipiac, Maryland-Eastern Shore and Presbyterian didn’t help. The 9-11 finish from Tax Day onward was another obstacle. The Devils will miss the power sources of Nate Freiman (20 HRs) and Alex Hassan (.342, 17 doubles), plus Matt Williams was an anchor behind the plate too. Hassan was also the team leader with eight saves on the mound.

Schedule Note:
Better. But will it be enough?
The Blue Devils will start the season with games against Georgia and Baylor, which will be much better than any non-conference foes that dragged their RPI down last year. The ACC slate lightens up at the tail end too with road trips to Wake, VaTech and N.C. State in the last four weekends. That could be used to make up some ground.

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- GEORGIA TECH (38-19, 17-10)
2009 RPI: 9
Starters Returning: 6
Weekend Starters: 2
Mid-Week Starters: 3
Key Relievers (20+inns.): 3

All Conference Candidates:
RHP Deck McGuire (8-1, 3.46, .232OBA)
SS Derek Dietrich (.332-14-66)
1B Tony Plagman (.306-16-45)
3B Matt Skole (.302-17-58)
OF Jeff Rowland (.340-8-39, 21SBs)
RHP Brandon Cumpton (4-3, 4.76)
RHP Kevin Jacob (5-3, 4.69)

The Good News:
If you notice Coach Danny Hall smiling a bit more in this pre-season it’s probably because he knows he’s got a whole mess of talent returning from last year’s 38-win team and will be ready to take heads off this season. Well, that and because he’s just two wins away from 900 for his career. Nice job coach. The marquee boys that you’re going to hear all about are McGuire and Dietrich, a pair of All Americans who hope to have a sweet June. The batting order usually looks like some kind of linebacking corps and this year will be no different with dish-bashers like the senior Plagman (16HRs), Skole (17HRs) and Chase Burnette (.351-8-29 in part-time duty) keeping the long-ball game alive and well (ACC-best 111 dingers last season). Rowland is a huge key, with power and speed, plus he returns after getting selected in the 21st round of the MLB draft by Cleveland. The guys on the hill have a lot returning as well, with eight of the nine most-used arms are back, including a good group of sophs, like saves leader Mark Pope (5-1, 6.00, 8svs) and Jake Davies (3-0, 3.54, .220OBA). Also watch for RHP Luke Bard, a 16th round draftee of the Red Sox.To say this team is loaded for bear is an understatement. Go get ‘em Rambling Wreckers.

The Bad News:
Losing that home regional to Southern Miss is still a painful memory that the Jackets will have to purge from their system. Leading hitter/slugger/intimidator Luke Murton is gone, along with C Jason Haniger (19th round pick, Pittsburgh), so finding a backstop to catch all these talented arms will be a big job for Coach Hall. Highly-touted catching prodigy Tucker Barnhart was going to be there, but spurned the Jackets and decided at the 11th hour to go play-for-pay. The defense could be better (.965) but will need Jason Garofalo (.286) and Connor Winn (.207) to lock things down.

Schedule Note:
Not as embarrassing.
I’ve railed on Tech’s pre-conference schedules looking like one of Bob Ross’ “happy little clouds” in recent years, but this one isn’t all that bad. Opening with Missouri Valley champion Missouri State, then two vs. Southern Conference champion Georgia Southern, followed by Atlantic 10 champion Xavier and finally a three-gamer vs. Rutgers. … Then again, this also brings me to my annual unanswered question, when is the return trip to Rutgers going to be?

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- MIAMI (38-22, 18-12)
2009 RPI: 13
Starters Returning: 5
Weekend Starters: 3
Mid-Week Starters: 1
Key Relievers (25+inns.): 3

All Conference Candidates:
LHP Chris Hernandez (7-5, 4.76)
LHP Eric Erickson (injured in ’09)
RHP David Gutierrez (4-6, 4.38)
C Yasmani Grandal (.299-16-45)

The Good News:
The Canes are never out of the conversation and rarely – rarely – do they have “off” seasons. So don’t look for the downward spiral of 20+ loss seasons to last for long. Last year’s 24-8 start to the season would be great to recreate. The pitching staff will give them a fighting chance as Hernandez and Gutierrez will be studs. And a helluva shot in the arm will come from the return of Eric Erickson (8-1, 4.32 in ’08), who sat out the 2009 season with an injury. That’s a sweet three-man rotation for the weekends. Iden Nazario (6-5, 7.26) was a Sunday starter last season, but should be a valuable arm out of the bullpen. Other huge arms in a deep staff will be soph LHP Danny Miranda (3-3, 4.86) and a pair of seniors in RHP Jason Santana (6-1, 5.40) and RHP Tayor Wulf (2-0, 3.24, 15apps) who returns from Tommy John surgery. Grandal and Martinez will be blocks of granite for the offense and the defense. Joining Martinez on the left side will be incoming SS Stephen Peres, who BA says will be a future stud… or, maybe a “right now” stud.

The Bad News:
Injuries and confidence went in opposite directions as the 2009 season went on, since the Canes went 14-14 from April 11th to the end of the season. C’mon Canes! Hernandez MUST revert to his frosh form, when he went 11-0 and 2.62 on the hill and Guitierrez has to improve his numbers for the rotation to be effective. The loss of ace closer Kyle Bellamy (16svs, 0.97ERA) is a huge hole to fill. Three of the four .300+ hitters are gone, including power bats Jason Hagerty and Dave DiNatale. The offense hit an un-Canelike .294 to begin with.

Schedule Note:
Perhaps the oddest collection of non-conference opponents.
The Canes will once again play a home-heavy schedule and will face off with non-conference opponents like Rutgers, Manhattan, Florida, Fordham and, oddly, Alabama A&M. The ACC slate will also take on northern snowbirds Boston College in the first weekend. The final weekend of the regular season sees the Hurricanes hosting Virginia, which could have a heavy influence on the ACC title chase, and who knows, maybe even a say in the national seeding.

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- NORTH CAROLINA (48-18, 19-10)
2009 RPI: 5
Starters Returning: 4
Weekend Starters: 1
Mid-Week Starters: 2
Key Relievers (20+inns.): 3

All Conference Candidates:
RHP Matt Harvey (7-2, 5.40)
RHP Colin Bates (4-4, 3.15, 6svs, .240OBA)
RHP Patrick Johnson (2-2, 3.49, 1sv, .222OBA)
2B Levi Michael (.290-13-57)
OF Ben Bunting (.336)

The Good News:
You just can’t look at this program without saying “wow” under your breath time and time again. Coach Mike Fox has done the incredible task of bringing his boys to Omaha for four straight seasons now. You DO realize how tough that is, right? Well the Heels still have enough coming back for another run, highlighted by the rifle arms of Harvey, Bates and – the hardest thrower of them all – Johnson. Levi Michael should blossom into the team power source and he’ll have the experienced leaders of Bunting and Mike Cavasinni (who seems like he’s been in Chapel Hill since the late ’90s) leading by example. As you know, the talent pool never runs dry here as the Heels have brought in the No. 7 ranked recruiting class in the country. Four of them were drafted by pro clubs last summer, including OF Brian Goodwin (17th round, White Sox), LHP R.C. Orlan (44th round, L.A.), RHP Michael Morin (40th round, K.C.) and RHP Cody Stiles (39th round, Yankees). Yep, looks like more potent arms to put in the Tar Heel stockpile.

The Bad News:
Holy smoke-em-if-you-got-em! Could we actually be looking at a “down” season for the Tar Heels? They lost so much off of last year’s pitching staff and in the field that we may be talking about holding a College World Series without them – if that’s even possible. There will be 16 new faces on the roster for the Big Blue to indoctrinate, though there is some considerable talent there. The biggest bad news of all is the obvious ones – no more Dustin Ackley to blast the ball all over the yard and no more Alex White to put the clamps to people. Those were two of the best players in college baseball in the entire decade. Add in the fact that Kyle Seager, Garrett Gore and Mark Fluery, all .300+ hitters, have hit the road. Adam Warren is also another big arm that is going to be missed from the weekend rotation. Whew! That’s a lot right there. It will be interesting to see if the team average of .313 and team ERA of 3.73 can be duplicated from last season.

Schedule Note:
A lot of sleeping in their own beds.
UNC will only play 17 road games this year and considering their short bus rides to Duke and UNC-Greensboro, they won’t even venture far from the Research Triangle area until April 2nd when they hop a bus to Maryland for a three-game weekend. In fact, the only plane ride all season will be the weekend set down at Miami in mid-April…. unless of course they have to hop a plane to Omaha.

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- VIRGINIA (49-15-1, 16-11-1)
2009 RPI: 3
Starters Returning: 8
Weekend Starters: 2
Mid-Week Starters: 1
Key Relievers (20+inns.): 3

All Conference Candidates:
UTL Danny Hultzen (9-1, 2.17, 107Ks/.327)
OF Jarrett Parker (.355-16-65, 20SBs)
OF Phil Gosselin (.310-6-64, 24SBs)
2B Tyler Cannon (.351, 17SBs)
OF Dan Grovatt (.356-8-51, 14SBs)
RHP Robert Morey (3-0, 3.33, 2svs, .210 OBA)
RHP Kevin Arico (2-3, 2.70, 11svs)

The Good News:
There is lots, lots and lots of good news. In fact, coach Brian O’Connor has never had the program higher than it is as it stands right here and now. The kid’s done well man. He let everyone know at his last post-game press conference in Omaha that “95% of our team returns next season” and sure as shootin’ he’s right. He’s got a couple of All American candidates to work with in Hultzen, Morey and Arico. Plus, the Cavs had a lot of rogue players that brushed off the pros, including Cannon (a 41st round pick of Pittsburgh) and a pair of incoming frosh that should make an immediate impact after blowing off the Red Sox in the June draft in RHP Branden Kline (6th round) and SS whiz Reed Gragnani (28th round). UVa’s incoming class was ranked No. 9 by Baseball America, so it looks like the rich get richer. The Cavs led the ACC in both hitting (.327) and pitching (3.23) and was second in fielding (.972) last season, so this is obviously a high-quality team through and through. Okay coach, time to get your boys out there and start setting records.

The Bad News:
Hmmmm, there ain’t a whole lot of bad news here, to be honest. Maybe the fact that there is only one baseball to go around. I guess the other thing to keep in mind is that they could fail miserably under the strain of high expectations. Not bloody likely, sure, but you never know.

Schedule Note:
No more running scared.
It’s been years since the Wahoos have even worked up a sweat in non-conference games. But this year, they open at East Carolina, then take on Rhode Island (who should’ve been in the NCAA tournament) and Dartmouth (who was in the NCAA tournament). On the back end, things get pretty hairy with roadies to Duke and Miami wrapped around a home weekend with North Carolina.

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- VIRGINIA TECH (32-21, 12-17)
2009 RPI: 50
Starters Returning: 8
Weekend Starters: 2
Mid-Week Starters: 3
Key Relievers (20+inns.): 5

All Conference Candidates:
OF/1B Austin Wates (.397-5-42, 16SBs)
OF/C Steve Domecus (.406-4-42)
3B Ronnie Shaban (.326)
LHP Justin Wright (7-2, 3.95)

The Good News:
A big turnaround from ’08 to ’09 saw Tech’s win total go from 23 wins to 32 last year. The Gobblers will hit and hit and hit in 2009. With most of the lineup returning from a team that raked at a .319 pace, they will never be out of any game. Wates and Domecus were near the top of the ACC batting title all season long and lead the offense as good vets should. Shaban had a great frosh season and could double as a closer in ’10, to utilize his 90+ mph fastball. The arms staff could get a shot of adrenaline from LHP Joe Mantiply, who turned down the Mets in last June’s draft.

The Bad News:
Despite the 32 wins, the Hokies still finished in last place in the Coastal Division last year and must avoid repeating that terrible 3-10 start to ACC play again. That sunk their confidence and hopes. Fielding (just .960 last year) and high-quality relief pitching could be huge sore spots again as it was in 2009. Relievers Ben Rowen (4-2, 4.67, 4svs) and Brandon Fisher (0-2, 4.75, 3svs) need to lock down a little better in 2010. And oh my Gaw-wed! Did you see that schedule? More on that here…

Schedule Note:
Oh my Gaw-wed!
Tech definitely got the short straw in ACC play. Check out these road trips. In succession: Clemson, Florida State, Virginia, Georgia Tech and North Carolina. Damn! What did these guys do to deserve this abuse? Also like how the Hokies will open the season with big tests against Kentucky, Coastal Carolina and West Virginia. Could be some RPI boosters.

 

COMMENTS:

February 9, 2010 at 9:12 pm

Great information thanks for getting this out there for people like me to read.


February 14, 2010 at 10:31 pm
Luke Gude says:

Awesome write-up. Watch out for Jesse Hahn and Matthew Price for Virginia Tech too.


April 11, 2010 at 3:45 am
LJ says:

One of the best conference previews I have read. Keep up the good work.

GO TIGERS!