2013 Preview – The ACC

By Eric Sorenson. Posted on February 1st, 2013 in 2013 National Preview, ACC
 


2012 CONFERENCE ISR: 3

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HOW THEY’LL FINISH IN 2013:

ATLANTIC DIVISION:

1- North Carolina State

2- Florida State

3- Clemson

4- Wake Forest

5- Maryland

6- Boston College

COASTAL DIVISION:

1- North Carolina

2- Georgia Tech

3- Virginia

4- Miami

5- Virginia Tech

6- Duke

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THE LOWDOWN.

The strong side of things says that there were seven teams to reach the NCAA tournament last year, three more that were legit at-large bubble teams and 10 of the 12 teams ended the season with 30+ wins. Oh, and Florida State, in an expected rebuilding year, rode Osceola all the way to Omaha. But the weak side of things shows how only two teams made it past the Regional round with three of them losing on their home field. And then that whole retarded “They haven’t won a national title in 58 years.” argument which is inane. So there was some good and bad for the ACC in 2012. The 2013 season looks like it could be the strongest the conference has been since 2008 when three teams made it to Omaha. North Carolina is my No. 1 for now, and N.C. State and FSU will contend for the national title. The rest of the conference could be in some phase of rebuilding though. Georgia Tech certainly seems like a logical breakthrough team, but the rest suffered big losses. Tell you what, check back with me in June. Something tells me the ACC isn’t going to fall off the cliff anytime soon.

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BREAKTHROUGH TEAM:

- North Carolina State.

This should be coach Elliott Avent’s best squad in his 17 years at the controls. There are difference-makers at every level for this team, led by sophomores Trea Turner, Carlos Rodon and Brett Austin. It’s Omaha or bust for these boys. Can’t wait to see what the Pack has in store for us this year.

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TRENDING DOWN:

- Clemson.

Don’t put too much stock into this trending down thing, the Tigers will be fine. They’ve just gone from 43 wins in 2011 to 35 last season. This year could be a tad of a struggle with some of the veterans that they lost. But Jack Leggett is a great coach and the old CU will return to form soon enough.

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BIGGEST CLEATS TO FILL:

- Florida State OF James Ramsey.

The Seminoles always seem to have that one senior leader who stuck around for an extra year and leads them to greatness. With the bi-spectacled Ramsey heading off to pro ball, that job now falls to SS Justin Gonzales. But to be fair, JG could mold into great team leader, but he must improve that .259 average from last year first. Lead by example.

"11" will look to "10" to lead his Nine in '13.

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BEST PLAYER:

- 3B Colin Moran, North Carolina.

I figure its pretty much splitting hairs between Moran and N.C. State’s Trea Turner. The one thing that I give the edge to Moran on is that he’s the more experienced jock here. Turner has to avoid the sophomore slump, especially now that he’s on everyone’s radar and not a surprise.

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BEST PITCHER:

- Carlos Rodon, North Carolina State.

Speaking of avoiding sophomore slumps, here’s to you Mr. Rodon. At 9-0 so far, Rodon has yet to lose a game in his career. If he can’t perform the duties or live up to the crown then it gets passed to UNC’s Kent Emanuel.

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IMPACT NEWCOMER:

- Sam Morgan, INF, North Carolina State.

The coaches were abuzz over this JC transfer from South Florida CC. In the fall drills, he showed a sweeping glove, good range and a D1-ready make up.

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STEAL A LEAR JET FOR…

- North Carolina at N. C. State, April 26-28.

Will this be the Tarheel State? Or the Wolf Pack State? A blue state? Or a red state? This heated rivalry is always a blast, but with the high expectations on both teams this season you can go ahead and amp things up to 11.

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CAPSULES…

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Atlantic Division

- BOSTON COLLEGE (22-33, 10-20)

2012 ISR: 125

Starters Returning: 5

Weekend Starters: 2

Mid-Week Starters: 1

Key Relievers (15+inns.): 6

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All Conference Candidates:

OF Tom Bourdon (.324-10-37)

RHP John Gorman (0-1, 3.76, 3svs)

RHP Nate Bayuk (3-2, 2.76)

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NOTES:

- Okay, okay, I KNOW it was very early last season, but the Eagles bolted out to a 6-2 mark which included wins over Virginia, Coastal Carolina, UCF and Florida Gulf Coast. Damn! They went on to beat teams like Georgia Tech, UConn, Florida State and St. John’s. That’s impressive. Too bad they couldn’t keep it up consistently.

- The offense hit just .277 and will lose four of the top five hitters in last year’s order. But the lone returnee is a biggie in Tom Bourdon, one of the top lumberjacks in the ACC who had a .529 slugging percentage and led the team in doubles with 18. Blake Butera joins him, though he hit just 265 last year, he did lead the team with 31 walks on the season.

- Lots of pitching comes back and hopefully an additional year’s experience will help turn some corners this season. The two weekend starters with the most innings return in Eric Stevens (5-3, 5.64) and Hunter Gordon (2-8, 6.10). Behind them are two closers with lock-down potential in John Gorman and Nate Bayuk. Three other relievers with a sub-5.00 ERA come back as well.

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- CLEMSON (35-28, 16-14)

2012 ISR: 38

Starters Returning: 4

Weekend Starters: 2

Mid-Week Starters: 1

Key Relievers (20+inns.): 3

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All Conference Candidates:

RHP Kevin Pohle (7-4, 3.66)

OF Thomas Brittle (.298, 15SBs)

2B Steve Wilkerson (.295, 10SBs)

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NOTES:

- There aren’t many programs that view a 35-win season as an “off-year” but that’s what we’ve got with the Tigers. And of course, that says more about the high-level mark of expectations ya’ know. So you have to figure those IPTAY types weren’t all hyped about the team going from 43 wins in 2011 down to last year’s 35.

- Getting over the 35 win mark won’t be automatic with the large number of losses they suffered from last year’s team. Names like Richie Shaffer, Brad Felder, Spencer Kieboom, Dominic Leone and Kevin Brady aren’t going to be around to supply the big play and keep the Tigers in the game.

- Not a single Tiger batter returns with a .300+ average as Thomas Brittle has the best  returning bat. 2B Steve Wilkerson (.295) will pair with Brittle to supply a lot of speed and reliable glovework to the Tiger cause.

- If there’s any carry-over effect, then Kevin Pohle should be an All-ACC pick this year. He’ll be joined in the weekend rotation by Daniel Gosset (a former 16th round draft pick of the Red Sox) to give the purple and orange a good one-two punch.

- The bullpen never did establish one go-to guy when the going got crusty in 2012. In fact, seven different pitchers picked up saves out of the ‘pen last season, so finding a shut down arm that can be relied on between a rock and a hard place would be nice. Scott Firth (4-0, 2.09) led the team with 24 appearances and three saves. Right handed Juniors Matt Campbell (1-2, 2.49, 2svs) and Mike Kent (1-2, 3.76, 2svs) will soak up a lot more innings this year and are solid arms. Not sure yet if either of those flingers are going to develop into that shut-down force.

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- FLORIDA STATE (50-17, 24-6)

2012 ISR: 4

Starters Returning: 5

Weekend Starters: 3

Mid-Week Starters: 2

Key Relievers (15+inns.): 4

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All Conference Candidates:

SS Justin Gonzalez (.256-9-42, 13SBs)

LHP Brandon Leibrandt (8-3, 2.82, .243OBA)

RHP Mike Compton (12-2, 2.87)

3B Jose Brizuela (.226-2-38)

C Stephen McGee (.230)

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NOTES:

- As you guys have known, I’ve been brutally honest about the Seminoles in the last few years. I’ve maintained how they’ve been repeat offenders in the “win 40, lose quickly” post-season track record. Well, I am also the first person who will give the Garnet & Gold huge props for their 2012 season. They were a much better team – emphasis on the word “team” – than all of us thought they would be. Fifty wins, a bludgeoning of Stanford in the Supers and a pair of wins in Omaha. That was a bang-em-up season for a strong program. And yes, they put it in my face too.

- That big hole in the side of the hull is the fact that this year’s Seminole vessel will have to do without their 1-thru-4 hitters from last season, especially team leader James Ramsey, leadoff extraordinaire Sherman Johnson, slugging 1Bman Jayce Boyd and steady 2B Devon Travis. In fact, saying the offense will be a work in progress is a vast understatement. The leading returning batting average in the order is OF Josh Delph’s .267. Amazingly, the Noles hit into 74 double plays last season, so let’s not repeat that guys.

- One welcome returnee will be the smooth-fielding SS Justin Gonzales, who turned down the pros as a 27th round draft pick and will ascend into that senior-leadership role that you’ve seen James Ramsey and Tyler Holt hold the last few years.

- The best news of all is that all three weekend starters on the mound come back to the fold, including those two outstanding freshmen in Brandon Leibrandt and Mike Compton, who both acclimated to college ball in a nearly seamless way. Sunday starter Scott Sitz, who spun a real gem in the win over UCLA in Omaha, also comes back after boosting 4-3, 3.72 numbers last year.

- Finding a replacement for spot-on relief ace Robert Benincasa takes his team-best 1.32 ERA and 16 saves to pro ball. Look for RHP Luke Weaver (1-0, 5.93, 1sv) to possibly fit into that role as the former 19th round draft pick of the Bluejays could be primed for a breakout year.

- Ole wily Mike Martin ain’t done wooing those wildly talented lads to become ‘Nole Choppers. This year he put together another great recruiting class that was ranked No. 19 in the nation by Collegiate Baseball. This group is headed by OF D.J. Stewart, who is a lefty powerbat (get ready right field short porch) with good speed and was drafted in the 28th round of the MLB draft last summer. Also. RHP Robby Coles is a mature freshman-to-be who could be a big time contributor from the ‘pen.

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- MARYLAND (32-24, 10-20)

2012 ISR: 52

Starters Returning: 7

Weekend Starters: 1

Mid-Week Starters: 1

Key Relievers (15+inns.): 1

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All Conference Candidates:

3B K.J. Hockaday (.305-2-27)

INF/RHP Jake Stinnett (.250 and 0-0, 3.38, .250OBA)

LHP Jimmy Reed (1-3, 2.70, 8svs)

OF Jordan Hagel (.317-3-24)

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NOTES:

- The Terrapins made big strides in the 2012 season, even getting some chatter in the post-season at-large discussion (although I’m still convinced that their resume wasn’t bad but that 10-20 ACC mark killed them). That’s been rare air for this UMd program and also shows signs that the Terps could be ready for bigger and better things ahead.

- After head honcho Erik Bakich left to take the Michigan job, John Szefc enters the picture as the new 5-star chef behind the Terrapin order counter. Szefc comes to College Park from Kansas State, where he has been an assistant for the past two seasons. Szefc was also the former head coach at Marist and led the Foxes to four NCAA tournament bids in his seven seasons at the helm.

- I like Szefc’s first hire for an assistant coach: James Belanger, the former pitching coach at Monmouth. In his four years there, the Hawks led the Northeast Conference in strikeouts three times and were in the top two of the ERA each season.

- K.J. Hockaday was the top prospect in last summer’s Cal Ripken Summer League and could be ready for a breakout season in 2013. Also keep tabs on frosh Kevin Mooney, a RHP who was named the No. 5 rated pro prospect in the Ripken League as well.

- LHP Jimmy Reed comes back to the Terps for his senior year despite getting drafted in the 21st round of the amateur draft last June.

- Speaking of the greenhorns coming to the roster, the Terrapins have a good class that should plug some immediate holes. Along with Kevin Mooney mentioned above, also look for RHP Jared Price (a 33rd round draft pick last June), LHP Jake Drossner (23rd round pick) and LHP Alex Robinson, whom the new coaching staff is really high on. Both flingers are good sized and reach the low-90s with ease.

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- NORTH CAROLINA STATE (43-20, 19-11)

2012 ISR: 14

Starters Returning: 6

Weekend Starters: 3

Mid-Week Starters: 1

Key Relievers (15+inns.): 6

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All Conference Candidates:

LHP Carlos Rodon (9-0, 1.57, 2CGs, .176OBA)

3B Trea Turner (.336-5-43, 57SBs)

C/DH Brett Austin (.284)

OF Jake Fincher (.300, 16SBs)

RHP Logan Jernigan (5-1, 5.71, .198OBA)

RHP Ethan Ogburn (5-4, 3.38, 2svs, .254OBA)

RHP Ryan Wilkins (5-2, 5.09)

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NOTES:

- The banner recruiting which coach Elliott Avent and his staff have put together are really starting to pay dividends. In 2012, Carlos Rodon, Trea Turner and Brett Austin each earned some Freshman All American honors, in helping the Pack to 43 wins and the Super Regional round of the post-season. And now, the stakes are raised even higher in Raleigh… but that’s a good thing of course.

- Right now, it’s good to be pitching coach Tom Holliday. The former Oklahoma State head coach will have no want for more pitching – even though every single coach I’ve ever talked to harps on the phrase “you can never have enough pitching” – as 10 of the 11 pitchers used last season will come back to the arms corps, including all three weekend starters (Rodon, Ogburn and Tzamtzis) and mid-weeker Logan Jernigan (5-1, 5.71). Six bullpen studs return as well:

- LHP Travis Orwig (1-1, 2.19, 18apps)

- RHP Dillon Frye (3-0, 2.70, 1sv)

- Chris Overman (0-1, 2.91, 6svs)

- Danny Healey (4-0, 3.29, 4starts)

- Ryan Wilkins (5-2, 5.09, 1sv, 25apps)

- D.J. Thomas (2-2, 5.59, 1sv, 21apps)

The ONLY missing piece is Vance Williams, who tossed 56 innings, going 4-4. Other than that, the remaining 512 innings of work from 2012 are back.

- Wolves are fast animals, right? Well there’s going to be speed to burn for the Pack. Not only is national steals leader Trea Turner back for Year 2, but he’ll also have fellow sophs Jake Fincher and Logan Ratledge, who only hit .261 and stole just four bases last year, but the coaching staff feels his wheels will be valuable to the running game this season.

- As you might’ve seen in January, starting catcher Danny Canela, a .348 bat and solid backstop, had “parted ways with the program” according to coach Avent. That’s a big blow to the Pack. Now, Brett Austin will have to don the pads and be the everyday catcher, which wasn’t his strong suit.

- Watch for JC transfer infielder Sam Morgan to make an immediate impact on this team for 2013. The coaches loved his moxie and smooth glove he showed in the fall camp, as well as his going 6-for-12 in the three fall series games.

- The Wolfpack got a pretty favorable shake in the ACC scheduling rotation. The Wolfpack will host Clemson, North Carolina and Florida State and the road schedule includes not-so-daunting trips to Duke, Boston College and West Virginia. Also, State will play 11 of its final 14 games of the year at home.

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- WAKE FOREST (25-31, 13-17)

2012 ISR: 41

Starters Returning: 7

Weekend Starters: 1

Mid-Week Starters: 2

Key Relievers (15+inns.): 3

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All Conference Candidates:

RHP Jack Fischer (5-4, 2.84, .236OBA)

SS Pat Blair (.292-2-31, 22SBs)

CF Evan Stephens (,289-2-17, 13SBs)

2B Conor Keniry (.273, 11SBs)

RHP Nate Jones (3-0, 1.12, .238OBA, 24apps)

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NOTES.

- Coach Tom Walter has to love how his Deacons responded in 2012, turning around a losing record in 2011 to 33 wins last season. There are still some strides to be made, particularly since coach Walter promised me a post-season run for Wake last season. Don’t worry coach, judging by your works at UNO, I’m guessing the big turn is to be made soon.

- One thing that WILL have to improve is Wake’s road woes. They loved Eddie Shore Stadium last year, going 25-5. But away from their comfort zone the Black & Gold went just 7-17 on the road. Yikes.

- There are seven returning starters to the batting order, but judging by the .262 team average last year, it’s going to be Job One of everybody involved to bear down and hit better. In ACC play the Deacs were even worse, hitting a paltry .239. There is some ability there, but losing top hitter Carlos Lopez and the monster bat of 17HR hitter Mac Williamson leaves a huge void.

- Of course, the big X-factor is the continued improvement of OF Kevin Jordan. As you know, he’s the young man who has one of coach Walter’s kidneys through a transplant in 2011. Last year Kev posted .224-1-14 numbers while on his road to recovery. Coach Walter told me in the off-season that he should be 100% this year and should post solid numbers. Remember, Jordan was drafted in the 19th round by the Yankees before his kidney problems.

- The pitch staff will need new arms to emerge as well, especially in the weekend rotation as top pitcher Brian Holmes (7-3, 2.83) and Tim Cooney (6-7, 3.82) combined for 30 starts last year but have moved on to pro ball. Michael Dimock saved 12 games last year and also moved on. One newcomer expected to make an immediate impact is LHP Mark McCoy, who has a big time arm and was a 26th round draft pick last June, but chose to honor his signing with the Deacons.

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Coastal Division

- DUKE (21-34, 9-21)

2012 ISR: 158

Starters Returning: 7

Weekend Starters: 2

Mid-Week Starters: 1

Key Relievers (15+inns.): 5

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All Conference Candidates:

RHP/OF Andrew Istler (4-4, 3.65, 3svs & .292)

C Mike Rosenfeld (.312-3-31)

DH Jeff Kremer (.292-2-12)

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NOTES:

- With nearly the entire team coming back last year and their mindset on reaching the post-season, the Blue Devils have to feel it was a disappointment of a season – winning just 21 games and all. And now, they’ll have to make due without All-World pitcher/outfielder Marcus Stroman, who has gone on to pro ball.

- Because of that faceplant last season, Sean McNally was relieved of his duties and Chris Pollard was brought in from Appalachian State to be the new head coach at Krzyzewski U. Pollard comes to Durham fresh from an at-large bid season at Appy State which included winning a series at LSU last March.

- RHP Andrew Istler was named the No. 1 professional prospect by the scouts in the Coastal Plain League last summer and will be leaned upon this season as the Dookies try to build up their pitching staff. He was also one of the better two-way players in the ACC after hitting .292 in 36 starts in the outfield.

- Duke’s newest incoming class could give coach Pollard and Co. a bright future (not that the mass amounts of sophomores on this year’s team doesn’t do that already). I got the chance to see two-way player Kenny Koplove and RHP James Marvel (a 37th round draft pick last June) at the Area Code Games in Long Beach back in August of 2011 and they should both be legit studs.

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- GEORGIA TECH (38-26, 12-18)

2012 ISR: 31

Starters Returning: 7

Weekend Starters: 3

Mid-Week Starters: 1

Key Relievers (15+inns.): 3

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All Conference Candidates:

OF Brandon Thomas (.360-5-44, 12SBs)

RHP Buck Farmer (8-4, 3.54, 115Ks, .248OBA)

1B/OF Daniel Palka (.303-12-47)

C/RHP Zane Evans (.295-4-51/0-1, 3.68, 7svs)

SS/2B Mott Hyde (.266-7-33, 10SBs)

OF Sam Dove (.340-3-30, 12SBs)

RHP Dusty Isaacs (6-4, 6.55)

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NOTES:

- On one hand it was a pretty solid season for the Yellow Jackets which included an ACC Tournament crown, a finish in the championship round of the Regionals. But on another note, seeing their conference mark dip from 22-8 in 2011 to 12-18 last year showed there is still plenty of growing pains before we see the full resurgence of the Jackets.

- The news that has head coach Danny Hall flashing a slight grin is the fact that three of his biggest talents decided to pass on signing with the pros and return for their senior years, despite being tempted with big time money. OF Brandon Thomas, who decided to pass on signing with the Pirates, despite getting tabbed in the 4th round, is a certain All America-type player with great talent and an infectious work ethic. RHP Buck Farmer was picked in the 15th round, but also will return. Farmer has logged 267 innings in his Yellow Jacket career and has over 100+ strikeouts the last two seasons. Lastly, CF Kyle Wren (.256-2-22, 16SBs) was tabbed in the 30th round, but will come back to man the meadow. Wren’s numbers dropped significantly from his Freshman year to his Sophomore year, .340 down to .256 last season. So he’ll be on a mission to right the ship for another go at the draft.

- But that wasn’t the only good news regarding the draft, slick-gloved Matt Gonzalez, a shortstop/2nd baseman, also spurned the pros after getting picked in the 11th round. He’s got a mature approach at the plate and covers a lot of ground at short with great footwork. He is the prize recruit in a rather smallish 7-man incoming unit.

- The Yellow Jackets could have one of the best offenses in the country with seven of the top eight hitters coming back to the order, including four .300+ hitters. Brandon Thomas, Sam Dove and Daniel Palka will be joined by Thomas Smith (.302). The Jackets stole 80 bases last season and have most of those guilty subjects coming back in the form of Brandon Thomas, Sam Dove, Mott Hyde and Kyle Wren, who combined for 50 of this bases.

- Frontline pitching will be a strength with the return of Buck Farmer, Dusty Isaacs, Cole Pitts (6-4, 4.50) and two way threats Zane Evans and Alex Cruz (8-3, 1.83 and .091). The four of them accounted for 28 wins. On the down side, Matt Grimes, who went 3-2, 3.38 in his five starts, still isn’t 100% after being shut down due to injury and will miss 2013 as well.

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- MIAMI (36-23, 16-14)

2012 ISR: 29

Starters Returning: 6

Weekend Starters: 1

Mid-Week Starters: 2

Key Relievers (15+inns.): 4

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All Conference Candidates:

RHP Eric Whaley (4-4, 2.68)

LHP A.J. Salcines (3-0, 1.40, 7svs, .193OBA)

RHP Eric Nedeljkovic (0-1, 1.78, 4svs)

1B Brad Fieger (.295-4-39)

OF Chantz Mack (.289, 10SBs)

OF Dale Carey (.271-2-30, 10SBs)

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NOTES:

- The Hurricanes have now finished 3rd or worst in the Coastal Division of the ACC standings for four straight years now. They’ve also finished with win totals in the 30s in three of those seasons too. That’s not usually a trademark of this national power, who like to hold up “50-or-bust” signs on their way to the post-season. Last year was probably the low point having gone 0-and-2 in their own Regional, getting outscored 22-4 by Stony Brook and Missouri State. Aye caramba!

- To characterize this Miami team last season, note the offense hit just .259 as a team and the defense fielded at a really poor .956 percentage. That’s not very vintage Hurricane baseball there.

- There weren’t many losses off last year’s team but they were significant. Leading hitter Peter O’Brien and longtime mainstay Rony Rodriguez both flew the Ibis coop to pro ball. On the mound, a whole lot of pitching returns but losing talents like 6th-year man Eric Erickson, strikemaster Steven Ewing and saves leader E.J. Encinosa is tough to overcome.

- One thing is for sure, a lot of speed comes back to the roster and that’s a facet of the offense that coach Morris loves to get in motion. Look for Chantz Mack, Dale Carey and Tyler Palmer, who each stole 10 bases last season, to get the motors going more this year.

- Look for mid-weekers like LHP Bryan Radziewski (2-0, 3.08, 5starts) and RHP Javi Salas (6-3, 3.20, 5starts) to take on bigger roles and maybe factor into weekend assignments.

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- NORTH CAROLINA (46-16, 22-8)

2012 ISR: 11

Starters Returning: 7

Weekend Starters: 3

Mid-Week Starters: 3

Key Relievers (20+inns.): 2

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All Conference Candidates:

3B Colin Moran (.365-3-35)

LHP Kent Emanuel (8-4, 1.96, 100Ks)

RHP Benton Moss (7-2, 1.94, 83Ks, Freshman All American)

LHP Hobbs Johnson (7-1, 1.56)

OF Skye Bolt (Incoming frosh)

1B Cody Stubbs (.258-5-35)

RHP Chris McCue (1-0, 2.10, 25apps)

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NOTES:

- My Gawd! Just when you think the Heels might be ready for a “down” season, they end up pulling 46 wins overall, 22 ACC wins and host another Regional at the Bosh. Coach Fox, you’re either a witch, a warlock or a wizard of some sort. This program just doesn’t go off the radar and that’s a testament to the work ethic this coaching staff has and the consistency they’ve fostered over the past decade.

- Despite all the good news year-in, year-out, the Tarheels still had some curious hiccups last season: including getting swept at Miami, losing a home series vs Georgia Tech and then that flat-line weekend at home in the Regionals where they got eliminated by St. John’s.

- Colin Moran had a beastly summer, hitting .328 for the Bourne Braves in the wood-bat Cape Cod League against some of the best pitching in the country. On July 4th, he had two home runs and seven RBI in a single game. Another big talent heading into his draft-eligible year is LHP Kent Emanuel, who shows flashes of dominance as witnessed by that sub-2.00 ERA and 100-to-23 K-to-BB ratio. Keep an eye on the performance of these two, if they play to potential they will be the turn-key component to how far this team can go.

- The rest of the team comes back nearly intact while oozing with talent at just about every position. The pitching staff, which had the 4th-ranked team ERA in the country, will return the entire weekend rotation of Kent Emanuel, Benton Moss and Chris Munnelly. On top of that, look for potential All-Star springs from Hobbs Johnson, who started seven games and had 22 appearances.

- The only blaring weaknesses, if you want to call it that, is the fact that 19-saves specialist Michael Morin was drafted in the 13th round of the MLB draft and signed with the Angels over the summer. One of these many, many Tarheel arms coming back to the roster will need to step into that role and beam that reliable hammer on the hill.

- The Tarheels bring in the 8th-ranked recruiting class in the country according to Collegiate Baseball. Three of the incoming studs were drafted by the bigs last June, led by 26th round selection Skye Bolt – sounds like a superhero, doesn’t it? – who the coaching staff is absolutely geeked to get out onto the field and let him do some damage. Also look for immediate contributions from SS Landon Lassiter (16th round pick) and C Korey Dunbar (39th round pick) who could step in immediately for the departed Jacob Stallings.

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- VIRGINIA (39-19,-1 18-12)

2012 ISR: 21

Starters Returning: 5

Weekend Starters: 2

Mid-Week Starters: 1

Key Relievers (15+inns.): 4

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All Conference Candidates:

OF Colin Harrington (.312)

OF Derek Fisher (.309-7-50)

RHP Artie Lewicki (4-2, 3.33)

RHP Kyle Crockett (5-2, 2.40)

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NOTES:

- In mid-March the Cavs sat at 11-8-1 having just been swept in three games at Florida State. So no one could’ve conceivably thought at that time that this team was going to eventually host a Regional at Davenport Field. After that Seminole disaster, the Cavs immediately swept Clemson to put their season back on track. UVa eventually went on a 14-3 tear to end the regular season and help them procure that home field Regional. Of course, the flip side to all this shiny, happy people news was that the Wahoos went belly up in three games to end the campaign.

- Lots of heralded studs ended up moving on after last season, most notably Friday ace Branden Kline, saves honcho Justin Thompson, team leader Stephen Bruno and of course, everybody’s favorite Keith Werman. So there are some big holes to fill, but there are some decks on-hand to get it done.

- Though Mssrs. Bruno and Werman are gone, there is still plenty of firepower around. Freshman All American Derek Fisher showed up to campus with a D1-ready body and will join ranks with Colin Harrington to lead the offense. Don’t forget about part-timers like Reed Gragnani (.362 in 20 starts), Nick Howard (.346 in 26 games played) and Brandon Downes (.326) aren’t counted among the returning starters but should make a difference in the run producing department.

- UVa’s incoming class was ranked No. 34 in the country and will help plug the aforementioned holes. Baseball America says that LHP Nathan Kirby could be a first-round draftee in three years. Coach Brian O’Connor and his staff has always raided the state of Pennsylvania and this time some big Keystone staters should be big swinging’ studs in catcher Scott Willams (who could also star on the mound), soundly-built INF Rob Bennie (who also rushed for 1,766 yards as a quarterback) and strapping left-handed powerstick Joe McCarthy.

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- VIRGINIA TECH (34-21, 11-19)

2012 ISR: 44

Starters Returning: 6

Weekend Starters: 1

Mid-Week Starters: 2

Key Relievers (20+inns.): 2

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All Conference Candidates:

OF Tyler Horan (282-15-41)

C Mark Zagunis (.344-5-34, 17SBs, Freshman All American)

3B Chad Pinder (.325-7-37)

OF Andrew Rash (.273-7-34)

LHP Joe Mantiply (5-6, 3.53)

RHP Tanner McIntyre (7-0, 2.32, .235OBA)

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NOTES:

- Tech was probably supposed to win a tad more than it did last year but ended up pulling the exact same ACC mark as it did in 2011… 11-19. Yuck. Though in the big picture of things, you have to keep in mind that coach Pete Hughes and Co. DID win 30+ games overall for the fourth straight season. So even with a “down” year, the win total is encouraging and shows this program isn’t going far off the pace in the battle-tough ACC.

- Not really sure what we’re going to get from the Hokies in 2013. I mean, offensively, these guys got some studs that will wield some wicked bats. Tyler Horan is about as good a power stick as there is in the country, and Mark Zagunis, Chad Pinder and Andrew Rash are about as intimidating as it gets in college baseball. And by the way, now that I think of it, when was the last time you’d heard of a catcher leading a team in stolen bases? That’s what the uber-athletic Zagunis did last year with his 17 thefts.

- How impressive are the big bats of the Gobblers? VaTech is the only team in the country to have two current players who have participated in the College Home Run Derby in Omaha. Tyler Horan finished second in the event this past July and in 2011 Andrew Rash was part of the field of eight competing in the dinger-fest at TD Ameritrade.

- The Hokies will have some re-tooling of their pitching staff to do. But Joe Mantiply will be an anchor to build around. The senior has 34 starts in his previous three years and was drafted in the 28th round by the Phillies last summer, yet decided to return to Blacksburg for one more season. Also, don’t overlook incoming transfer RHP Brad Markey, who was a 35th round pick of the Mets out of JC ball last summer. He signed with VPI and should have an immediate impact. The 5’11, 185lb. sparkplug pitched for Georgia Tech in 2011 before transferring to Santa Fe CC.

 

COMMENTS:

February 2, 2013 at 2:50 am
TexDuke says:

I love you Stitchy and what you do – so as a fyi, little Piscotty won’t wear a Duke uni this spring. We’ll keep an eye elsewhere – Coach Pollard will get them near 35 wins this year – believe it!


February 2, 2013 at 3:08 am
Eric Sorenson says:

Thanks for the info TexDuke. I made the change above. As usual, it’s nearly impossible to get 100% correct information during the off-season in college baseball. And I’ll take your word on coach Pollard.


February 4, 2013 at 11:11 pm
thomas says:

clemson will be fine in my opinon, great freshman class, brittle and wilkerson are for real, pitching looks decent


February 4, 2013 at 11:17 pm
thomas says:

colin moran is still hangin around unc?? jeesh it seems hes been there forever


February 8, 2013 at 6:27 am
Brett says:

Great write up. One thing to note with Florida State, Mike Compton is out for the season with Tommy John. Huge blow to the staff.


February 8, 2013 at 6:36 am
Eric Sorenson says:

Thanks Brett. Yeah, I heard about Compton the other day. What a drag for the ‘Noles. He’s a big talent to lose for an entire year.


February 14, 2013 at 7:14 pm
bill says:

Grimes actually injured his arm in Fall Ball and will miss the season. He was shut down in 2012 after about half the season with a different arm injury.
BA has told me that if Grimes were healthy, they would have been around 12 or higher in their preseason rankings. Fact, after the draft last year, Aaron Fitt wrote they would have been serious Omaha contenders in his column( Top 8 perhaps) with (a healthy) Grimes and Farmer as 1-2 SP.
Dusty Isaacs becomes perhaps the pitcher in the ACC with the most pressure to step it up. He improved over the Summer, so Tech’s fortunes will lie on his production or lack of. But even with Grimes out, Tech is already better off than last year when they lost 2/3 of their Starting rotation at the half way mark, including Daniel Bard. The glut of injuries that forced Tech to use Frosh pitchers helped them as the won the ACC Tournament.
In recent years, GT has been known for coming up short in the clutch and playing below their talent level. Last year’s team showed character and guts. They are all back, save 2-3 from that team. This team is going to be a very difficult out for anyone this time around.