When the field of 64 was announced the ACC was represented by seven teams. They all have the same goal in mind, finding a way to get to Omaha and the College World Series. After the first weekend of play, what was seven is now done to three. Florida State, Louisville, and Wake Forest are remaining as the super regional’s are set to begin.
Two of the three teams will have home field advantage. They are the Seminoles, who will play host to a bit of a surprise in Sam Houston State and Louisville who will take on in-state rival Kentucky. The Demon Deacon will head to Gainesville to play the Florida Gators. All series are a best of three with the winners heading off to the College World Series.
The Louisville Cardinal have been about pitching all year in the ACC as they finished the regular season with the best team ERA in the conference. They started the season 19-0 and have never looked back. In the just completed regional’s the staff put together an earned run average of 2.88. They will be facing a lineup in the Wildcats that boast a solid batting mark of .319 heading into this weekend. For Louisville, it will be about the experience as this will be the fifth straight regional’s they have been a part of. For Kentucky, this will be their first time in the Super Regionals. The Wildcats pushed across 32 runs in winning their tournament so the bats are warm heading into their match up with the Cardinal. They were first in the SEC in hitting this year. Make no mistake the Wildcats can pitch too. SEC pitcher of the year, Sean Hjelle, who started when the regional began, came out of the bullpen to finish off North Carolina State this past Monday Night with 3.1 innings of scoreless relief to send Kentucky to this weekend.
Florida State has had one goal in mind it seems for years, get Head Coach Mike Martin his first College World Series championship. They have been close on many occasions, and although this team may not have the parts in place that would suggest a return trip to Omaha, it is another trip to a place they are very familiar with. They are facing maybe the surprise of the tournament in Sam Houston State, a team that may not scare you with the bats hitting just 31 home runs this year, but have found a way to get out of a tough bracket and make it to their first ever regional final. Their offense is led by Bryce Johnson who gets it done with the bats and with his leg, .350 average and 33 steals. Keeping off the base paths will be priority number one for the Seminoles. On the mound, Heath Donica is working on a fine year having gone 9-2 with a 1.91 ERA. This is also a team that knows how to win close ballgames as witnessed by their 3-0 mark in Lubbock in one run games.
The Noles have an ace of their own on the hill and his name is Tyler Holton (10-2 with a 2.22 earned run average). The problem for Florida State is there may not be enough behind him to get the job done on the bump. This is a team that enters the field on a roll having won six in a row including the ACC championship. But it is also a team that does not posses a lot of thunder in their lineup nor a lot of power, so putting innings together is what this team needs to do to survive and advance.
Wake Forest will have to get it done on the road against a pretty good team in Florida. For the Demon Deacons, their bats will be key. They are the number one home run hitting team in the country, averaging 1.67 round-trippers per game with 100 for the season. They did play their home games in a ballpark that was considered a hitting paradise so we will see if they can do the same vs the Gators. Florida has a three-man rotation that is as good as any in the country in Alex Faedo, Jackson Kowar, and Brady Singer. The key to this series will be who wins out, the Wake Forest bats of the Florida arms.