The Atlantic Coast Conference finds themselves atop the college baseball world again thanks to Wake Forest being named the #1 ranked team in all of the major polls on Monday. Their rise to the top spot in these polls came after taking a hard-fought series at home last weekend from Boston College. In winning that series from the Eagles, the Demon Deacons have punched their ticket to the ACC Conference Baseball Tournament which starts on May 23 at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. 12 teams make it to the tournament and not all the spots have been taken as of yet. With two weekends left in the regular season, there are two teams that are on the outside looking in when it comes to the postseason. We take a look at who they are, and their chances with six games left in the regular season.
The Louisville Cardinals (29-19, 9-15) have a .375 winning percentage heading into the weekend. They are one game back in the loss column of Georgia Tech (28-20, 10-14). They are two games back of Pittsburgh (21-25, 9-13), NC State (31-15, 10-13), and Notre Dame (26-19, 10-13). The Cardinals will spend the weekend on the road at Virginia (38-11, 13-11). The road has not been kind to Louisville this spring. Overall, the Cardinals are 5-11 away from home, and in league play that mark is 2-10. They are facing a Cavaliers team that is 29-4 overall at home and in conference they are 8-4. Despite Louisville’s spot in the league, they find themselves in a good place when it comes to the latest NCAA RPI rankings. They are at #35, which would be good enough to get them into the field of 64. This makes the next two weekends even more important for them. Getting into the ACC tournament might just be enough to qualify them for the NCAA’s. However, if they miss out, a spot in the event may not be in the cards. Louisville made this trip carrying a four-game losing streak with them. A bad time to not be playing well. One problem for the Cardinals is the play in the field. They ranked next to last in fielding percentage at .969%. Their 52 errors are second worst in the league and they have turned 36 double plays. This is not a team that creates run-scoring chances on the bases having just 27 stolen bases in 40 attempts. The 27 steals are the third-fewest in the league. On the mound, sophomore Carson Liggett, with his one complete game shutout, will need to get the weekend off to a good start for Louisville.
The other team that needs to have a big finish is the Florida State Seminoles (19-28, 6-18). This is a strange place to see the Seminoles who for years have been at the top of the league instead of at the bottom. They are playing better, having won their last four in a row, all non-conference wins. This weekend, they will be tested by the new #1 team in the country in Wake Forest (40-7, 18-5). Pitching will be the story of this three-game set. The Demon Deacons have the best team ERA in the league at 2.56 and teams are hitting just .201 against them. Florida State team ERA is at 5.90 and teams are hitting .268 vs them. The job for the Seminoles is finding a way to win a series when facing the three-headed monster of Rhett Lowder, this week’s ACC Pitcher of the Week (10-0, 1.67 ERA), Josh Hartle (9-2, 2.09 ERA), and Sean Sullivan (5-2, 2.63 ERA). To make matters worse for FSU, the Demon Deacons closer Camden Minacci is tied for the top spot in saves with 10. The Seminoles will have to get the bats going early in this series as they have a .290 team batting average. They have struck out 408 times as a team, a bad number vs a very good pitching staff. FSU has not helped themselves in the field as they are the worst team in the field. They have committed 61 errors, turning 35 DPs. Their fielding percentage is .965%. They have stolen 29 bases in 38 attempts.
What makes this even more interesting is Florida State and Louisville will meet each other on the final weekend of the season. The question will be if anything is on the line come next weekend.
Some other random notes from the league. Virginia finished their non-league schedule undefeated at 25-0 after beating Radford earlier this week 8-0. They joined Texas A&M in 2015 and Arizona in 2010 as the only division one team in the past two decades to be perfect in non-conference play. Dating back to 2022, Virginia has won 29 straight games outside the league. The Clemson Tigers, winners of five in a row, have moved into second place in the Atlantic Division at 32-17, 14-10. In their last twenty games, the Tigers have gone 16-4 with a two-game sweep of #8 Coastal Carolina by a combined score of 29-12. This week, they continued to climb the polls getting to #9 in the Perfect Game poll. Duke has put up numbers in the 33 games they have won this spring. They have outscored their opponents by 240 runs. However, in their 14 losses, they have lost those games by a combined 49 runs. The league has seven schools inside the top 20 of the latest NCAA RPI rankings. WF is #1, BC #8, Duke #9, Clemson #11, Virginia #13, Miami #17, and NC State #20. North Carolina is #33, and Louisville is at #35 making it nine in the top-35. The ACC is tied for the most in the top 20.
Rhett Lowder is this week’s ACC Pitcher of the Week. Last Friday night vs Boston College he earned his 10th win of the season by throwing seven scoreless innings vs the Eagles. He allowed five hits, one walk, and struck out nine. He is the only Power-5 pitcher with ten wins and zero losses, and the only WF pitcher to post back-to-back double digits win years. Georgia Tech’s Stephen Reid is this week’s ACC Player of the Week. In the Yellow Jackets sweep of Pittsburgh, he tied a program record with a three-HR day on Sunday. He finished with four for the series. He batted .643, and slugged 1.571, with a .643 on-base percentage. He drove in 10, had nine hits, and one double.
Next week we’ll look at the final weekend of play in the ACC.
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