ACC Baseball tournament underway as heavyweights vie for conference title


Pamela Smith | Contributing Editor

Pitt pitcher Matt Gilbertson (45) pitches during a game against the University of Virginia on April 15, 2022.

By Jack Markowski, Senior Staff Writer

It’s conference tournament time across college baseball as the nation’s powerhouse teams focus on building momentum, while bubble teams center their attention towards finalizing their résumés ahead of the NCAA tournament selection show on May 30. 

The ACC established itself as a premier conference yet again this season with eight teams ranking inside the top 30 in RPI and six inside USA TODAY’s coaches poll. The Panthers (23-30, 10-18 ACC) snuck into the field as the No. 12 seed following a tumultuous campaign, but their work is cut out for them. 

The Panthers finished in last place in the Coastal Division, largely due to a lackluster pitching staff that finished last in the conference in ERA. Pitt’s offense fared a bit better, but still ranked inside the bottom five in runs and batting average

Pitt is joined by No. 1 seed Wake Forest (45-9, 22-7 ACC) and No. 8 seed Notre Dame (30-22, 15-15 ACC) in Pool A. 

The Demon Deacons are ranked No. 1 nationally and are one of the national title favorites. Their pitching staff has driven a lot of their success, as they own the best ERA in the country by a wide margin. Wake Forest’s offense is potent as well, as they finished second in the ACC in runs scored.

As for Notre Dame, their NCAA tournament hopes are up in the air. While it appears they’re on the right side of the bubble, a strong showing this week would go a long way toward locking up a spot. The Fighting Irish offense struggles with generating runs, but graduate student starter Aiden Tyrell leads a solid pitching staff that can compete against any team in the conference. 

No. 4 seed Miami (37-18, 18-12 ACC), No. 5 seed Duke (35-19, 16-13 ACC) and No. 9 seed NC State (34-18, 13-16 ACC) round out Pool D, with the winner facing the champion of Pool A in the semifinals on Saturday, May 27. 

Miami is an NCAA tournament lock and they will likely host regional games as well. First-year infielder Blake Cyr and junior infielder Yohandy Morales — who is a Golden Spikes Award semifinalist — stand out as part of an impressive offense for the Hurricanes. Miami’s starting pitchers ran into some trouble this season, but All-ACC First Team junior reliever Andrew Walters leads a bullpen that is dominant late in games. 

Duke’s team ERA of 3.94 ranks only behind Wake Forest in the conference, with first-year pitchers Andrew Healy and James Tallon leading a pitching staff that is one of the deepest in the nation. The Blue Devils’ offense is balanced as well, making them a tough opponent in both the ACC and NCAA tournaments. 

NC State is firmly on the bubble, despite getting swept by Notre Dame and North Carolina late in the season. First-year starter Dominic Fritton and junior starter Matt Willadsen pack a punch at the top of the Wolfpack’s rotation and can shut down opposing offenses with ease. Their offense is also catching fire at the right time and saw five players finish with at least 10 home runs on the season. 

No. 2 seed Virginia (44-11, 19-11 ACC), No. 7 seed North Carolina (33-21, 14-14 ACC) and No. 11 seed Georgia Tech (30-25, 12-18 ACC) make up Pool B, with the winner facing the victor of Pool C in the semifinals.

Virginia ranks No. 9 in RPI and No. 12 in the national poll, meaning they are another likely regional host out of the ACC. Junior catcher Kyle Teel and junior infielder Jake Gelof — both of whom are Golden Spikes semifinalists — are two of the most dangerous hitters in the country and are a major reason why the Cavaliers led the conference in batting average and runs scored. Their pitching staff is among the best in the ACC as well, and they pose a real threat moving forward. 

North Carolina is safely in the NCAA tournament field, despite a late-season losing streak. Nothing necessarily stands out about this Tar Heel squad, but that’s not a knock against them. They’re middle of the pack in most offensive and pitching stats among ACC teams, providing them with a high floor and nice balance. 

Georgia Tech is on the outskirts of the bubble with their RPI sitting at No. 54. The Yellow Jackets own an offense that could lead a Cinderella run, though, as they finished with the second-highest batting average and third-highest run total in the conference. Their pitching staff may hold them back, however, as only Pitt finished with a worse ERA on the season. 

No. 3 seed Clemson (39-19, 20-10 ACC) is the top dog in Pool C, alongside No. 6 seed Boston College (34-17, 16-14 ACC) and No. 10 seed Virginia Tech (30-21, 12-17 ACC). 

The Tigers currently sit as the No. 6 team in the national poll and No. 7 in RPI, setting them up as another regional host from the conference. Despite ranking in the bottom half of the ACC in runs scored, sophomore infielder Billy Amick and the rest of Clemson’s offense have untapped potential in postseason play. On the other side of the ball, Golden Spikes semifinalist and junior two-way player Caden Grice leads a staff that is one of the league’s best. 

Boston College is in unfamiliar territory, ranking No. 14 in RPI and No. 22 in the national poll amidst one of its best seasons in program history. The Eagles finished in the bottom half of the league in runs scored and runs allowed, but graduate student starting pitcher Chris Flynn and junior first baseman Joe Vetrano possess the talent and star power needed in postseason play. 

Virginia Tech is on the wrong side of the bubble, but a win or two could swing things their way. Four hitters in their starting lineup finished the year with an OPS over 1.000 and the team as a whole ranked inside the top five in the conference in most offensive categories. Much like Georgia Tech, though, their pitching staff let them down most of the year and may ultimately keep them out of the NCAA tournament. 

The ACC is chock-full of competitive and dangerous teams that not only pose a threat inside the conference, but on a national level as well with the NCAA tournament on the horizon. Any team could take the conference title home, setting up an intriguing next couple of days in Durham, North Carolina.