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Upstart Duke and Virginia Join NC State and Georgia Tech in ACC Semis

by Matt Sefcovic (@MattSefcovic)

Many ACC teams headed to Charlotte this week knowing their conference tournament results would either solidify an NCAA Tournament bid or end their season. With the conclusion of pool play, it is going to be a long weekend for a few teams that are waiting to see where they will be playing, who they will be playing, and if they will be playing come Selection Monday.

Pool A

Virginia and Virginia Tech squared off in an in-state battle on Tuesday with the winner getting an opportunity to take one top seeded Notre Dame to advance to the semi-finals. Entering the ACC Tournament, the Cavaliers were one of the hottest teams in the country winning 10 of their previous 14 games, including four straight conference series wins.

Zach Mesinger (W, 3-1) entered the postseason with just three starts on the year, but he looked very comfortable giving the Cavaliers 5.1 innings of work, allowing just two earned runs. The bullpen gave up two hits in the final 3.2 innings on their way to a 3-2 victory over Virginia Tech.

Freshman Kyle Teel led the way for Virginia with a two run home run in the third inning that proved to be the game winner as the Hokies bats could not string together enough offense to recover after the early deficit.

On Friday morning, Virginia and Notre Dame faced off in a win or go home elimination game. The Fighting Irish were the next victim to get in the way of this buzzsaw of a Cavaliers team that has solidified their spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Virginia jumped out in front early, scoring five runs in the top of the second inning en route to a 14-1 win over the best team in the ACC. The Cavaliers pounded out 14 hits, four of which were home runs by Zack Gelof, Nic Kent, Alex Tappen, and Jake Gelof.

Andrew Abbott (W, 8-5) kept Notre Dame from getting into any rhythm, allowing just 5 hits over 6.1 innings. The Cavaliers pitching staff picked up 15 strikeouts as Virginia clinched the pool.

Pool B

Clemson and Louisville started things off on Tuesday morning in a game that felt like the loser could be on the outside looking in. Both teams hobbled into the ACC Tournament and were in desperate need of a few wins to feel comfortable about hearing their name called on Monday.

The game tallied 29 hits, 11 home runs, and 25 runs combined. After being swept by the Tigers in the regular season, the Cardinals responded with a 15-10 victory, ending any chance for Clemson to play in the postseason.

Louisville set an ACC Tournament record with seven home runs in a single game. Alex Binelas led the way with three while Henry Davis and Ben Metzinger added two apiece. Caden Grice added two of his own for the Tigers.

On Thursday, Georgia Tech and Louisville faced off in a game that took over five hours to complete with the winner advancing to the semifinals. Louisville was in control until the 8th inning when the Yellow Jackets scored three runs to tie the game at six.

The game headed into extra innings with Louisville taking a 7-6 lead off a home run by Alex Binelas in the 11th. Georgia Tech answered with a run in the home half of the inning.

Metzinger homered in the 12th to give the Cardinals a lead in the second consecutive inning, but this one wasn’t over. With two runners on in the bottom of the 12th inning, Andrew Jenkins doubled to give the Yellow Jackets a walk-off win and advance to the semifinals by a score of 9-8.

Pool C

Like Virginia, North Carolina State entered the ACC Tournament as one of the hottest teams in the country. The Wolfpack began ACC play with a 1-8 record and finished as the three seed with a 19-14 record.

They were paired with North Carolina and Pittsburgh, a team that was announced as one of the 20 potential regional host sites but subsequently dropped eight of ten games heading into the conference tournament.

After the Panthers took care of business against North Carolina on Tuesday, it came down to Pittsburgh and North Carolina State, a game that was played on Thursday night, for a berth in the semifinals.

Pittsburgh struck first in the bottom of the first inning, but the Wolfpack scored three runs in the top of the second on their way to a 3-2 victory. The teams combined for just nine hits and saw 22 strikeouts.

Reid Johnson (W, 7-2) gave up two hits in eight innings of work before Evan Justice (S, 8) closed out the ninth. Matt Gilbertson (L, 6-5) tossed a complete game for the Panthers, giving up just four hits.

Pool D

Duke entered the ACC Tournament as the nine seed but the Blue Devils had been victorious in seven straight games. Being paired with Miami and Florida State, they had a huge opportunity to make a statement to the selections committee. Mission accomplished.

Coach Chris Pollard had his team ready to roll, giving Florida State their most lopsided loss of the season, 12-1. Duke jumped out with five runs in the first inning, four off the bat of a Michael Rothenberg grand slam.

The Blue Devils pitching staff allowed just four hits while striking out 13 Seminoles. Robby Martin picked up two hits for Florida State, including a solo home run.

The Blue Devils seemed to be on the wrong side of an upset bid against Miami entering the 7th inning down 2-0, but Rothenberg had other plans. With two runners on base, he hit a single up the middle, scoring both runners and tying the game.

With one out in the 9th inning, Rothenberg had another opportunity with the game still knotted at two. For the second time in two days, Rothenberg homered, this time in walk-off fashion to send the Hurricanes home.

Saturday Schedule

(8) Virginia vs (9) Duke at 1 PM ET

(2) Georgia Tech vs (3) North Carolina State at 5 PM ET


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