By R.L. Bynum
When Carolina opens ACC tournament pool play at 3 p.m. Tuesday against No. 11-seed Georgia Tech (30–24) at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, the Tar Heels will likely need four wins and the ACC title to have a chance to be an NCAA tournament regional host.
The Tar Heels (33–21) are in Pool B, and also play No. 21-ranked and No. 2-seed Virginia (44–11) at 3 p.m. on Thursday. If UNC wins Tuesday and the Yellow Jackets lose Wednesday to Virginia, that Carolina-Virginia game would be for a berth in the semifinals.
Should UNC win its pool, the Tar Heels’ opponent in Saturday’s semifinals against the winner of Pool C, which includes No. 7-ranked and No. 3-seed Clemson (39–17), No. 22-ranked and No. 6-seed Boston College (34–17) and No. 10-seed Virginia Tech (30–21). UNC took two of three from Virginia Tech but got swept by Clemson and BC.
Last season, the Tar Heels rolled to four victories in Charlotte to win the ACC tournament, beating Clemson 9–2 and Virginia Tech 10–0 in pool play, Notre Dame 7–2 in the semifinals and N.C. State 9–5 in the championship game.
However, Carolina must get much more consistent pitching to pull that off.
The Tar Heels gave up only nine runs in four ACC tournament games last season. They have had only one four-game stretch this season with pitching that good. It was better, yielding only six runs, but it came when they beat Seton Hall 11–2 and 4–2, then Radford 14–2 and Longwood 10-0, all in the first week of the season.
UNC dropped five spots in the RPI rankings to No. 29 after losing at No. 8 Coastal Carolina (13th in the RPI) and dropping all three games at Clemson (7th in the RPI) last weekend.
If Carolina went 4–0 to repeat as ACC champion, those wins could be enough for the Tar Heels to host, given that it would include a win over Virginia (9th in the RPI), likely a ranked team in the semifinals and probably No. 1 Wake Forest (42–8) in the championship game. Doing all that will be challenging.
Beating the Cavaliers won’t be easy. Virginia finished the regular season on a roll, winning its last nine games, including series sweeps of Georgia Tech and Louisville.
When UNC and Virginia met on March 10 and 11 in Chapel Hill, the Cavaliers took the Friday opener 7–3 despite UNC pitchers striking out 18. The teams split a Saturday doubleheader, with Virginia winning 8–4 and the Tar Heels rolling to a 6–0 victory in the finale when right fielder Casey Cook made a spectacular home-run stealing catch at the wall.
Georgia Tech took two of three from Duke in its penultimate ACC series before losing its last four regular-season games. The Yellow Jackets fell to Mercer 7–6 in a game shortened to six innings on Tuesday before getting swept by Virginia last weekend.
Carolina took two of three games from the Yellow Jackets in a series in Atlanta on April 6 and 7. The Tar Heels won the Thursday game 8–1 before the teams split a Friday doubleheader, with UNC winning 10–6 and Tech winning 8–4.
You can buy tickets to the tournament here. Promotions during the week are Bark in the Park on Wednesday, dollar hot dogs on Thursday and fireworks after the final Friday game. For Saturday’s semifinals, you can buy four tickets for $72 and get four $5 Bojangles gift cards.
At Durham Bulls Athletic Park
All games on ACC Network
No. 6-seed Boston College 11, No. 10 Virginia Tech 7
No. 7 North Carolina 11, No. 11 Georgia Tech 5
No. 9 N.C. State 8, No. 5 Duke 7, 11 innings
No. 12 Pittsburgh 9, No. 8 Notre Dame 5
No. 2 Virginia 15, No. 11 Georgia Tech 1, 7 innings
No. 3 Clemson 14, No. 10 Virginia Tech 5
No. 1 Wake Forest 10, No. 12 Pittsburgh 2
No. 7 North Carolina 10, No. 2 Virginia 2
No. 4 Miami 4, No. 9 N.C. State 2
No. 3 Clemson 4, No. 6 Boston College 1
No. 4 Miami 7, No. 5 Duke 6
No. 1 Wake Forest 7, No. 8 Notre Dame 5
No. 3 Clemson 10, No. 7 North Carolina 4
No. 4 Miami 7, No. 1 Wake Forest 2
Sunday’s championship at Durham Bulls Athletic Park
No. 3 Clemson 11, No. 4 Miami 5
FINAL POOL PLAY STANDINGS
Wake Forest 2–0
Notre Dame 0–2
North Carolina 2–0
Georgia Tech 0–2
Boston College 1–1
Virginia Tech 0–2
N.C. State 1–1
|17||Friday||10–8 L||Seton Hall||Home||0–1|
|18||Saturday||11–2 W||Seton Hall||Home||1–1|
|19||Sunday||4–2 W||Seton Hall||Home||2–1|
|24||Friday||6–5 L||No. 15 East Carolina||Greenville||4–2|
|26||Sunday||6–5 L||No. 15 East Carolina||Home||4–3|
|4||Saturday||7–5 W||Stony Brook||Home||8–3|
|5||Sunday||15–4 W||Stony Brook||Home||9–3|
|8||Wed.||15–5 W||Penn State||Home||11–3|
|10||Friday||7–3 L||No. 11 Virginia||Home||11–4,|
|11||Saturday||8–4 L||No. 11 Virginia||Home||11–5,|
|11||Saturday||6–0 W||No. 11 Virginia||Home||12–5,|
|15||Wed.||16–2 W||High Point||Home||14–5|
|17–7 W||Pittsburgh||Pittsburgh||15–5, |
|21||Tuesday||6–4 W||N.C. A&T||Home||16–5|
|23||Thursday||6–3 W||Duke||Home||17–5, |
|24||Friday||8–5 L||Duke||Home||17–6, |
|25||Saturday||5–3 W||Duke||Home||18–6, |
|28||Tuesday||12–7 L||No. 9 Coastal Carolina||Home||18–7|
|31||Friday||10–8 W||Notre Dame||South Bend, Ind.||19–7, |
|2||Sunday||5–2 W||Notre Dame||South Bend, Ind.||20–7, |
|2||Sunday||9–1 L||Notre Dame||South Bend, Ind||20–8, |
|4||Tuesday||5–0 L||South Carolina||Charlotte||20–9|
|6||Thursday||8–1 W||Georgia Tech||Atlanta||21–9, |
|7||Friday||10–6 W||Georgia Tech||Atlanta||22–9, |
|7||Friday||8–4 L||Georgia Tech||Atlanta||22–10, |
|13||Thursday||5–4 L||No. 8 Miami||Home||23–11, |
|9–8 W, |
|No. 8 Miami||Home||24–11, |
|15||Saturday||4–3 L||No. 8 Miami||Home||24–12, |
|Boston College||Home||25–13, |
|22||Saturday||9–4 L||Boston College||Home||25–14, |
|23||Sunday||6–2 L||Boston College||Home||25–15, |
|28||Friday||7–0 L||Virginia Tech||Blacksburg, Va.||26–16, |
|29||Saturday||12–8 W||Virginia Tech||Blacksburg, Va.||27–16, |
|29||Saturday||13–7 W||Virginia Tech||Blacksburg, Va.||28–16, |
|2||Tuesday||6–5 L||No. 11 Campbell||Home||28–17|
|3||Wed.||2–1 W||No. 15 East Carolina||Greenville||29–17|
|11||Thursday||9–8 W||N.C. State||Home||31–17, |
|12||Friday||9–3 W||N.C. State||Home||32–17, |
|13||Saturday||12–2 W||N.C. State||Home||33–17, |
|16||Tuesday||8–6 L||No. 9 Coastal Carolina||Conway, S.C.||33–18|
|18||Thursday||14–7 L||No. 3 Clemson||Clemson, S.C.||33–19, |
|19||Friday||5–4 L||No. 3 Clemson||Clemson, S.C.||33–20, |
|20||Saturday||3–1 L||No. 3 Clemson||Clemson, S.C.||33–21, |
|23||Tuesday||11–5 W||Georgia Tech||Durham||34–21|
|25||Thursday||10–2 W||No. 11 Virginia||Durham||35–21|
|27||Saturday||10–4 L||Semifinal vs.|
No. 3 Clemson
|Terre Haute Regional|
|2||Friday||5–4 L||Iowa||Terre Haute, Ind.||35–23|
|3||Saturday||5–0 W||Wright State||Terre Haute, Ind.||36–23|
|Iowa||Terre Haute, Ind.||36–24|
Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics Communications