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ACC Weekend Preview: March 1

By Micah Beutell and Monty Taylor


It's another exciting weekend of non-conference play for the ACC before most of the programs begin conference play next weekend. The matchups are headlined by three in-state rivalries while three teams go on the road to participate in tournaments.


Miami vs #5 Florida

Miami has not looked great to start the 2024 season. With losses to LIU, UCF, and FGCU there is some cause for panic with the Cardiac Canes. Sitting at 5-3, this weekend's test will be one the Canes must be up for. Third baseman Daniel Cuvet continues to be one of the best freshman in college baseball. He currently leads the ACC in multiple offensive statistical categories and with his .606 average, you can expect him to be a huge part of Miami's hopes in pulling the upset.


The Canes really need Preseason All-ACC DH Blake Cyr to get going, as he has been struggling with both an injury and a team-low average of .176 while failing to record a hit in his last 10 ABs. This will turn around for Cyr as he continues to get healthy and back into rhythm. On the mound Miami needs better performances from ace Gage Ziehl. The Friday night starter has drastically struggled in his first two appearances this year and a deep Florida lineup could tee off if his struggles continue. I love what we have seen from the other two Miami weekend starters in Rafe Schlesinger and Herick Hernandez. The two have combined to allow just one earned run in 23 innings pitched.

 

Florida, on the other hand, are in need of a confidence boost. This Gators team has not looked like a Top 5 team so far this year with losses to Stetson and St. John’s. But this Florida team is still one of the most talented in the sport. Jac Caglianone continues to be the best two way player in the country, though his pitching has been a bit rough to start. Florida is still looking for an answer for that third weekend starter as only Liam Patterson and Cade Fisher have multiple starts this season.


The Gators pitching staff is the biggest question mark coming into this series, and if Miami can continue to hit like they have they could easily take this series in thanks to the great pitching they have seen from Schlesinger and Hernandez.

 

Prediction: Florida takes 2 of 3.

 

Virginia Tech vs Stony Brook

Virginia Tech is playing really good baseball right now and are on a four-game winning streak. The Hokies are being anchored by Chris Cannizzaro, Henry Cooke, Ben Watson, and Garrett Michel offensively. As all four are hitting above .400 over a 1.1 OPS. Brett Renfrow has been the best starter so far this season with his 2-0 record and 2.70 ERA in 10 innings pitched. Expect the Hokies to continue the offensive success that has seen them score 7 or more runs in all but one game so far this season.


Stony Brook comes in after making some noise when they knocked off a top 10 LSU in Baton Rouge last weekend. The Seawolves are a talented group that are still figuring some things out. LF Matt Brown-Eiring has been the bright spot in this Stony Brook lineup hitting .485 and appearing in all eight games this season. The Seawolves have a really good Friday night guy in Eddie Smink. Smink is a sophomore who has allowed only 4 earned runs in 10 innings pitched. He was the one who held LSU to only 1 earned run in 5 innings of work last week. Expect his outing to be the biggest test for this hot Virginia Tech lineup.

 

Prediction: Virginia Tech sweeps

 

Pitt vs Oklahoma (Fri), Ohio State (Sat), Cal (Sun) in Las Vegas, NV

It is time for a test. Pitt has looked athe part of a real tournament contender, but the schedule has not been too difficult for this team. With a 6-1 record that's only blemish is a loss to Maryland last weekend in Texas, the Panthers are set up nicely to make some noise. Pitt’s lineup has no one hitting above .400. But what they lack in standout performers they combat with incredible balance, as the whole lineup has above a .215 average and .270 OBP.


Starting pitching stills seems to be a bit of a question mark, as all three guys have issued at least 4 earned runs in their two outings. However the balance of the bullpen and no bad outings for their starters has led to the Panthers getting off to a hot start.


The field in the Las Vegas College Baseball Classic is a pretty good one. The headliner is Oklahoma who Pitt will open the weekend with. The Sooners are 5-3 after a challenging start to the year that features all but one 2023 NCAA tournament team. Centerfielder John Spikerman continues to impressive in this Sooner lineup and Braden Davis has been the best of the starters so far this season.


Ohio State has already seen one ACC team in Boston College. The Buckeyes have also challenged themselves with Arizona State, USC, and Grand Canyon on their schedule so far. Sitting at 4-4, Ohio State will need better outings from their starters if they hope to win this weekend’s classic.


The final test for Pitt will be a good Cal team. The Bears look like a tournament team so far this season. Cal’s only loss was in a slugfest with Boston College, where the Bears still managed 10 runs. Caleb Lomavita has looked the part of a future 1st-Round Pick behind the plate for Cal and if he continues his successful start to the season he could be the difference in Pitt having a winning weekend.


Prediction: Pitt beats Ohio State, but drops the Oklahoma and Cal games.

 

#16 North Carolina vs Princeton

North Carolina dropped a regional type series this past weekend with rival East Carolina. But the Tar Heels showed they are a Top-20 team with how competitive they were all weekend against the Pirates. This UNC lineup has been so balanced to start the year with 6 guys hitting over .300 with a minimum of 33 plate appearances. Freshman Folger Boaz has looked the part of a Friday night starter and this weekend will be a good get right weekend for the pitching staff as a whole.


Princeton comes in as a middle of the pack Ivy League team. The Tigers are 1-2 after dropping their opening series at UNC-Wilmington last weekend. They have only managed 6 runs so far this season and could see similar offensive struggles against a very talented UNC group. Pitching looked good in their last two games of the series with UNCW and saw Justin Kim pitch phenomenal in his Saturday start that went 6 innings allowing no earned runs. I do think this UNC lineup will give the Tigers pitching staff some fits this weekend, so expect the trend of good outings to end this weekend.


Prediction: UNC sweeps

 

Georgia vs Georgia Tech

I will admit (Micah here) that this Georgia Tech continues to prove me wrong. The Yellow Jackets have looked the part of a Top 25 team for most of the season. After a bad loss to Cornell last Sunday, Georgia Tech responded by dominating crosstown foe Georgia State 10-0. Drew Burress has not only has looked like the best freshman in college baseball, but arguably the best hitter in the sport so far this season. He leads the country with 9 home runs in 8 games and had 4 in that Georgia State game earlier this week. Not to be lost in this good lineup is Payton Green and Mike Becchetti, who each have 10 RBIs already this season. Aeden Finateri has been the best starter so far with 11 innings pitched and only 1 earned run given up. Georgia Tech will need better outings from their other starters if they hope to win the weekend series with rival Georgia.


48 hours ago I had Georgia winning this series. It may not be fair to switch the pick after watching midweek games, but the Dawgs looked bad in their 19-6 loss to Michigan State on Wednesday. The Bulldogs have yet to be challenged and both them and Georgia Tech have only one bad loss to their name. Prior to Wednesday night’s game Georgia has looked like a Top 25 team when they outscored their opponents by 56 in their first 5 games. Since then they are 3-1 with three 1 run wins and 13 run loss. Charlie Condon continues to be one of the best hitters in the country entering the weekend with 7 home runs and 2.085 OPS.


An interesting stat I noticed was that Georgia has used 21 different arms already this season with all but 4 of those coming out of the bullpen. Georgia is a team full of a lot of question marks and this weekends split series of one home game each and a neutral site game provides a lot of intrigue for both the SEC and ACC when it comes to their case of best conference in college baseball.


Prediction: Georgia Tech takes 2 of 3

 

#10 Virginia vs UMass

Virginia continues to be so impressive in non-conference games. The Hoos won the Jax Classic over multiple tournament caliber teams and then dominated in-state foe VMI who is a dark horse team in the Southern Conference on Wednesday. Virginia has looked the part of a team hoping to return to Omaha again this season.


Centerfielder Bobby Whalen has been the most impressive hitter in this lineup for me this season. With an average of .579 and OBP of .636, Whalen has bursted onto the scene as a key piece in this Virginia lineup. Factor in first year Henry Ford’s production and the Hoos are thriving even with top returners Ethan Anderson and Griff O’Ferrall struggling to start the season. Virginia still has some question marks with the rotation and are in need of a good outing from their top starter entering the season in Jack O’Connor. O’Connor has really struggled and this weekend is as good a time as any to right the ship.


UMass comes to Charlottesville with a record of 1-3 after losing their 4-game set with Bucknell. The Minutemen do not look like too much of a threat to Virginia, but they will be scrappy and grind out at-bats. Carter Hanson anchors this lineup for the Minutemen with his .375 average and expect him to play a key role if the Minutemen hope to break UVa’s non-conference winning streak. I am going to use this last bit to shoutout UMass reliever Leif Bigelow who comes to UMass as a transfer from my employer ETSU. Leif is the only pitcher this season to pitch a scoreless outing with 3 innings pitched and zero earned runs. I can’t wait to watch him work against Virginia.


Prediction: Virginia sweeps

 

#9 Duke vs Akron

Duke has looked like one of the best teams in college baseball to start the 2024 season. They can win in so many different ways. With arguably the best pitching staff from starters to bullpen in the sport, the Blue Devils can win low scoring games, but Duke has also proved many experts wrong with their ability to hit. They've outscored their opponents 85 to 24 this season. I expect the trend of Duke domination to continue this weekend.


Akron is unfortunately one of the worst teams in the MAC. The Zips are young and are showing progress in building their program around 1st year head coach Bryan Faulds. Akron opened the season splitting a 4 game set in Winston-Salem that saw them beating Illinois and Fordham and losing to Wake Forest and Illinois in the 1st meeting. Huge credit to the Zips challenging themselves to start the season, but after getting swept handily by The Citadel this past weekend, I feel as if this weekend will not bode much better for the blue and gold.

 

Prediction: Duke sweeps


Boston College at Richmond (Fri), W&M (Sat), and VCU (Sun)

The Boston College Eagles head to the Commonwealth as they participate in the Central Virginia Classic. This unique event entails visiting teams to visit the home stadiums of Richmond, William & Mary, and Virginia Commonwealth over the course of the weekend.


Friday night starter John West has struggled to start the year and will be hoping for a bounce back performance against Richmond on Friday afternoon. AJ Colarusso will likely get the nod against William & Mary, and he's great in his two starts this morning with a 1.86 ERA in 9.1 innings pitched. Tyler Mudd is the x-factor coming out of the bullpen, as he's yet to give up an earned run in 8.1 innings of relief.


Offensively, BC is getting great production out of catchers John Collins and Parker Landwehr, who have combined for five extra base hits. The middle of the lineup will be anchored by a resurgent Cam Leary alongside Nick Wang and Vince Cimini. All three hitters have two home runs on the year.


The Eagles shouldn't have any problems with Richmond or William & Mary, but that Sunday matchup against VCU should be a tough one. The Rams have already beaten NC State and Maryland this season and Rams star Brandon Eike is hitting .364 with 7 extra base hits in nine game. Eike is the name to circle in the VCU lineup against BC pitching.


Prediction: Boston College beats Richmond and William & Mary, but loses to VCU.


Florida State vs Illinois, Michigan St, and Western Michigan

The Seminoles are 7-0 and have looked very impressive early. They'll get their biggest tests of the young season against two Big 10 teams and what might be the best team in the MAC. Cam Leiter and Jamie Arnold have dominated to start their seasons and each have been named ACC Pitcher of the Week already. The offense is starting to get hot as Drew Faurot went 8-11 with 6 extra base hits last weekend against Western Carolina. Cam Smith is hitting .500 while James Tibbs has five home runs already.


The most intriguing matchup of the weekend will be against Michigan State. The Spartans just shellacked Charlie Condon and the Georgia Bulldogs during the midweek, 19-6. With all due respect to Butler and Western Carolina, this will be Jamie Arnold's biggest test as he looks to keep his season ERA unblemished. Western Michigan, the best team in the MAC, shouldn't be overlooked on Sunday, either. They split a 4-game series with Michigan and swept a 4-game series on the road at Pepperdine. Cade Sullivan is hitting .559 in eight games with 13 RBIs and will be the name to watch for Western Michigan.


Prediction: Florida State sweeps


Youngstown State at Louisville

Louisville is back to .500 after winning four straight following their 0-4 start to the year. Coach McDonnell is still experimenting with lineups, trying to find the best combination of experience and youth. JT Benson is off to a hot start near the top of the order and is hitting .500 while the lead off man Lucas Moore is hitting .440 with seven stolen bases.


Youngstown State only has 6 extra base hits as a team, so this should be a favorable matchup for Louisville pitching as they try to get bullpen roles figured out. Wright State transfer Sebastian Gongora should get the start on Friday and look to improve on his 4.09 ERA while Evan Webster will likely get the nod on Saturday. Whether Carson Liggett gets back into the rotation this weekend remains to be seen despite a quality start during the midweek win. It could instead be another opportunity for freshman Parker Detmers to impress.


Prediction: Louisville sweeps



#1 Wake Forest vs Binghamton, Valparaiso, and Elon

Wake Forest has continued to go about its business without making a major impression. They lost a disappointing midweek game to UNC-Greensboro but have won every other game without too much of a problem. Their pitching has been very good if not incredibly dominant and their offense has started to come together as of late. Wake Forest will want to finish their weekend non-conference schedule strong with #9 Duke coming to town next weekend to begin ACC play.


Five players are hitting over .300 for the Deacs and none of them are named Nick Kurtz or Seaver King. Tate Bellestero, Adam Tellier, Austin Hawke, Marek Houston, and Jack Winnay continue to impress. Winnay in particular leads the team with a .957 slugging and 4 home runs. On the pitching side, Wake Forest has six pitchers with 5+ innings pitched and ERAs under 2.50, including all three weekend starters. The teams coming to Winston-Salem this weekend will struggle to score runs and with the way the Demon Deacon lineup is heating up, I expect an easy sweep of the weekend for Wake Forest.


Prediction: Wake Forest Sweeps


#15 Clemson vs #11 South Carolina

This is one of the headline series for the weekend and is one of the best rivalry matchups in the country. Both teams just have one loss and dreams of Omaha. Expect three very good games between these two top 15 teams that hate each other.


South Carolina has the edge with their pitching, as Clemson has struggled a bit in that department to start the year. Gamecock Friday night starter Eli Jones has been very good to start the year with just 1 run given up in two starts, while Sunday starter Roman Kimball has been fantastic in his return from a long-term injury. Clemson will need more from Billy Barlow on Friday after two forgettable starts, but the Tigers will be confident in freshman Aidan Knaack following his 6 shutout innings last time out.


While both teams have a plethora of talent hitters, the matchup everyone wants to see is between the two sophomore All-American outfielders in Clemson's Cam Cannarella and South Carolina's Ethan Petry. Petry is hitting .356 with three home runs and 10 walks on the young season while Cam Cannarella is red hot hitting .517 with 2 home runs. Expect those two to put on a show this weekend.


Prediction:  Clemson takes two of three


Notre Dame at Tennessee Tech

Notre Dame is off to a 5-2 start thanks to an opening weekend sweep of Rice and series split at FIU more recently. The Irish starting pitchers aren't typically going more than three innings so far this season, which forces them to rely all the more on the bullpen trio of Radek Birkholz, Bennett Flynn, and Nate Hardman. Hardman hasn't been at his best yet as his 10.80 ERA will show. Starters Jackson Dennies and Matt Bedford will need to be more effective this weekend if they want to win a road series at Tennessee Tech.


Offensively, Notre Dame has shown more power than expected. Five players have hit two or more home runs this year. St. John's transfer David Glancy has been particularly impressive hitting near the top of the lineup and getting rallies started. But the Irish need shortstop Jack Penney and UCLA transfer Josh Hahn to break out of their slumps as both are currently hitting under .150.


Tennesee Tech is 6-2 and very capable of winning this series against Notre Dame. Hayden Gillihand and Troy Baunsgard are the two bats to fear in the Tech lineup. They're both hitting over .350 on the young season and are a threat for extra bases. Austin Turner has an impressive 14 walks in eight games and will be a difficult out. Pitching wise, Peyton Calitri has been brilliant to start the year and has yet to give up an earned run in his first 13 innings of work.


Prediction: Tennessee Tech takes two of three


Towson at NC State

NC State has had an interesting start to the year. They've won both of their series and the one midweek they've played, but are yet to look impressive. Their pitching depth was a key factor in their preseason Top 25 ranking, but outside of a Ryan Marohn debut, the pitching hasn't looked as expected. Shane Van Dam struggled in two outings against Hawai'i while Sam Highfill and Logan Whitaker were lit up in their appearances against the Rainbow Warriors. Dominic Fritton had a bit of a bounce back, but only pitched 3.1 innings. The Wolfpack will need those guys to be better to be a threat in the ACC.


Hitting wise, NC State has six guys hitting over .300 to start the season. ECU transfer Alec Makarewicz has been the best of the group, clubbing two doubles and four home runs while hitting .414. Catcher Drew Lanphere looks poised for a surprise breakout season and is 8-19 with two home runs. We know NC State will hit but the question is whether the talented pitching can reach its potential.


This is a good series for NC State pitching to build confidence. Towson is 1-6 on the year and only has one hitter in Elijah Dickerson hitting over .300 on the year. Bryce Frederick is power bat to watch out for with 4 homers on the year, but overall the Towson lineup doesn't look particularly difficult to handle.


Prediction: NC State sweeps


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