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ACC Weekend Preview: March 8th

By Micah Beutell and Monty Taylor


ACC play starts this weekend for most of the conference as many teams face their first big tests of the season. With weather forecasted along the east coast, expect some movement in regards to game times as teams work to maintain the integrity of a three game conference series.


Clemson, Louisville, Georgia Tech, and Florida State will each get one more weekend to figure out their lineups and pitching roles before their conference schedules start next weekend. The headliner matchup this weekend features a top-10 showdown in Winston-Salem between the Wake Forest Demon Deacons and the Duke Blue Devils.


We'll preview all nine series involving each ACC team. Our conference series will include scheduled game times and the announced starting pitching matchups, as well as complete staff predictions from the College Baseball Central ACC content team.


UNC-Greensboro (8-4) at #10 Clemson (10-1)

The Spartans from UNCG are hungry to prove that midweek win against #1 Wake Forest was no fluke. UNCG is 8-4 on the season with only one weekend series loss that came to America East favorite Binghamton. The Spartans offense is led by 1B Matt Venuto who is hitting .306 & DH Caleb Cozart who is slugging .700 with an OPS of 1.073. Brother of NC State’s Jacob Cozart, Caleb has cooled off a bit since his insanely fast start to the season, but will still be a threat to this Clemson pitching staff.


The Spartans rotation will be led by Rob Ready who has a 3.77 ERA and 1-0 record to start the season in 3 total starts. Ready & Julien Peissel lead UNC-G with 14.1 innings pitched and we should expect the Spartans to aim to get their starters to go 5 innings. Closer Luke Thomas has been fantastic to start the year, so the Spartans will be feeling confident if they can get him into a save situation this weekend.

 

Clemson, on the other hand, is HOT. The Tigers swept a 2-game weekend series over in-state rival South Carolina and were dominant in a mid-week win over Kansas State. The Tigers are getting offense from their entire lineup and can score in different ways. Alden Mathes and Nolan Nawrocki have been really impressive of late for this Clemson team and are both hitting .394. The rotation for Clemson has also gotten better as Austin Gordon has been getting stretched out to go longer into games. Tristan Smith has been the best starter of late and this Clemson bullpen, though shaky at times, has overall done their job well. Expect Clemson to provide plenty of run support this weekend against this Spartans ballclub.

 

Micah's Prediction: Clemson Sweeps

 

Northwestern (5-5) at Louisville (8-4)

Pick whether you want to be half glass full or half glass empty when making your opinion on this Northwestern team. On one hand they are 5-5, but on the other their RPI is #22 entering the weekend. Northwestern challenged themselves by traveling to Tulane and Duke to start the season. The Wildcats are on a 4-game winning streak that includes a sweep at Bethune-Cookman. They do not hit for a lot of power as shown by only recording 4 home runs all season, half of which have been hit by 2B Owen McElfatrick. The Wildcats pitching staff has started to find its groove with all three starters under a 4.50 ERA.

 

The Cardinals are hot, winning 8 straight after starting 0-4. This Louisville lineup is super balanced with JT Benson leading the charge offensively. And their pitching has drastically improved over the last couple of weeks. Sebastian Gongora and Evan Webster have looked really good in recent starts for the Cardinals. Watch for this weekend to be another chance for this team to take another huge step forward.

 

Micah's Prediction: Louisville sweeps

 

Youngstown State (0-10) at Georgia Tech (7-4)

The Penguins from Youngstown State are coming into this series winless to start the season. Entering last weekend they only had 6 extra base hits, but have since figured out the offensive side of the ball a bit. They managed to score 19 runs in their midweek against Ohio. The only problem was that the Penguins were unable to defend a 13-1 lead entering the bottom of the 3rd. This Youngstown State team could be exactly what the doctor ordered for Georgia Tech to get back to their winning ways.

 

Georgia Tech needs to sweep this series in order to restore some confidence entering the start of their ACC schedule next weekend. The Yellow Jackets have lost three straight and have not looked good in any of those three losses. Drew Burress has still been the best hitter in the conference to start the season, but the rest of the lineup needs to get going because they are capable of putting up good numbers. The pitching has taken positive strides over the last few outings, but there is still serious bullpen concerns. I hate to put a must win weekend this early in the season, but Georgia Tech cannot afford to be the first to lose to this Penguins team.

 

Micah's Prediction: Georgia Tech sweeps

 

New Orleans (8-4) at #24 Florida State (11-0)

 

New Orleans is off to a good start with a 8-4 record that includes series wins in all three weekends this season. RF Mitchell Sanford is a real offensive threat for the Privateers having driven in 19 runs with a .417 average in the early goings. Sanford spearheads a lineup with five players hitting over .300. On the mound, Grant Edwards has been the ace of their rotation, allowing just six total earned runs over 16 innings in his three starts this year. The Privateers are going to come out swinging in hopes of ending Florida State’s undefeated start. Expect this series to be more competitive then most think.

 

Micah's Prediction: Florida State sweeps


Notre Dame (9-2) at Virginia Tech (8-3)

Friday, 2p: TBA vs RHP Brett Renfrow (3-0, 1.69)

Saturday, 4p: TBA vs RHP Wyatt Parliament (1-0, 3.86)

Sunday, 1p: TBA vs RHP Griffin Stieg (1-1, 3.55)


While nobody has been surprised by Virginia Tech's powerful lineup in the first three weeks of the season, many have been impressed by the strides their pitching staff has taken since last season. Starters Brett Renfroe, Wyatt Parliament, and Griffin Stieg have all been very good, combining for a 5-1 record with a 2.95 ERA over nine starts. The bullpen has been shaky at times, but they haven't allowed more than five runs in a game since their midweek loss to James Madison on February 21st.


Despite three losses, the Hokies have to be pleased with their progress from last season. The offense continues to rake, though they'll be hoping for more production from star third baseman Carson DeMartini after an 0-11 performance last weekend against Stony Brook. Garrett Michel, who was injured in that series, would be a big loss to the lineup as well if he continues to miss time. Look for left fielder Chris Cannizzaro to continue his hot start to the year. He's hitting .452 with nine extra base hits while striking out just three times so far.


Like Virginia Tech, Notre Dame has been slugging. Last weekend at Tennessee Tech, the Irish hit fifteen home runs in three games, which was the most of any division one school in that time. Second baseman Estevan Moreno had his second career three homer game, then followed up with a third career three homer game during their Notre Dame's midweek win over Purdue. Star shortstop Jack Penney, who had a slow start over the first two weeks, caught fire against Tennessee Tech and slugged four home runs in that series.


Pitching wise, Notre Dame isn't having the same success. Jackson Dennies and Caden Spivey have each started three games and have yet to impress. They've combined for a 16.57 ERA over 14.2 innings and may have lost their spots in the rotation. Potential replacements for them come in the form of freshman Jack Radel and graduate transfer Tobey McDonough, though junior Ricky Reeth has also impressed and could get a chance to start. The third starter, Matt Bedford, has been good but only pitched beyond three innings just once this year. He also pitched the midweek against Purdue and likely won't be available to pitch again until Sunday. Their three-headed relief monster of Radek Birkholz, Nate Hardman, and Bennett Flynn have eaten valuable innings, but only Flynn has been consistently dominant for the Irish.


CBC ACC Team Prediction

Monty: Virginia Tech

Micah: Virginia Tech

Grayson: Virginia Tech

Jake: Virginia Tech

Cole: Notre Dame

Nick: Virginia Tech


Boston College (7-3) at #21 NC State (9-2)

Friday, 3p: RHP John West (1-1, 3.21) vs RHP Logan Whitaker (2-1, 4.26)

Friday, 630p: LHP AJ Colarusso (1-1, 6.35) vs RHP Sam Highfill (1-0, 4.50)

Sunday, 11a: TBA vs LHP Dominic Fritton (1-0, 6.39)


Boston College is coming off a 14-7 midweek victory over a good UNC-Wilmington following a 2-1 weekend in the Central Virginia Classic. The Eagles didn't hit any home runs over their three games against Richmond, William & Mary, and VCU, but Cam Leary shined in the midweek with two home runs against UNC-W. Offensively, the team still looks to be adapting to a different identity under new BC head coach Todd Interdonato, but veteran infielders Nick Wang and Vince Cimini along with Leary remain the biggest threats in the Eagle lineup.


Pitching wise, Friday night ace John West is coming off his best start of the year after six shutout innings against Richmond, while they have a bonafide ace coming out of the bullpen in Tyler Mudd as well. Despite having not started a game, Mudd is second behind West with 12.2 innings pitched. He leads the team with a 0.71 ERA and 17 strikeouts and will be a major weapon to go multiple innings out of the bullpen. With the doubleheader on Friday due to rain, Interdonato may decide to use Michael Farinelli out of the bullpen as he did last week against William & Mary. Farinelli started the first two Sundays and was very good, but was needed in relief last weekend when AJ Colarusso struggled against the Tribe. Farinelli has a 2.31 ERA in 11.2 innings. If he's burned in relief on Friday, expect BC to go with a bullpen day on Sunday similar to what they did last weekend against VCU.


The Wolfpack have taken care of business since they returned from Hawaii. The offense has flourished with ECU transfer Alek Makarewicz leading the way. The senior is hitting .404 with 10 extra base hits and 24 RBIs. Potential first rounder Jacob Cozart is tied with A-Mak for the team lead in home runs with five. As a whole, the team is hitting .337 and have scored 107 in their first eleven games.


The pitching, however, has yet to really impress despite high expectations. Logan Whitaker, who was expected to be the bullpen ace this year, is back in the rotation after a good start last weekend against Towson. Ryan Marohn, the freshman starter, will be the odd man out in the rotation this weekend in favor of Sam Highfill and Dominic Fritton. Shane Van Dam will be the long relief man should he be needed while freshman Jacob Dudan should get the first opportunity in late inning high leverage opportunities.


CBC ACC Team Prediction

Monty: NC State

Micah: Boston College

Grayson: NC State

Jake: NC State

Cole: NC State

Nick: NC State


Pittsburgh (8-1) at #15 North Carolina (11-2)

Friday, 4p: RHP Ryan Andrade (0-0, 8.44) vs LHP Folger Boaz (2-0, 2.16)

Saturday, 2p: TBA vs TBA

Sunday,1p : TBA vs TBA


The Pittsburgh Panthers have been a pleasant surprise this year and are out to an 8-1 start. They are coming off dominant performances over NCAA Tournament hopefuls Oklahoma and California in the Los Vegas College Baseball Classic last weekend. The offense scored 38 runs over the two games and has been very good all year. Freshman third baseman Ryan Zuckerman leads the team with five home runs but the lineup is anchored by senior CJ Funk and Fairleigh Dickenson transfer Luke Cantwell. Overall, Pitt features eight hitters with an OPS over .850. Grittsburgh can hit.


Ryan Andrade will the get the start on Friday after a disappointing outing against the Sooners last weekend. He'll be hoping to return to the form he had against Washington two weeks ago-- an outing in which he struck out 9 Huskies in 4.2 innings. While Pitt hasn't announced the other two starters, expect them to be Ryan Reed and Jack Sokol. Sokol was outstanding against California last week when he went 6 innings of one run baseball. Freshman Aidan Coleman could be called upon to start if Mike Bell decides to go in a different direction from the first two weekends. Long relief ace Ethan Firoved will be the fireman out of the bullpen while closer Phil Fox has yet to give up a run in 6.1 innings of work.


North Carolina is coming off an exciting midweek win over Campbell and have won six straight since their series loss to East Carolina. Eight of their primary nine hitters are batting over .300, and Alberto Osuna and Vance Honeycutt in particular have been outstanding. Osuna is hitting .396 with five doubles and five home runs while Honeycutt is looking back to his 2022 form hitting .333 with six home runs and stealing nine bases already. With the two offenses clicking, this series could be a shootout.


The Tar Heel pitching staff will be hoping its not. They'll be relying on a number of freshman arms over the course of the series, headlined by Friday night starter Folger Boaz. Boaz has been everything UNC expected and more, helping mitigate the loss of Jake Knapp to injury prior to the season. Fellow freshmen Jason DeCaro, Olin Johnson, and Boston Flannery could also be in line to start this weekend, while Elon transfer Shea Sprague will be in contention as well. The bullpen will be led by Dalton Pence, who has been dominant to start the year with 12.1 shutout innings.


CBC ACC Team Prediction

Monty: Pitt

Micah: Pitt

Grayson: Pitt

Jake: UNC

Cole: UNC

Nick: UNC


#9 Duke (11-1) at #1 Wake Forest (11-1)

Friday, 6p: LHP Jonathan Santucci (3-0, 0.00) vs LHP Josh Hartle (3-0, 2.04)

Saturday, 3p: LHP Andrew Healy (1-0, 3.00) vs RHP Chase Burns (2-0, 2.60)

Sunday, 1p: LHP Kyle Johnson (3-0, 0.00) vs RHP Michael Massey (3-0, 0.71)


This is the headliner for college baseball this weekend. Two Omaha hopefuls with National Championship aspirations go head-to-head over three games to start conference play. The pitching matchups feature four potential first round picks in this year's MLB draft while the lineups are both clicking in big ways.


Many, including our own Jake McKeever, questioned and doubted Duke's lineup coming into the season. The Blue Devils have answered those questions and doubts emphatically. They lead the ACC in slugging and hits. They're second in runs and batting average. Three of the top 7 hitters in the ACC are Duke players. Ben Miller is hitting .500 with 13 extra base hits. Three players have five or more homers and only Kyle Johnson is yet to hit one in their lineup. Eight of their primary nine batters have an OPS over .900. This is the first big test for Wake Forest's highly touted rotation.


As if the offense wasn't enough, Duke is getting exactly what they expected out of their pitching staff. They lead the ACC in ERA and opposing batting average while being second in strikeouts. Jonathan Santucci has been brilliant in his first three starts, going 17 innings without giving up a run while striking out an ACC best 31 batters. The announced starters for Duke have actually better even better than Wake's, combining to go 7-0 with a 0.88 ERA and 58 strikeouts over 41 innings. Out of the bullpen, Charlie Beilenson has been incredible in his new role as the closer. He's yet to give up a run in 10 innings and has an ACC best five saves.


Speaking of combined pitching numbers, the trio of Josh Hartle, Chase Burns, and Michael Massey have lived up to expectations. They've gone 8-0 with a 1.89 ERA and 68 strikeouts over 47.2 innings pitched. The bullpen is still figuring stuff out as only Ben Shenosky and William Ray have been consistent in relief. David Falco Jr, the transfer from Maryland, is the closer with Cole Roland injured. He's struggled a bit but remains one of the best in the Deacs' bullpen.


Nick Kurtz hasn't quite gotten going yet, but the supporting cast around him and Seaver King have stepped up. Adam Tellier is hitting .413 with 11 extra base hits, while Jack Winnay has been on a tear with 6 home runs. There are some concerns about the offense as they haven't put up the numbers expected against inferior teams this season. They'll need to get Kurtz going if they want to provide this bullpen with the run support they may need to contend.


CBC ACC Team Prediction

Monty: Duke

Micah: Duke

Grayson: Wake Forest

Jake: Duke

Cole: Duke

Nick: Wake Forest


#11 Virginia (12-1) at Miami (7-5)

Friday, 7p: RHP Cullen McKay (1-0, 0.79) vs RHP Gage Ziehl (0-1, 6.62)

Saturday, 6p: LHP Evan Blanco (1-0, 2.08) vs LHP Rafe Schlesinger (2-0, 2.08)

Sunday, 1p: RHP Jay Woolfolk (1-0, 5.11) vs LHP Herick Hernandez (2-1, 1.59)


Miami needed to come back against Stonehill to get back to their winning ways following a series loss to Florida last weekend. The Hurricanes' strength comes from their starting pitching. Rafe Schlesinger and Herick Hernandez in particular have been fantastic. Gage Ziehl had a Quality Start last time out against Florida and seems to be trending upwards. The bullpen hasn't been as strong and they've relied heavily on freshman Nick Roberts. If Virginia can get to the bullpen early, they can take advantage.


Offensively, the Canes are led by freshman phenom Daniel Cuvet and breakout star Jason Torres. Cuvet is hitting .548 with four doubles, a triple, and six home runs to start his career while Torres is hitting .500 with 7 home runs. Sophomore second baseman Blake Cyr, who has dealt with an injury already, is hitting just .185 but had a home run during their midweek win so could be on his way back to dominant hitting.


Virginia's 38 game non-conference winning streak came to an end last week against UMass, but the 'Hoos haven't had much to be concerned about since as they beat Penn State and George Washington in midweek contests. Offensively Griff O'Ferrall and Ethan Anderson have yet to really get going, but sophomore Henry Godbout has broken out in a big way. He's hitting .487 with seven doubles, a triple, and two home runs while walking eleven times. Harrison Didawick has continued his recent power surge, slugging his way to five home runs. Freshman Henry Ford is UVA's newest star and is hitting .415 with four doubles and five home runs in the middle of the lineup.


On the pitching side, midweek starter Cullen McKay has moved into the Friday night role to replace Jack O'Connor in the weekend rotation. He's given up just one earned run in 11.1 innings of work so far and has looked very good. Jay Woolfolk, who struggled with his command in his debut start this season, has been dominant in his last two outings. Out of the bullpen, freshman Bryson Moore has impressed and is yet to give up a run while Aidan Teel has made the closer role and already has a 2-0 record with four saves.


CBC ACC Team Prediction

Monty: Virginia

Micah: Virginia

Grayson: Virginia

Jake: Virginia

Cole: Virginia

Nick: Virginia

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