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Baseball Preview: The ACC and What the Virginia Tech Hokies Face in 2016

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It's time for ACC Baseball to start at Virginia Tech. What's the ACC league look like this season, and what are the Hokies facing? We take a look at each conference on a quick tour of the league for 2016.

ACC Baseball Season Starts Friday for the Hokies
ACC Baseball Season Starts Friday for the Hokies
Peter Aiken/Getty Images

We’ve committed to covering Hokie Baseball this season, and the games have really been coming fast and furious since the first pitch was thrown in Charleston back on February 19th. Tech’s ball club has been doing pretty well for itself, with a spread of different types of games, and the usual ups and downs. What we haven’t talked about much is what’s coming up starting Friday.

ACC Baseball is as much a power baseball league as basketball. Remember, the Wahoos won the NCAA Championship last season, and are spoiling for a shot at doing it again. Baseball's also big on the sports radar of more than a few other ACC schools. The USA Today Coaches Poll has a jaw tightening 7 in the top, and Clemson lurking at 26. So Gobbler Country takes the time to look at the 2016 competition because it's going to be tough.

We start up in no particular order.  We aren't projecting or ranking anything just yet.

N.C. State 10-2 (#11 USA Today Top 25 Coaches Poll)

The Wolfpack open the A.C.C. slate with a three game home stand against Boston College. The 'Pack are currently ranked #11 in the USA Today Coaches Poll, and are expecting great things from this year's club. N.C. State is led by Chance Shepard, who was recently selected A.C.C. co-player of the week. He set a school record by homering in his sixth consecutive game, when the Wolfpack faced Niagra.

Boston College 9-2

The Eagles are feasting on non-conference opponents as well. Head coach Mike Gambino and club sprinted to a 7-0 start, losing their first game against North Dakota State, 4-2. The Eagles travel to Raleigh to face the Wolfpack to open conference play on Friday. Pitcher Mike King is off to a blistering start. He is 3-0 with a 1.74 ERA. He has had three great starts for the Eagles, going 7 full innings in two of them.

Louisville 10-2 (#5 USA Today Top 25 Coaches Poll)

The Cardinals are currently the highest ranked A.C.C. club in the USA Today Coaches Poll.  They are white hot, currently on a five game win streak.  The only two losses the Cardinals have seen all season have come via two heartbreakers versus Ole Miss.  Coach Dan McDonnell will lead the Cardinals against Notre Dame in both clubs' A.C.C. opener.  The Irish are considered members of the A.C.C. in all things but football.  The Cardinals have power with Corey Ray.  The junior OF has 5 home runs in Louisville's first 12 games.  He is also batting just under .400 on the young season.

Clemson Tigers 8-2 (#26 USA Today Top 25 Coaches Poll)

Everybody knows the Tigers know football.  Dabo and company took it all the way to the national championship this season.  What most folks don't know is that Clemson has a great baseball team.  They are not currently ranked (just sniffing at #26), but if Clemson can catch a few breaks, expect them in post season action.  The Tigers will travel to Winston-Salem to open the A.C.C. slate.  First year coach Monte Lee did an outstanding job at The College of Charleston, and hopes to bring the same winning formula to Clemson.  Pitcher Alex Eubanks has a ludicrous 1.06 ERA, and if the Tigers have post season dreams, it will ride on his arm.

Wake Forest 10-3

The Demon Deacons will host Clemson for a three game set beginning on Friday.  Wake is currently on the outside looking in when it comes to Top 25 rankings.  They seem to be improved over last year's squad which finished one game over .500 at 28-27.  Coach Tom Walter is entering his seventh season at Wake Forest.  He has produced some M.L.B. talent there, including 2015 A.C.C. player of the year, Will Craig.  Wake traditionally struggles as it enters conference play, so this may be a make or break season for Walter and company.  This year the Deacons are again led by Will Craig, who is hitting .475 with 5 homers.

Florida State 8-3 (#15 USA Today Top 25 Coaches Poll)

The 'Noles are N.C.A.A. baseball royalty.  They currently are ranked #15 in the USA Today Coaches Poll, and could make a serious run at any time.  Head coach Mike Martin has been in Tallahassee for 37 years.  Let that sink in Hokie fans.  Not only has Martin been around forever, his career winning percentage of .741 is unbelievable.  We think that Martin has at least one more deep run left in him, and the Seminoles are my pick to win the division.  Florida State's  Drew Carlton is the early ace with a 3-0 record and a 1.50 ERA to match.  He also has 15 strike outs on the young season.  Florida State will host #17 Georgia Tech this Friday for a three game series.

Notre Dame 6-5

The Irish have struggled early this season, and the path doesn't get easier.  The golden domers will travel to Louisville this Friday to face the Cardinals.  Notre Dame might have a long year, and coach Mik Aoki has a big challenge ahead.  Aoki has been in South Bend for six years, leaving Boston College to take his current position.  The Irish will travel to English Field near the end of March, and the Hokies will get a first hand look at the Notre Dame baseball experience.  Freshman Matt Vierling is leading the Irish with a .333 average.  Oh, by the way, he also pitches, and has a 1-0 record after two appearances for the Irish.

Georgia Tech 12-0 (#17 USA Today Top 25 Coaches Poll)

The Yellow Jackets are currently ranked 17th in the poll, and are the A.C.C.'s only undefeated team.  They are, in fact, the only remaining undefeated team in all of Division I.  The Jackets have a tough first series of the year, traveling to Tallahassee to face Mike Martin's Seminoles.  Coach Danny Hall is another long tenured coach, having been in Atlanta for the past 22 years.  It will truly be a match of masters when the Jackets battle Florida State.  The Jackets are led by Connor Justus who is batting .435.  He is also a very talented short stop.  The rotation is anchored by Jonathan Hughes who has an absurd 0.50 ERA after three starts.  Georgia Tech might be one to watch in the Coastal.

North Carolina 10-1 (#7 USA Today Top 25 Coaches Poll)

North Carolina has another hot start on the season.  The 'Heels are ranked #6 in the USA Today Coaches Poll, and are the highest ranked team in the Coastal division.  Pittsburgh will be Carolina's first A.C.C. foe this weekend, and I expect U.N.C. will want to set a tone early.  In early April, Virginia Tech will come calling, and all of the games will broadcast on ESPN3.  Coach Mike Fox is in his 18th year at Chapel Hill, and is no stranger to the College World Series.  The skipper has had the Tarheels in the "big show" 6 out of the last 10 years.  The Tarheels opened the year out in Los Angeles, nabbing 2 of 3 from the U.C.L.A. Bruins.

Miami 11-2 (#6 USA Today Top 25 Coaches Poll)

The Hurricanes also find themselves in the top 25.  Miami is currently ranked #7, just behind North Carolina.  The Hurricanes are coming to Blacksburg this Friday, and should give the Hokies a real test.  Coach Jim Morris is in his 23rd year, and has a wealth of post season experience on his resume.  Zack Collins is a beast.  He is hitting .378 with 3 round trippers.  Michael Mediavilla is the ace with 3 wins, and 16 strikeouts on the young season.  Virginia Tech will have to contend with a club that has already played a 3 game set with the #1 Florida Gators, handing them their only loss of the year.

Virginia 9-4 (#18 USA Today Top 25 Coaches Poll)

The reigning national champions will travel to Durham and face Duke on the opening weekend.  U.V.A. is still highly respected nationally, coming in at #18.  The 'Hoos might have some work to do this year to replicate last year's magical run.  East Carolina took 2 out of 3 in Charlottesville, and I'm not entirely sure what that means.  Is East Carolina much better (they are ranked #19 in the nation), or have the Cavaliers lost their mojo?  Coach Brian O'Conner impressed me last year, and year 13 could be another juggernaut.  The Cavs dont play the Hokies until the last week of the regular season.

Duke 8-5

The Blue Devils are well known for their basketball achievements, but Duke is making some noise in baseball.  Coach Chris Pollard is not as seasoned as some of his colleagues in the Coastal, but entering his fourth season in Durham, he is a proven winner.  Duke is led by Zack Kone offensively, hitting .327.  The rotation is young but deep, with Kellen Urbon and Bailey Clark starting strong for the Devils.  Clark has 24  strikeouts in his first 3 starts, and Urbon's ERA is 0.45.. Duke will face Tech in late April, including a game that will be played in Pulaski.

Pittsburgh 6-4

Pittsburgh will have a tough road to make the post season.  Joe Jordano has been at the helm since 1997, and has had some success at Pittsburgh.  Under his tenure he has sent more than 50 players to pro baseball.  Pitt is led by Nick Yarnall, who is hitting .500 with 5 dingers.  That is crazy town.  On the mound the Panthers are paced by Aaron Sandefur who is 1-0 after 3 starts. He has a 1.12 ERA, and has 15 strikeouts.  Some things are going to have to go perfect for Pitt for them to make any post season noise.

The Virginia Tech Hokies are currently 9-5 which puts us squarely in the middle of the pack as we get into league play.  Oddly we are right there with NCAA Champs, UVA (ok not as a ranking, as a record), and that's not a bad place to be at this date. The truth is that we aren't even close to ranked, without even a whiff of a vote in the Coaches top 25 Poll.

The Hokies have some solid talent in the field and as several double digit scores will attest, the team can get runs across the plate.  We will be reviewing the starting lineup in the next few weeks, a few players at a time; but names like Seniors Phil Sciretta,  Matt Dauby, Logan Bible, Luis Collazo, Andrew Mogg, and Jon Woodcock pepper the starting lineup, and look to close out their Tech careers with something significant.

There was only one game that got seriously out of control this warm up period; the 7-1 loss to a very good Campbell University Team.  While Georgia Tech, which is undefeated, and Carolina with their single loss look like the cream starting into the league stretch, Tech has a chance to win in every game that they will play.

Miami rolls into town on Friday with only two losses, and a stacked team.  Since it's baseball, you just never know what will happen.  A series win at home would be a great start.  The first pitch is tomorrow at 5:30 pm.  The weather in Blacksburg is supposed to be cloudy and nearly 70 degrees.  It'll be great weather for an evening ball game.

The ACC looks like it's going to be a real challenge this season.  The conference is stacked, and with 7 ranked teams Virginia Tech is in a league that will get them noticed if they can play some good ball.  Let's see how the Hokies do; one game at a time.  Remember, Miami is ranked 6th at the time of this writing.

GO HOKIES!!!

Credits:

Roy B. Hatfield contributed the bulk of this article with excellent summaries and great highlight tweets.  Gobbler Country is dedicated to covering Virginia Tech Baseball.  Thanks to Roy for the great research and writing.

Sources:

Poll data from:

http://espn.go.com/college-sports/rankings/_/pollId/9/sportId/10031000