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ACC Baseball Tournament: Pool-Play Preview

Virginia will take on the Miami Hurricanes, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and NC State Wolfpack as they look to win their fourth ACC Tournament title.

Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Wednesday's 11-0 dismantling of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets could not have gone any better for the Virginia Cavaliers. In addition to advancing to the pool-play portion of the ACC Baseball Tournament, Josh Sborz was brilliant, went the distance, and has given the Hoos a full complement of pitchers as they enter a span of three games in four days (and let's hope four in five). Now that Virginia has played its way into the tournament field, let's take a look at who they will face over the next four days.

The Hoos begin pool-play on Wednesday when they face the Miami Hurricanes at 3 P.M. If Virginia is hot, Miami is on fire. Winners of their last 12, the Hurricanes have averaged over 14 runs per game during that span.  If the Hoos are going to take down the ‘Canes they are going to have slow down the bats of All-ACC first team selections George Iskenderian, David Thompson, and Zach Collins.  Add to that second team All-ACC selection Thomas Woodrey who had a 6-2 record with a 2.62 ERA and Miami is as formidable an opponent as Virginia can face. Connor Jones should get the start. His April 18th outing against Miami could be seen as the turning point in his season. In that game he went 7.2, allowing two runs (one earned) on six hits, and two walks striking out a career-high 11 batters leading Virginia to a 5-2 win. The Hoos won that series two games to one and look to take that confidence into Wednesday's clash.

Virginia will have a short turn around when they face Notre Dame on Friday at 11 A.M. The Irish are one of the most up and down teams in the ACC boasting series sweeps over Florida State and North Carolina, while dropping series to Wake Forest and Northwestern State. The Irish are an up and comer in the ACC and have a young pitching staff led by third team All-ACC selection, Sophomore Ryan Smoyer who went 8-0 with a 2.06 ERA.  Additionally, starter Brandon Bielak (5-2, 3.43 ERA) and reliever Sean Guenther (2.70 ERA, five saves) were named to the ACC All-Freshman team. At the plate, there isn't any one who really stands out, but they have a solid lineup top to bottom led by All-ACC third teamer Robert Youngdahl who hit .295 with six home runs and led the Irish with 40 RBI.  The Hoos swept the Irish in South Bend in late March and on that weekend, likely Thursday starter Brandon Waddell picked up the win going 5.1, giving up two earned runs, scattering five hits, with two walks, and three strike outs.

Finally the Hoos will take on the NC State Wolfpack on Saturday at 7 P.M. in what will be the last game of pool-play before the ACC Championship.  Hopefully, the Hoos will have wrapped up their spot in the championship game by that point, but either way they will have plenty to prove after NC State took the series in Raleigh needing walk-off home runs in the ninth and tenth innings to defeat Virginia. The Wolfpack are led by All-ACC second team selection Preston Palmeiro who leads the team in RBIs with 48 and third teamer Logan Ratledge who leads the team in both batting average and home runs. On the mound, Brian Brown is the go-to guy for the 'Pack who in 13 starts has a record of 6-3 with a gaudy 1.87 ERA. Saturday will likely be a staff day for the Hoos, so who goes, for how long is anyone's guess.

Enjoy the action from Durham.  After a hard winter its become a great time to cheer on the Hoos as they have overcome injuries and weather to be playing some pretty amazing baseball just when it gets real.