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ACC Tournament Preview

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Clemson has their eyes set on hosting a regional with strong performance in the ACC Tournament this week.

The Tigers enter the ACC tournament with a 38-16 (16-14 ACC) record on the season, good for 6th in the ACC. They are playing some of their best baseball of the season down the stretch winning key series against Florida State and NC State, while also sweeping Notre Dame in the last ACC series of the season. The Tigers have moved up to 15th in the latest poll, according to Baseball American, and are ranked 10th in RPI setting up a chance to host a regional next week. Clemson will have no easy task to impress the selection committee as they play game 1 against Virginia, who have won 11 of last 12 game. Followed by top 5 ranked Louisville on Friday. Clemson finishes pool play on Saturday against Wake Forest, who defeated Duke in the play in game.

Leading the Tigers all season has been Seth Beer, who for the first time in ACC history, was named ACC Freshman of the year and ACC POY earlier this week. Beer finished the regular season tied for the ACC lead in home runs with 15, third in RBI’s with 60 and 2nd in slugging percentage at .694. He also batted .378 in 54 games (was over .400 for most of the season). Beer was the first Tigers to be named ACC player of year since 2011 (Brad Miller). Beer also tied the single season record for home runs by freshman in Clemson history and will have a chance to break that record in the postseason. Another Tiger who had a fantastic season was junior catcher Chris Okey, who earned first team All-ACC honors. Okey batted .341 with 12 homeruns both good for 2nd on the team behind only Beer. Okey led the team in RBI’s with 62 on the season. Chase Pinder also had a really solid season out the lead-off spot consistently providing a spark for the Tigers offense. He had a batting average of .305 on season with an impressive 9 homeruns from the top of the lineup. He also led the team with 59 runs scored on the season. The offense has been the strength of this team all season averaging 6.9 runs per game with a team batting average of .272 and 56 homeruns in 54 games this season.

The Tigers pitching staff has had their ups and downs for most the season but seems to have found a groove these last couple weeks of the regular season. The Tigers only allowed a total of 4 runs in their last ACC series against Notre dame. If the Tigers can continue to pitch at this rate this team could do some damage in this ACC tournament and beyond. The best pitcher on the staff this season has been Pat Krall, who was named All-ACC third team this week. Krall spent most of the season out the bullpen, providing several outstanding long relief performances to lead the Tigers to victory. Krall finished the regular season with an 8-1 record and 1.29 ERA, both team leading.  Charlie Barnes seemed to have found his rhythm late in the season tossing 8 strong innings in his last start against Notre Dame only allowing 1 run on 6 hits. Barnes has solidified himself as one the starters for Tigers and will receive the start in the opening game against Virginia. A lot of the Tigers postseason success is going to depend on the consistency of this pitching staff.

Virginia:

The Cavaliers enter to the ACC tournament as the #3 seed with a 36-18 (19-11 ACC) record on the season. They are currently ranked #8 in the country by baseball American and are in line to host a regional with solid performance in the ACC tourney. Virginia is fresh off a sweep of their instate rivals Virginia Tech in route to winning their last 5 ACC series. They are playing some their best baseball in the second half of the season and will be an extremely difficult opponent for the Tigers. The Cavaliers offense starts with All-ACC second team catcher Matt Thaiss, who led the team in all major offensive categories. He is batting .378 with 9 homeruns and 54 RBI’s on the season. Virginia had two other positions players named to All-ACC teams: first baseman Pavin Smith and second baseman Ernie Clement. Starting Pitcher Connor Jones was named first team All-ACC after having an 11-1 record and 2.05 ERA on the season. Clemson's offense will be put to the test early as Jones is scheduled to start game 1 against the Tigers. As a team, Virginia batted .302 averaging 6.7 runs per game. As a pitching staff, they had a team ERA of 4.05 and allowed an opponent’s batting average of .246.

Louisville:

The Cardinals come into the ACC tournament ranked as a consensus top 5 team across all college baseball poll with an impressive 46-10(22-8 ACC) record on the season. They are an astonishing 33-1 at home this season and are currently on a 9 game winning streak. As one of the top teams in ACC and nation, Louisville will give the Tigers a huge task in game 2 on Friday. Clemson will be looking for some revenge against the Cardinals as Louisville swept the Tigers in the season series. Louisville’s pitching staff is led by ACC pitcher of the year Drew Harrington who was 11-1 with 1.66 ERA on the season.  The Cardinals had five All-ACC first team selections that included relief pitcher Zack Burdi, outfielder Corey Ray, and two way standout Brendan Mckay (named first team starting pitcher and designated hitter). Louisville also had an All-ACC second team second baseball in Nick Solak as well as three players earned 3rd team All-ACC honors. As a team, Louisville batted an impressive .325 with 52 homeruns. The Cardinals averaged 7.6 runs per game. Louisville pitching staff had a team ERA of 2.69 allowing opponents to hit only .215 on the season. The starting pitcher for Friday’s game against Clemson is still undecided.

Wake Forest:

Wake forest defeated Duke 4-3 in the play in game on Tuesday to earn a spot in pool play. The Demon Deacons have a 33-23 (13-17 ACC) record on the season. The Tigers were able to take 2 of 3 against Wake Forest in the opening series of ACC play. The Demon Deacons are led by first team All-ACC third basemen Will Craig, who was the team leader in all major offensive categories with a .385 batting average 15 homeruns and 62 RBI’s. Three other Demon Deacons finished the season over the .300 mark which included Gavin Sheets, Stuart Fairchild, and Nate Mondou. As a team, Wake Forest batted .281 with 50 homeruns on the season averaging 6.4 runs per game. The Wake Forest pitching staff had a team ERA of 4.85 allowing opponents to bat .273 against them. Clemson will most likely face off against either Parker Dunshee (9-4), Drew Loepprich (3-1), or Connor Johnstone (2-5). The starting pitchers for either team have yet to be determined for Saturday’s 11 am game.

First pitch will be at 11 am for all three games and can be see live on TV via Raycom sports network. Each game can also be streamed live or heard on Clemson sports website and ESPN3.