The College Baseball Blog continues our series of previews this week checking in on the Atlantic Division of the ACC. The CBB attends about 10-15 ACC games a season including seeing some of the players in the Cape Cod League. UNC won the division last season with an outstanding record of 57-17 and 21-9 in the ACC. The Tar Heels were joined in the NCAA Tourney by Miami (FL) and Virginia.
The Blue Devils started the 2007 campaign on a rampage with a 16-1 mark but once the ACC season started up they went into a landslide which made them finish 29-25 and 8-22 in the conference.
The Blue Devils lost one of the top pitchers in the conference from the 2007 season in Tony Bajoczky who led the Devils with a 9-3 with a 3.22 ERA. Alexander Hassan and Andrew Wolcott who combined for a 6-9 record in 21 starts will be looked to become a bigger force in the rotation. The Blue Devils will be looking to either Will Currier or Michael Seander to step into the weekend rotation after being forces out of the bullpen. Sophomore Michael Seander will look to come back after a strong freshman campaign which saw him lead the team with nine saves and a 1.61 ERA
The Blue Devils return Nate Freiman who led the team in Batting Average with a .369 average and tied for the team lead with seven home runs. Alexander Hassan will look to become a better hitter and contribute more after playing in 49 games in 2007. Jimmy Gallagher and Jonathan Anderson left the program after the 2007 season for minor league baseball after being solid contributers last campaign.
The Blue Devils continue to have a pathetic non-conference schedule as they look to build up a solid record before heading into the tough ACC season. I predict that Duke will finish in fifth place ahead of Virginia Tech who is still rebuilding.
The Yellow Jackets missed the NCAA Tournament in 2007 after strugglign to a 32-25 record while going 15-15 in the ACC.
The Yellow Jackets return their top two starters in David Duncan and Eddie Burns. Duncan led the rotation in victories with a 7-4 record with a 3.72 ERA. Burns was able to accumulate a 3-3 record with a 3.58 ERA. Zach Von Tersch is expected to make the transition to the rotation after making 13 appearances including one start in 2007.
The Yellow Jackets lost All-American catcher Matt Wieters and centerfielder Danny Payne to the MLB Draft. They will be the toughest to replace as both players were the heart and soul of the 2007 season. Luke Murton enters his Junior season as he should become a bigger force at the plate after hitting nine homers on the 2007 season which was second best on the team. Freshman sensation Derek Dietrich should immediately jump into the starting lineup after receiving several national awards in high school. He was listed as one of our freshmen to watch in 2008 and the full article is available here.
The Yellow Jackets should finish in fourth place in the Coastal Division as the top three teams are heads and shoulders better then the Yellow Jackets on the mound and with their offense.
The Miami Hurricanes are coming off a 37-24 season which ended in the Missouri Regional with two losses to Louisville. This was the first time since the Super Regionals were added to the NCAA Tournament that they did not qualify for one.
The Hurricanes return their two out of their top three starters from the 2007 season. They return number 1 starter Eric Erickson who is coming off a 10-4 campaign in his freshman campaign. He had the lowest ERA on the staff with a 2.50. Enrique Garcia will slip into the number 2 starter role after going 8-4 with a 3.82 ERA. Transfer Rene Guerra will look to solidify the final spot in the weekend rotation after a successful career Santa Fe CC. The Hurricanes will look to replace closer Danny Gil who accumulated six saves in 2007 with either Dennis Raben who had 2 saves in 2007 or an incoming freshman.
Miami returns one of the top players in the country in Yonder Alonso who has been named to several Preseason All-American teams. He led the Hurricanes at the plate with .376 average with 18 homers including 74 RBI. Mark Soblewski and Blake Tekotte will provide excellent protection for Alonso who receives the Barry Bonds treatment when at the plate. Soblewski hit .345 on the year with Tekotte hitting .333 with 15 stolen bases. Jemile Weeks will continue to leadoff for the Hurricanes with his .298 average. Lastly, Dennis Raben had a solid campaign down in the Cape Cod League which saw him hit .298 average with six homers in the top Summer League in the nation. They will look to replace Roger Tomas and Richard O’Brien who left for MLB contracts.
Miami should return to national prominence after a down year in 2007 which saw them miss the Super Regionals for the first time in their history. The Hurricanes have one of the top offenses in the entire nation with Alonso and Soblewski coming back. They should make for a formidable combination for opposition as you can’t pitch around the entire team.
The North Carolina Tar Heels made their second straight appearance in the CWS Championship series after having an overall record of 57-16 while having an ACC record of 21-9.
The Tar Heels lost Robert Woodard and Luke Putkonen to the MLB Draft but they have freshman sensation Alex White returning to head the rotation. In his first collegiate season, he was able to have a record of 6-7 with a 4.94 ERA. Matt Harvey comes into the Tar Heels program after being one of the top high school pitchers in the country. He was a third round pick in 2007 by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim but was unable to come to terms with them. He will be the highest drafted player to make it to the Chapel Hill campus. The other spot in the rotation will be up for grabs between freshman Nate Striz and Adam Warren. Both Striz and Harvey were featured during our freshman preview earlier this season which can be read here. The Tar Heels will try to replace their closer Andrew Carignan who led them with 18 saves with a 1.43 ERA. Rob Wooten will get the first chance to take over for Carignan as he was able to record a school record 47 appearances in 2007.
UNC lost two of their top hitters in shortstop Dustin Ackley and outfielder Reid Fronk. They return freshmen sensations Dustin Ackley and Tim Fedroff. Ackley led the nation in hitting during most of the 2007 seasons but ended up losing the title near the end of the year. Ackley was able to compile a .402 average with ten homers and 74 RBI. Fedroff went right into the starting lineup as he was able to finish second on the team in hitting with a .344 average in 63 games. They also return one of the top catchers in the country in Tim Federowicz who hit .333 and playing excellent defense behind the plate. The Tar Heels received some bad news since the beginning of practice with Mike Cavasinni who is out for the 2008 season after injuring tearing a knee ligament.
The UNC Tar Heels should give Miami a run for the money in the division with Virginia in a close third spot. They will need Harvey and one other starting pitcher to settle down and adjust to college hitters.
The Cavaliers went 45-16 with a 19-9 conference record where they had their season ended in the Regional round by Oregon State.
The Cavaliers return All-American candidate Jacob Thompson who has a career record of 21-4 over his first two seasons. He had a perfect record of 11-0 as a sophomore with a 1.50 ERA. The CBB attended one of his starts last season and our full report is available here. Matt Packer comes back after a solid freshman campaign which saw him go 3-3 with an ERA of 4.22 over 13 appearances. The Cavaliers lost two-way player Sean Doolittle to the 2007 MLB Draft after he held down the number 2 spot in the rotation with 8-3 record with a 2.40 ERA. Jeff Lorick went with a 2-1 record 4.13 will look to make an impression on the coaching staff to get into the weekend rotation.
The Cavs lost Sean Doolittle who gave them a .301 average with 53 RBI as many teams would not pitch to him. They will look to Greg Miclat to return to form after a late season arm injury as he led the Cavs in batting average with a .376 average and leading the team with 32 stolen bases. David Adams spent the summer in the Cape Cod League where he hit .302 over 42 games. Jeremy Farrell who is the son of John Farrell the current pitching coach for the Red Sox will be competing for a starting spot in the lineup.
The Cavs will continue to be at the top of the ACC Standings as they have a very strong starting staff and play a ton of small ball on offense which puts a ton of pressure on the oppositions defense. I expect them to finish in third place behind Miami and North Carolina but if Packer can become a great second pitcher for the Cavs then they could sneak in and win the Division title.
The Hokies struggled in their first season under new head coach Peter Hughes as they accumulated a 23-31 overall record with a conference record of 7-23.
The Hokies struggled on the mound as they had a team ERA of 5.85. Andrew Wells is the top returning starting pitcher as he started 13 games with a 4-4 record and an ERA of 4.62. The Hokies picked up a transfer from Pepperdine in Danny Farris who will try to make an impact on the squad to get a weekend spot. They also picked up a transfer from Texas Pan-American in Josh Wymer.
The top returning hitter for the Hokies is Sean O’Brien who led the Hokies in hitting with a .327 average. Jose Cueto who played in 48 games is the only other starter returning who hit over .250 as he finished fifth on the team with a .260 average. The Hokies will need to look to freshmen or incoming transfers to make an impact on the team to have any chance of competing at the plate. Hughes believes in a small ball type of game which is predicated on bunting and stealing a ton of bases.
Virginia Tech is still a few years away from competing with the top eight teams in the ACC. They will finish in last place in the Coastal Division.
2. North Carolina
4. Georgia Tech
6. Virginia Tech