The College Baseball Blog kicks off our 2010 Season Previews with the ACC Coastal Division. The North Carolina Tar Heels won the division title in the 2009 season by going 19-10 while Georgia Tech finished in second place with a 17-10-1 record. Miami (FL) came in third with a 18-12 record while Virginia finished in fourth at 16-11-1. Duke finished in fifth place at 15-15 while Virginia Tech finished in last place with a 12-17 record.
Duke is led by fifth year head coach Sean McNally who has a 116-107-1 overall record and 39-79-1 ACC Record. Last season, they finished with a 34-25 overall record and 15-15 in ACC play which was good enough to qualify them for the ACC Tournament as the seventh seed. They ended up going 1-2 in the tourney as they picked up a victory over Clemson but lost to North Carolina and Virginia. They were not selected for the NCAA Tournament and have not appeared in it since the 1961 season when they also qualified for the College World Series.
The Blue Devils finished last season with a team batting average of .300 which was seventh in the conference. The top returning hitter is senior utility player Jeremy Gould who hit .340 with 20 doubles, seven homers and 37 RBI last season. He was selected to the All-ACC second team while also being named to the ACC All-Academic Baseball Team. Gould played the summer of 2009 with the Orleans Cardinals of the Cape Cod Baseball League where he had a .235 average with three homers and 17 RBI in forty games.
Sophomore outfielder Will Piwnica-Worms last season stepped right into the lineup and played in all 59 games while accumulating a .317 average with three homers and 30 RBI. He played with the Brainerd Lunkers of the Northwoods League. He had a .210 with 10 RBI and 16 runs while playing 42 games. Junior infielder Jake Lemmerman hit .287 with seven homers and 45 RBI while stealing 13 bases. He played in the Cape Cod League with the Wareham Gatemen as he hit at .172 with a homer and 10 RBI.
The biggest story of the Duke offense is how they will have to replace the three biggest bats from 2009 in Nate Freiman, Matt Williams, and Alex Hassan. Freiman ended up leading the Blue Devils in all three triple crown categories with a .352 average, 20 homers, and 62 RBI as he was named second team All-ACC. He was also selected by the San Diego Padres in the eighth round of the 2009 MLB Draft. Matt Williams finished second on the team with a .345 average while starting nearly every game behind the plate for the Blue Devils. He ended up being selected by the Chicago Cubs in the 18th round. Alex Hassan had a solid 2009 campaign which saw him finish third on the team with a .342 average while hitting three homers and 30 RBI. He was selected in the 20th round by his hometown Boston Red Sox and decided to sign with them.
Duke finished last season with the 8th best ERA in the conference. The top returning starting pitcher is LHP Christopher Manno. He went 5-6 last year in 14 starts with a 4.89 ERA in 73.2 innings pitched. He did end up striking out 72 batters on the year. Manno finished eighth in the ACC with a .234 opponents batting average against. He was selected by the Washington Nationals in 38th round during the 2009 MLB Draft but decided to return to Duke for his senior season. The College Baseball Blog listed him as the 53rd player in our countdown of the Top 100 Players.
LHP Eric Pfisterer made 15 appearances (7 starts) while having a 3-2 with a 5.00 ERA. He struggled with walks as he allowed 23 in only 45 innings of work. He pitched in the Cape Cod Baseball League with the Wareham Gatemen in seven starts he had a 3-1 record with a 3.32 ERA. He ended up striking out 40 batters in only 38 innings of work but continued to struggle with his control as he allowed 16 walks. He was selected for the Cape Cod Baseball League All-Star game where he pitched a scoreless inning allowing one hit and striking out two batters.
Michael Ness and Dennis O’Grady are the top key returnees to the bullpen. Ness had a 2-2 record with three saves while accumulating an ERA of 2.44 in 44.1 innings of work. O’Grady appeared in 23 games while having a 2-2 record including three saves with an ERA of 5.00.
The biggest losses to the pitching staff are Andrew Wolcott, Alex Hassan, and Kyle Butler. Wolcott served as the Blue Devils Friday night starter for most of the 2009 season as he went 8-3 with a 2.77 ERA in 14 appearances including 13 starts. He was selected in the 17th round by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2009 MLB Draft. Hassan served most of the 2009 season as the Blue Devils closer as he went 2-2 with eight saves and a 4.10 ERA in 26.1 innings while striking 34 batters. Kyle Butler also leaves the program after going 2-1 with a 2.28 ERA in 23.2 innings of work.
Georgia Tech is led by Danny Hall who is entering his 17th season in charge of the Yellow Jackets program. He has an overall record with them of 690-313-1 while having an ACC record 259-147-1. Before taking over at Georgia Tech he served as the head coach at Kent State where he went had an overall record of 208-117 while winning the MAC title in his last two seasons. Last season, Georgia Tech went 38-19-1 while going 17-10-1 in ACC play which let them host a Regional in which they went 3-2 with both losses coming to Southern Miss who ended up making it to Omaha to participate in the College World Series.
Georgia Tech finished last season with a .315 average which was the fourth best in the conference. The top returning hitter is senior first baseman Tony Plagman. He tied for the team lead with a .354 average while hitting 16 homers and having a team high 73 RBI. Junior outfielder Jeff Rowland had the third highest batting average on the team in 2009 with a .340 average including eight homers and 39 RBI. He did have a team high 21 stolen bases in 26 attempts. Derek Dietrich entered the Yellow Jackets program as one of the most touted recruits and has had two solid seasons as he hit last year .311 with ten homers and 54 RBI. We rated Derek as the 54th player in the country during our Top 100 countdown.
The biggest losses to the Georgia Tech offense is Luke Murton and catcher Jason Haniger. Murton tied with Plagman for the team lead in batting average at .354 with a team high 20 homers and 63 RBI. He was selected in the 19th round by the New York Yankees in the 2009 MLB Draft. Haniger had a .311 average with eight homers and 50 RBI while being a rock behind the plate.
The Yellow Jackets pitching staff finished the season with a 4.65 ERA which was fifth best in the conference. They return two-thirds of their weekend rotation in Deck McGuire and Brandon Cumpton. Junior RHP Deck McGuire is the top returning starter as he went 11-2 with a 3.50 ERA in 16 starts. He ended up striking out 118 batters in 100.1 innings of work. He was named First Team All-ACC while picking up several All-American awards. Junior RHP Brandon Cumpton went 4-3 in 13 appearances (12 starts) while having an ERA of 4.76 in 64.1 innings of work. They also bring back closer Mark Pope who went had a 5-1 record with eight saves in 25 appearances. The only major loss to the Yellow Jackets pitching staff is the loss of Zach Von Tersch who went 6-2 with a 5.79 ERA in 14 appearances (13 starts).
The Miami (FL) Hurricanes are led by 17th year head coach Jim Morris who has led them to the College World Series title in 1999 and 2001. He has an overall record with the Hurricanes of 733-278 while having a career record of 1368-563-4 which includes his 12 years with Georgia Tech and four seasons with DeKalb Community College. Miami (FL) last season had an overall record of 38-22 while going 18-12 in ACC play. They qualified for the ACC Tournament where they went 1-2 with a win over Georgia Tech and losses to Boston College and Florida State. The Hurricanes were sent to the Gainesville Florida regional in the NCAA Tournament where they went 2-2 . They beat Jacksonville twice and lost to the Florida Gators twice.
The Miami Hurricanes offense finished the 2009 season with a .294 team average which was 9th best in the ACC. They made up for it by finishing fourth in the conference with 68 homers. The Canes lost three of their top four hitters from the 2009 squad with Scott Lawson as the top hitter coming back. He appeared in 59 games while having a .333 average and stealing 10 bases. Junior catcher Yasmani Grandal returns this season after having a .299 average while hitting 16 homers and 45 RBI last year. He is regarded as one of the top college catchers in the country by many different publications including being the 39th best player in the country by TCBB.
Miami (FL) finished last season with a team ERA of 4.71 which was seventh in the ACC. The top returning pitcher is 2008 Freshman All-American Chris Hernadez to the hill. He had a down sophomore season in 2009 which saw him go 7-5 with a 4.76 ERA in 15 starts. As a freshman, he had a record of 11-0 with a 2.72 ERA. We rated Hernandez as the 72nd best player in the country during out Top 100 Countdown. The other big question mark in the rotation is the health of Eric Erickson who sat out the 2009 season after having arm surgery in the fall of 2008. He was a stabilizing force on the mound in 2008 when he went 9-1 with a 4.15 ERA. A couple of other pitchers are in the mix for starting spots in the 2010 rotation are Iden Nazario and David Gutierrez. Iden Nazario served as the Hurricanes number three starter last season but he was a disaster at times as he went 6-5 with a 7.26 ERA in 15 starts. Gutierrez finished last season with a 4-6 record with an ERA of 4.38 in 16 appearances including 13 starts. The biggest question mark is who will step up and fill the spots in the rotation. I would expect Hernandez to be the number 1 starter while the other two weekend spots are really up in the air at this time.
The Miami (FL) bullpen lost Kyle Bellamy to the MLB Draft after last season which saw him go have a 3-1 record including 16 saves during his 30 appearances. He was dominant on the hill which caused games to be shorten to eight innings as he struck out 63 batters in his 46.1 innings of work. He also allowed hitters to hit a measly .147. Michael Rudman and Jason Santana are the only pitchers on the Hurricanes pitching staff that recorded at least a save last season. This is another huge question mark heading into 2010.
North Carolina is led by 12th year head coach Mike Fox who has a career record in Chapel Hill of 500-208-1. He has an overall career record of 1,040-349-5 in his 26 seasons as a collegiate head coach which includes his 15 years at North Carolina Wesleyan College. North Carolina finished last season with a 47-17 overall record and a 19-10 mark in ACC play which won them the Coastal Division. UNC went 1-2 in the ACC Tourney with a victory over arch rival Duke before losing to Virginia and Clemson. The Tar Heels hosted an NCAA Regional where they went a perfect 3-0 with victories over Dartmouth, Coastal Carolina, and Kansas. They matched up with East Carolina in the Super Regional round where they swept the Pirates by scores of 10-1 and 9-3 to head back to Omaha. The Tar Heels went 1-2 at the College World Series with two losses to Arizona State surrounded by a victory over Southern Miss.
The North Carolina offense had a team batting average of .313 which was fifth best in the conference last year. The Heels only return one of their top five hitters from last year’s team in Ben Bunting who had a .327 average with two homers and 35 RBI in 64 games. The player to watch this year to see if he continues to develop is Levi Michael who entered North Carolina last spring semester as he graduated high school a semester early. He finished last season with a .298 average with 13 homers and 57 RBI. His stats are likely going to improve this spring and this will make the North Carolina offense much more potent.
The biggest loss for the Tar Heels is Dustin Ackley who had an outstanding career in Chapel Hill as he was the second selection in the 2009 MLB Draft. Coach Mike Fox considered him the “best hitter” he has coached during his coaching career which is saying a lot with the amount of talent that goes through UNC. The other losses that are going to hurt them are Kyle Seager and Mark Fleury who were the cornerstones of the North Carolina lineup.
North Carolina returns only one out of three weekend starters in Matt Harvey. He has failed to really reach his full potential yet as he went 7-2 with a 5.35 ERA last season and in 2008, he had a 7-2 record with a 2.39 ERA. If Harvey can get back his form from his freshman season then he will be the real ace of the North Carolina staff and possibly the best pitcher in the ACC. He was number 36 on our Top 100 countdown for 2010. The other spots in the rotation are really up in the air right now as Patrick Johnson and Bryant Gaines both made seven starts last season as mid-week starters.
The North Carolina bullpen was decimated with the loss of Brian Moran who was drafted in the seventh round of the 2009 MLB Draft. He made 35 appearances while going 7-1 with a 2.20 ERA. He ended up holding opponents to a .192 average. Colin Bates could move from his closer role to the weekend rotation as he made 32 appearances last season as he went 4-3 with a 2.98 while picking up six saves.
The Virginia Cavaliers are led by head coach Brian O’Connor who is entering his seventh season leading the baseball program. He has an outstanding record of 265-104-1 (.718) and a 103-64-1 record in ACC play. Virginia had one of the best seasons in the history of the school’s baseball program in 2009 which saw them go 49-15-1 while finishing in fourth place in the Coastal Division. They won the ACC Championship over Florida State by a score of 6-3 as they went a perfect 4-0 in Durham on the weekend. Virginia was sent to the UC-Irvine Regional which was dubbed the “Regional of Death.” The Cavs were not fazed as they went 3-0 with a victory over number 1 pick Stephen Strasburg and San Diego State before defeating UC-Irvine in back to back games. Virginia again was sent on the road for the Super Regionals as they went down to Ole Miss where they lost game 1 4-3 in 12 innings before grabbing game 2 4-3 and winning game 3 by a score of 5-1. Virginia headed to Omaha where they lost their first game against LSU 9-5, then picked up a win over Cal-State Fullerton 7-5, before being eliminated by Arkansas 4-3 in an epic 12 inning battle.
Virginia finished the 2009 season with a team batting average of .327 which was the best in the ACC and 33rd in the nation. They ended up finishing with the most hits in the ACC while finishing sixth in the country with 767. The Cavaliers return all nine of their position players from last season including top hitter Dan Grovatt and Jarrett Parker. Grovatt led the team with a .356 average while hitting eight homers and driving in 51 runs. Parker had a .355 average while leading the team with 16 homers and 65 RBI. We rated Parker as the 28th player in the country during our Top 100 Countdown. The lowest batting average in the returnees department is catcher Franco Valdes who had a .292 average with six homers and 43 RBI.
The Cavaliers return two out of the three weekend starters from last season in Danny Hultzen and Robert Morey. Hultzen had an outstanding freshman season as he went 9-1 with a 2.17 ERA in 17 appearances 16 starts. He is expected to be one of the top pitchers in the country and we rated him as the 56th best player in the country heading into the 2010 season. Morey went 3-0 with an ERA of 3.33 in 18 appearances including nine starts. He held opponents to a .210 batting average against while striking out 84 batters in 67.2 innings of work. Kevin Arico returns to the back end of the bullpen as he had a 2-3 record including eleven saves while carrying an ERA of 2.70 last season.
The Virginia Tech Hokies are led by fourth year head coach Pete Hughes. He has an overall record of 78-84 while going 25-64 in ACC play with the Hokies. He spent the eight previous seasons in charge of the Boston College program as he led them to a 250-181-2. The Eagles qualified for the Big East Tournament in five of his last seven seasons. Before coming to Boston College, he spent two seasons with Trinity University as he went 52-30. Last season, VT went 32-21 overall while going 12-17 in ACC play which made them finish in last place in the Coastal Division but only 2.5 games out of the eighth and final spot in the ACC tournament.
Virginia Tech finished last season with a .319 average which was third best in the offensive heavy ACC conference. The Hokies return their top two hitters in Steve Domecus and Austin Wates. Domecus finished last season with a .406 average with four homers and 42 RBI. Wates was right on his heels with a .397 average with five homers and 42 RBI. He was also dangerous on the basepaths with 16 stolen bases in 17 attempts. We rated Wates as the 25th best player in the country. The biggest issue with the Hokies offense is the fact that they only hit 52 homers which was 10th in the conference. The Hokies also had a conference low eleven sacrifice bunts.
The Virginia Tech pitching staff last season had a team ERA of 5.18 which was tenth in the ACC. The Hokies return two out of three starting pitchers from the 2009 squad in Justin Wright and Matthew Price. Wright had a 7-2 record with a 3.95 ERA in 12 appearances (all starts) and 66 innings. Price went 3-4 with an ERA of 6.90 in 13 appearances including nine starts. The likely third person for the weekend rotation is Jesse Hahn who went 1-2 with a 6.00 ERA in 17 appearances including two starts. Hahn played the summer in the Cape Cod Baseball League with Chatham as he made nine appearances with a 1-1 record including an ERA of 5.28. Baseball America rated him the eighth best prospect in the CCBL. We ranked him as the 23rd best player in the country.
- Georgia Tech
- North Carolina
- Miami (FL)
- Virginia Tech
I see Virginia as the front runner heading into the 2010 season as the Cavaliers return their entire offense and most of the pitching staff. The Yellow Jackets will also in contention with Deck McGuire leading the pitching staff and Derek Dietrich at the plate. North Carolina has too many question marks heading into 2010 with the pitching staff as they need to replace Alex White and Adam Warren on the mound and Dustin Ackley’s bat but should be challenging for the third spot in the conference. The Miami (FL) Hurricanes had a few problems in the 2009 campaign with the pitching staff and they even have more question marks heading into 2010 with Erickson coming off major arm surgery. The Canes offense also has some questions after Yasmani Grandal. I could see Duke or Virginia Tech sneaking into the fourth spot in the conference if things break the right way for them. As of right now, I do not see them breaking into the Top 4 in the division.