June 3, 2009
For a conference that hasn't produced the national champion since the Dodgers played in Brooklyn, the ACC sure plays gripping baseball.
From Boston College's dispiriting demise to Virginia's impression of the '71 Orioles, from Florida State's T-ball outing to Clemson's comeback, the league owned the NCAA tournament's opening week.
"I've been blessed to be here for 35 years, and I can honestly say I've never seen anything like that," Florida State coach Mike Martin said.
Martin was speaking about his team. But his sentiments echoed conference-wide.
Seven ACC teams earned tournament bids, and four advanced to this weekend's Super Regionals. Can the league match its 2006 haul of four College World Series qualifiers? Or last season's three?
What about the ACC's first national title since Wake Forest in 1955?
Regardless, good luck approaching the suspense — King or Hitchcock would squirm — we've already survived.
Our discussion must start with Boston College. Making the program's first NCAA appearance since 1967, the Eagles lost two of the most excruciating one-run games imaginable at the Austin Regional.
The first, against top-seeded Texas, began Saturday night and ended Sunday morning, seven hours and three minutes later. The Longhorns prevailed 3-2 in the longest game, 25 innings, in NCAA history.
"I've never been part of anything like that," BC coach Mik Aoki told the Boston Globe. "But then I guess no one else has. It was almost surreal."
The most extraordinary character was Texas relief pitcher Austin Wood. He threw 13 scoreless innings, the first 12 1/3 hitless.
Can you say Harvey Haddix (look it up, kids)?
For his work, which included 169 pitches and 14 strikeouts, Wood got a no-decision.
"It was fun to be a part of," Eagles catcher Tony Sanchez told the Globe.
Less than 10 hours later, Boston College faced an elimination game against Army. The Eagles lost 4-3 when the Cadets turned a 6-4-3 double play on Mickey Wiswall's one-out, bases-loaded grounder in the ninth.
Aoki thought Wiswall beat the relay, and had the umpire agreed, the game would have been tied.
Eyeing its fourth consecutive World Series, North Carolina encountered no such drama in sweeping its regional. But the Tar Heels face a grudge-match Super Regional against East Carolina, which rallied for a 10-9 victory Monday over South Carolina — Devin Harris hit a tying three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth and drove in the winner with a 10th-inning single.
Another World Series staple, Florida State, advanced to the round of 16 with a 37-6, baseball-needs-a-slaughter-rule thrashing of Ohio State.
"Everything that they did was right, and everything that we did was wrong," Buckeyes coach Bob Todd said during the postmortem. "It was almost like an intrasquad game."
The 37 runs are Florida State and NCAA tournament records, as are shortstop Stephen Cardullo's seven hits. The Seminoles, who host Arkansas this weekend, led 32-0 after 41/2 innings.
"There's definitely truth that hitting is contagious," Cardullo said.
"When you have a 32-run lead or whatever I had when I was in there, it's tough to kind of get focused and make good pitches," Florida State pitcher Mike McGee said.
Georgia Tech ace and former Peninsula Pilot Deck McGuire had no such safety net in Monday's elimination contest versus Southern Mississippi. Working on two days' rest after a 121-pitch outing, he endured the worst night of his career, yielding nine runs in the second inning of a 12-8 defeat.
Only four of the runs were earned — a two-out error by third baseman Matt Skole prolonged the inning — but McGuire compounded the damage with a bases-loaded walk and hit batter. Southern Miss freshman B.A. Vollmuth doomed McGuire with two home runs and five RBI in the inning.
Conversely, Virginia didn't allow any home runs during its three-game sweep in Irvine, Calif. In fact, the six pitchers employed by coach Brian O'Connor yielded a paltry two runs in 27 innings as the Cavaliers advanced to a best-of-three series at Mississippi.
It was stinginess worthy of the 1971 Orioles, the last big-league staff with four 20-game winners. (Extra credit for trivia nerds who can name all four.)
The ACC's fourth survivor is Clemson, which Monday overcame a four-run, seventh-inning deficit to defeat Oklahoma State 6-5 and earn a trip to Arizona State. In a fitting cap to the conference's week, the Tigers scored all of their runs with two outs.
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime.
Next upWHO: Virginia at Mississippi.
WHAT: Best-of-3 NCAA Super Regional. Winner makes College World Series.
WHEN: 2 p.m. Friday, ESPN2; noon Saturday, ESPN2; and 3 p.m. Sunday, if necessary, ESPN.