Wednesday, May 22, 2013

acc tourney preview

So that starts Wednesday.  It's officially the postseason, and that means obsessing over pitching staff usage and the goings-on in your little pods as the tournaments make their inexorable advance toward (hopefully) championships of some kind.  UVA's game times for the ACC are as such:

Wednesday, 3 PM: Virginia Tech
Thursday, 11 AM: Georgia Tech
Saturday, 11 AM: Florida State

Sure, don't put the conference's winningest team on in prime time or anything.  We wouldn't want anyone to see good baseball.  My whining aside, you've already seen series previews on each of these teams, so these will be just little capsules of each game.

-- Wednesday --

The Hokies haven't announced any rotation info for the tourney, but I think it's a safe bet that UVA will face their top pitcher, lefty Joe Mantiply.  Mantiply has gotten a lot better as the season went on; when I wrote the series preview a few weeks ago he was allowing a .304 batting average, which is now down to .256.  He's got good velocity for a lefty and has worked himself into being one of the ACC's legitimate top starters, though he didn't get an all-conference nod.

UVA's last outing against Mantiply didn't go all that well; Kenny Towns and Derek Fisher took him deep, but they were solo shots only and the Hoos managed three runs in seven innings.  Brandon Waddell will oppose the Hokies; he gave up six runs in 5 2/3 in the Friday game against VT, but the UVA bats bombed the Hokie pitching and handed him the win.

Tech's lineup, as before, is largely about the six or so players that make it go.  Tyler Horan finished the regular season leading VT in nearly every applicable category, including a .344 BA and 11 HR.  The bottom three aren't a major threat, but if you let the top six string things together it's a long day.

-- Thursday --

Georgia Tech will have their FSU game under their belt by game time Thursday, and UVA won't have to face Buck Farmer, who mowed down the Hoos' lineup in the first meeting.  Instead it'll be righty Dusty Isaacs facing off against Scott Silverstein.  This was also the Saturday matchup in the regular season, which UVA won 7-2 with five runs in four innings off of Isaacs.  Silverstein, meanwhile, had one of his best days of the year, allowing just one in seven innings and whiffing nine.

We need that kind of performance again, because GT's lineup as usual is built around trying to get on base in front of their gorillas; this year, said gorillas are named Zane Evans and Daniel Palka, and they combined for 31 homers and 125 RBIs in the regular season.  GT's lineup makes them dangerous, but this pitching matchup was a pretty favorable one the first time around, and should be somewhat so again.

-- Saturday --

This is the final game of pool play on our side of the bracket, so we'll know for sure going in what the story is as per trying to get to Sunday.  Obviously, the most likely thing is that we have to win to get there (if we aren't already eliminated from contention.)  O'Connor hasn't picked his pitcher yet for this game; probably, it'll be Nick Howard if we need to win or if we're already out (the latter being just for the sake of getting Howard some work, as he didn't pitch against UNC), and if somehow we've already clinched a spot in the Sunday championship, then we probably save Howard for Sunday and toss Whit Mayberry instead.

FSU, meanwhile, has already made their choice: southpaw Brandon Leibrandt, who opposed Scott Silverstein in the regular season and lost despite pitching a gem.  UVA only scratched out four hits and two runs, but it was enough because Silverstein pitched his other best game of the year: seven shutout innings.  The actual likely starter, Howard, also pitched a terrific game the next day to polish off the regular season sweep.

FSU may actually have the least scary lineup in the pool.  It's deeper than either VTs or GTs but doesn't have the top-end power and for-average hitting that the Techs bring.  The pressure will be on the Noles, given their inability back in April to break through against UVA's pitching.  If we can get through the first two games with a 2-0 record and a reasonably intact bullpen, the final hurdle will be ours for the taking.


I would obviously be remiss if I said nothing about the tennis, which beat UCLA in a drama-filled matchup for the program's first national title in its history and the ACC's first in that sport since like the caveman days.  (If you count Notre Dame's 1959 title.  Otherwise it's the ACC's first in that sport since ever.)  UVA swept through every round up to and including the quarterfinals without losing a match; a 4-1 win over Georgia was closer than that score indicated, and a 4-3 win over UCLA was closer than that score indicated too.  #3 singles player Mitchell Frank finished off the title win with a really gutty come-from-behind win after dropping his first set 6-0.

And I've already edited the Wikipedia page, you're welcome.

Fun facts:

-- This is UVA's 20th NCAA-sanctioned national title and 27th counting other sanctioning bodies (such as pre-NCAA lacrosse action and indoor tennis.)

-- UVA has won a national title in something for five years in a row.  (This blog will complete its fifth season whenever baseball wraps up.  Hmmmm.  I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.)

-- And it hasn't been done by owning a death grip on some esoteric sport, like the way USC has won the last five (and probably six, soon enough) men's water polo titles.  Five titles, one per year, in four different sports: men's soccer, men's lacrosse, men's tennis, and two in crew.  Not too many schools, if any, can claim that kind of broad-based excellence.

So.  Many congrats to Brian Boland, who's had his team on the cusp for a long time now and finally broke through.  UVA didn't lose to a single opponent all year, and hasn't lost to a conference opponent since 2006.

Speaking of conference opponents, while we're busy collecting trophies, there's still one straggler that doesn't show up in the annals of the elite.  A moment of silence for an empty case, please.


Anonymous said...

When it's bad ... it's bad. This is just a bad game. 10-1 now to the Hokies, and it hasn't just been one or two guys, it's been their entire lineup dinging Waddell and Young.

Danilo said...

Yeah, Hokies have been tough to play the last couple of years... Regionals this week!....