Georgia Tech at Miami
May 17, 7:30 p.m. and May 18, 1 p.m.
The Yellow Jackets and Hurricanes both wrap regular-season play this weekend with a rematch of the 2012 ACC Championship. Georgia Tech won that last meeting in Greensboro 8-5 for its eighth title. Miami has more riding on this final series. Can it avenge last year’s defeat?
A single Hurricanes win will clinch a berth in this year’s ACC Championship in Durham. Even if they get swept, a loss from Duke will seal their fate in next week’s tournament.
Chris Diaz takes the mound for Miami on Thursday to face one of the toughest pitchers in college baseball, Buck Farmer. Friday night is Bryan Radziewski’s time to shine. The junior is sitting on an 8-1 record with a 1.26 ERA, both team highs. He’s thrown 91 strikeouts in 71.2 innings.
Saturday may be Miami’s best bet for an upset. Jonathan King is scheduled to start his eighth game of the season. His .312 opponent’s batting average doesn’t intimidate any opponent.
King will have Daniel Palka and Zane Evans backing him up, though. The two have combined to hit 29 bombs and 119 RBI in 53 games. Left fielder Kyle Wren is batting .375. The Jackets are hitting .310 overall. There isn’t a weak part of the order to exploit.
Miami doesn’t hit many deep balls. It doesn’t hit particularly well in general. Opportunistic base running (72 steals in 103 attempts) and solid pitching can guide the Hurricanes to Durham.
Arkansas Little-Rock at Arkansas State
May 18, 5 p.m.
The Sun Belt is waiting for a three-way tie for the final two spots next week’s tournament. Arkansas-Little Rock (UALR) and Arkansas State are even with Middle Tennessee at 11-16 in conference play entering the final weekend of the regular season.
UALR faces an uphill battle ahead. Two wins would guarantee it a spot in the tournament. A single victory for the Trojans in this three-game series would require three losses from Middle Tennessee, holding the tiebreak, to get into postseason play.
Another speedy group, the Trojans lead the conference with 80 stolen bases. Junior Ben Crumpton is first on the team with 23 steals. He has 47 over the last two seasons, ranking him second all-time in program history.
The Trojans will send out Chance Cleveland, Travis McDonald and Blake Huffman to mound this weekend, a trio that has taken home Sun Belt Pitcher of the Week honors for three consecutive weeks. They should feel confident starting this group in the hopes of reaching postseason competition.
The true power, literally, for UALR stems from its ability to go yard. The Trojans rank sixth nationally with 52 bombs on the year. No one has reached double-digits marks in this category, but Austin Pfeiffer and Bryson Thionnet are both sitting at nine homers each.
Arkansas State appears to be in better shape in regards to tournament play. It holds tiebreakers over both UALR and Middle Tennessee.
Daniel Wright, Bradley Wallace and Cody Woodhouse are the projected starters for the Red Wolves. Woodhouse, who gets the nod Saturday, is starting his seventh game of 2013. Arkansas State looks to feel confident with him on the mound, as opposing batters are hitting just .236 against the senior.
Offensively, Ryan Emery needs some help. The senior outfielder is now seven RBI away from breaking the school’s all-time mark of 139. He’s batting .310 – one of just two starters hitting above .300 – with 31 RBI and 31 runs.
The biggest note for this series? Arkansas State is on a 12-game winning streak against UALR after a sweep earlier in the season. Can the Trojans eradicate the ongoing drought against the Red Wolves? History surely isn’t on their side.