Home Series Preview: Hokies Host Tar Heels in Highly-Anticipated ACC Battle

Series Preview: Hokies Host Tar Heels in Highly-Anticipated ACC Battle

by killyp

Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech Athletics

ACC baseball has been nothing short of one word in the young season. Chaotic. 

That’s not a bad thing, because ACC baseball is really, really good. The league may even send 12 of its 14 teams to the NCAA Tournament when it’s all said and done. That would be not only a record, but an astounding statistic. 

Two of those teams that have to do with the chaos will be featured on the diamond at English Field at Atlantic Union Bank this upcoming weekend. 17th-ranked North Carolina comes into Blacksburg to face off against the 16th-ranked Virginia Tech Hokies in the first event Virginia Tech’s Athletics Department has been able to sell tickets to the general public since March 2020.

Game Day Information

When: Friday, Mar. 5 at 4 p.m. ET, Saturday, Mar. 6 at 3 p.m. ET, Sunday, Mar. 7 at 1 p.m. ET

Where: English Field at Atlantic Union Bank Park 

TV: ACC Network Extra 

Series History: North Carolina Leads 76-27-3

Last Meeting: North Carolina Won 5-2 on Mar. 24, 2019

Last Time Out

This is another huge opportunity for Virginia Tech, as it is with North Carolina. 

Both squads are coming off stellar weekends in which they each took two of three from a team ranked in the top 3 in the previous week. 

The Tar Heels (6-1, 2-1 ACC) took two of three from the second-ranked Virginia Cavaliers at Boshamer Stadium in Chapel Hill. The Hokies (5-1, 2-1 ACC) went down to sunny Miami and left with a series victory themselves at the No. 3 Hurricanes. 

Texas Tech transfer and first baseman TJ Rumfield led the Hokies offensively this past weekend, going 5-for-12 (.417) with a 2-run home run that was the difference in Friday night’s contest. 

In Sunday’s matinee that resulted in a 9-6 Virginia Tech victory, five Hokies recorded a multi-hit game. Rumfield, Gavin Cross, Kevin Madden, Tanner Thomas, and Tanner Schobel all contributed to the cause, while Schobel, a true freshman from Williamsburg, put up 4 RBIs in the winning effort. 

Chris Gerard tossed a solid six innings on Saturday, allowing three runs on six hits, but the bullpen for the Hokies this past weekend was the real story for the pitching staff. 

Sunday’s victory featured the combination of Henry Weycker, Ryan Okuda, Jaison Heard, and Shane Connolly. While Okuda had an uncharacteristically rough outing, Weycker, Heard, and Connolly combined to throw 4.1 innings out of the ‘pen. They allowed just five hits, no walks, and no earned runs. 

Head coach John Szefc has a nice find in the back end of his bullpen with Heard and Connolly as the 1-2 punch. The Citadel transfer already has three saves in the Hokies’ six games. 

What To Watch For – Virginia Tech

Both of these top-25 teams boast two of the most talented weekend rotations in the ACC. The Tar Heels only gave up five earned runs to a powerful Virginia offense this past weekend; their goal will be the same this weekend against a solid Virginia Tech lineup.

“It’s just going to be a matter of who has the upper hand,” Szefc said on the advantage of both pitching staffs. “It all depends on who throws the most strikes, who plays the best defense. I feel good about it.

“We’re at home too,” he continued. “In college baseball, the home team wins 70% of the time. So you do the math.”

Rumfield agrees.

“I just hope we come out ready to play,” the Hokies’ first baseman said on the Gobble ‘Em Up Podcast earlier this week. 

“We’ll have a good game plan for whoever is throwing for them,” Rumfield continued. “Getting to play another ranked opponent and getting to prove why we are where we are right now. It doesn’t really matter where we’re ranked in March though.”

This is likely how Virginia Tech will line up this weekend. 

Projected Lineup:

  1. CF Jack Hurley/Brennan Reback
  2. RF Gavin Cross 
  3. 1B TJ Rumfield
  4. 3B Kevin Madden
  5. DH Tanner Thomas
  6. LF Jonah Seagears
  7. 2B Tanner Schobel
  8. C Cade Hunter
  9. SS Fritz Genther

Projected Weekend Rotation:

  1. LHP Peyton Alford
  2. LHP Chris Gerard
  3. RHP Anthony Simonelli 

What To Watch For – North Carolina

The Tar Heels are obviously off to a great start in year No. 1 of the Scott Forbes era. Forbes took over for legendary head coach Mike Fox following his retirement after the 2020 season. 

That has a lot to do with their loaded pitching staff, who are touted as potentially the best staff in the ACC.

Right-handed Austin Love leads the pack for North Carolina, as he’s continued to cement himself as a trusted Friday night starter. Love took a no-hitter into the seventh inning last weekend against Virginia. The redshirt sophomore from Salisbury, NC has continued to impress for the ‘Heels.

The “Mad Max’s” Max Carlson and Max Alba follow up Love on Saturday and Sunday, and really sets North Carolina up well for the future as both righty hurlers still have up to four years of eligibility. 

Outfielders Caleb Roberts and Justice Thompson also provide big bats for the Carolina offense. 

Here’s how the Tar Heels are projected to shake out this weekend. 

Projected Lineup:

  1. LF Angel Zarate/Dallas Tessar
  2. SS Danny Serretti
  3. RF Caleb Roberts
  4. CF Justice Thompson 
  5. C Thomas Frick/Eric Grintz
  6. 1B Brett Centracchio
  7. 2B Johnny Castagnozzi 
  8. DH Jake Holtzapple/Tyler Causey
  9. 3B Mac Horvath

Projected Weekend Rotation:

  1. RHP Austin Love
  2. RHP Max Carlson
  3. RHP Max Alba