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Aaron Schoonmaker

Triangle trio approach the homestretch on NCAA tourney bubble

Posted May 8

NC State baseball rallied with three runs in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings, before Boston College escaped with a 9-7 win in 11 on Easter Sunday at Doak Field at Dail Park.

— North Carolina, NC State and Duke will all close their home regular season schedules this weekend and all three find themselves on the NCAA bubble with work to do. For NC State and UNC, the ACC tourney isn't even a given.

Duke – yes Duke – is the only one of the three to have clinched a spot in the ACC tournament. They currently sit as the No. 4 seed in the conference, although they will need to battle Miami at home and Florida State on the road to maintain their spot.

The stretch of games is especially important if Duke (30-18, 15-9 ACC) is going to make the NCAA tournament. They enter the week with an RPI of 74 – falling from 61 after failing to sweep Longwood --and are likely on the outside looking in ahead of the final two series. The Blue Devils have not made the NCAA Tournament since 1961, when they also won the ACC and went to the College World Series.

Sandwiched between the set of six for Duke is a home finale against Richmond. The game will only hurt Duke, win or lose, as the Spiders are No. 181 in the RPI.

But speaking of Richmond, they are coming off a Wednesday win at NC State, snapping the Wolfpack’s five-game win streak.

NC State (27-20, 9-15) has a lot of work to do just to make the ACC tournament but a challenging schedule throughout the year still has them as an NCAA hopeful.

A favorable remaining schedule has them hosting Wake Forest before closing at Virginia Tech, but with an RPI of 59 before the loss to Richmond, they will likely have to win out to improve their RPI to NCAA-range. That is a very real possibility, then again, this team has been the epitome of inconsistent this season.

Of note for NC State, winning out would bring their conference record to .500 and give them 34 wins on the year. However, they trail Maryland by two full games for the final spot in the ACC field and the Terps hold the head-to-head tie breaker, meaning the Pack will have to clear three games to get the No. 10 seed.

The story in Chapel Hill is happier than in Raleigh but not as rosy as Durham.

UNC (29-19, 13-11) currently sits in the No. 5 spot in the conference but hosts Florida State this weekend before finishing up their slate at Miami. They saw their RPI fall this week from 42 to 58 and are in need of wins if they want in the NCAA field. They are also not a lock for the ACC tournament.

UNC should see their RPI jump, win or lose, down the stretch and are likely in both postseason affairs, but losing out will not make either prospect a guarantee for coach Mike Fox.

What it all boils down to: All three teams are bubble teams. Saddle up for a fun homestretch.

Other baseball notes:

  • ECU pitcher, and likely first-round draft pick, Jeff Hoffman will have season-ending surgery performed by Dr. James Andrews. The junior, who has missed his last two starts with arm soreness, is 3-3 on the year with a sub-3.00 ERA in 10 starts.
  • The ACC has two of the top three in RPI in the nation (Virginia No. 1, Florida State No. 3) and are joined by Miami and Georgia Tech as tournament locks. Joining the Triangle trio on the bubble is Clemson and Maryland. Essentially, the ACC could get anywhere from four to nine NCAA bids.
  • Not making and Duke sports fan happy, Mercer is ranked in every major baseball poll and is No. 21 in the national RPI. Better yet, multiple NCAA tournament projections have Mercer and Duke as 2 and 3 seeds in the same region.
  • The best team in North Carolina? How about High Pint who is No. 49 in the RPI – the ONLY North Carolina school in the top 50. The Panthers are 25-18 on the year, although they are behind the likes of Campbell and others in their own conference.
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  • Gunnstigator May 9, 6:24 a.m.

    What a difference a year makes; State and Carolina had terrific seasons last year, and this year they're bouncing on the ACC bubble. I don't know anyone who saw this coming.

  • cjw6105 May 8, 9:37 p.m.

    State on the bubble? You can't be serious, can you?

    This season's Wolfpack has been at best a train wreck. Even if they made the ACCT, which is highly doubtful given the way they're playing, they'd probably have to win it before securing an NCAAT bid.

    What makes it even worse for State is that this is essentially the same team that had a good chance to win at Omaha last season, and now they can't even find their way to Greensboro.

    This season is on the coaches, but they probably shouldn't worry about their jobs. Wolfpack baseball has been mediocre for decades and except for one outstanding pitcher, is EXPECTED to be mediocre when he enters the MLB draft next year.

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