On Tuesday, the ACC Baseball Tournament will return for the first time since 2019, where it will be played at Truist Field in Charlotte. But the reigning champion Tar Heels will have quite the road ahead of them if they want to repeat.
The tournament features the top twelve teams in the ACC standings, who are split into three-team pools that play round-robin style for the first four days of the tournament. The winners from each of those pools advance to a four-team, single-elimination bracket with the semifinals on Saturday and the championship game on Sunday.
As part of Pool C, the No. 6 seed Tar Heels will play No. 10 Pittsburgh on Tuesday and No. 3 seed NC State on Friday. In the event that all three teams are tied at the end of pool-play, the highest seeded team will advance, meaning UNC will need to win both games to make the semifinals.
Here’s a breakdown of UNC’s matchups, including keys to victory for both games:
Pittsburgh, 7 p.m. Tuesday
Pitt’s low seed isn’t so much an indicator of the team’s talent as it is a byproduct of the uber-competitive ACC. They finished conference play just one game below .500, compared to the Tar Heels who were even at 18-18.
The Panthers’ overall winning percentage for the season (.537) was actually higher than UNC’s (.520), but because tournament seeds are based on conference winning percentage, UNC was seeded higher.
When the Tar Heels last played Pitt back in April, they dropped two of the three games in the series. At the time, the Panthers were ranked as high as No. 17 in the major national polls, but UNC played them close, losing the first two games in a Saturday afternoon doubleheader by a combined margin of five runs. The Tar Heels’ bats came alive for the Sunday finale, winning 10-9.
For North Carolina to come out on top on Saturday, they will have to look out for Pitt’s leadoff batter, sophomore third baseman Sky Duff. Simply put, Duff knows how to get on base. His batting average of .365 is fourth-best in the ACC and his on-base percentage of .462 is fifth-best.