ACC Preview: Coastal has preseason No. 1, Atlantic the conference favorite

Clemson's Thomas Brittle makes a diving catch during the eighth inning at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Clemson's Thomas Brittle makes a diving catch during the eighth inning at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.

Four ACC teams line the preseason Baseball America Top-25, including No. 8 NC State and No. 20 Florida State in Clemson’s division.

Eight teams return six or more from the lineup (NC State, Wake Forest, Maryland, UNC, Georgia Tech, Miami, Virginia Tech and Duke).

All but Maryland bring back solid starting experience, with the Tar Heels (LHP Kent Emanuel) and FSU (LHP Brandon Liebrandt) having preseason All-Americans.

Previewing the ACC...

AROUND THE ACC (2012 stats)

ATLANTIC DIVISION

NC State

Preseason Ranking (Baseball America)/ACC Coaches Poll (Division): 8th/1st

Coach: Elliott Avent (599-382, 17th year at school).

Last Year: 43-20 (19-11, 2nd in the Atlantic, eliminated in Gainesville Super Regional)

Starting Position Players Returning: 6

Top Pitchers Returning (Starters): 10 (4)

Top Three Returning Hitters: SS Trea Turner (.336 BA/72 R/57 SBs), OF Jake Fincher (.300 BA/23 RBI), C/OF Brett Austin (.284 BA/37 RBI).

Top Starter/Reliever Returning: LHP Carlos Rodon (9-0, 1.57 ERA/135 Ks), RHP Chris Overman (0-1, 2.91 ERA/6 saves).

Note: State “kind of parted ways” with leading returner in batting average (.348), Danny Canela, per coach Elliott Avent.

Florida State

Preseason Ranking (Baseball America)/ACC Coaches Poll (Division): 20th/2nd

Coach: Mike Martin (1,057-376-1, 21st year of FSU in ACC)

Last Year: 50-17 (24-6, first in Atlantic, eliminated in CWS)

Position Starters Returning: 5

Top Pitchers Returning (Starters): 9 (4)

Top Three Returning Hitters: OF Josh Delph (.267 BA/20 RBI), SS Justin Gonzalez (.256 BA/42 RBI/9 HR), C Stephen McGee (.230 BA/41 RBI).

Top Starter/Reliever Returning: LHP Brandon Leibrandt (19 starts: 8-3, 2.82 ERA/83 Ks), RHP Gage Smith (5-0, 2.89 ERA/3 saves).

Notes: FSU loses its top four hitters from last season, including 30 home runs and 201 RBIs. They found last week that sophomore righty Mike Compton (12-2, 2.87 last season) is out for the season with an arm injury.

Clemson

Preseason Ranking (Baseball America)/ACC Coaches Poll (Division): NR/3rd

Coach: Jack Leggett (847-404-1 at Clemson, 20th year at school).

Last Year: 35-28 (16-14, third in the Atlantic, eliminated in Columbia Regional)

Starting Position Players Returning: 4

Top Pitchers Returning (Starters): 6 (3)

Top Three Returning Hitters: CF Thomas Brittle (.298 BA/8 3B/36 RBI), 2B/SS Steve Wilkerson (.295 BA/31 RBI), 1B Jon McGibbon (.233 BA/5 HR/33 RBI).

Top Starter/Reliever Returning: RHP Daniel Gossett (6-3, 4.32 ERA/87 Ks), RHP Scott Firth (4-0, 2.09 ERA/44 Ks).

Notes: Clemson’s leading returners by the numbers...Jack Leggett’s confident in his young team...Tiger baseball is relishing an underdog role.

Wake Forest

Preseason Ranking (Baseball America)/ACC Coaches Poll (Division): NR/4th

Coach: Tom Walter (76-92, 4th year at school).

Last Year: 25-31 (13-17, 4th in the Atlantic)

Starting Position Players Returning: 7

Top Pitchers Returning: 6 (3)

Top Three Returning Hitters: SS Pat Blair (.292 BA/31 RBI/22 SB), CF Evan Stephens (.289 BA/2 HR/17 RBI), 2B Conor Keniry (.273 BA/24 RBI).

Top Starter/Reliever Returning: RHP Jack Fischer (5-4, 2.84 ERA), RHP Nate Jones (3-0, 1.12 ERA).

Maryland

Preseason Ranking (Baseball America)/ACC Coaches Poll (Division): NR/5th

Coach: John Szefc (First year at MD)

Last Year: 32-24 (10-20, fifth in Atlantic)

Starting Position Players Returning: 7

Top Pitchers Returning: 3 (2)

Top Three Returning Hitters: C Jack Cleary (.319 BA/15 RBI), OF Jordan Hagel (.317 BA/24 RBI), INF K.J. Hockaday (.305 BA/27 RBI).

Top Starter/Reliever Returning: RHP Brady Kirkpatrick (9 starts: 3-4, 3.04 ERA/31 Ks), LHP Jimmy Reed (1-3, 2.70 ERA/52 Ks).

Boston College

Preseason Ranking (Baseball America)/ACC Coaches Poll (Division): NR/6th

Coach: Mike Gambino (39-66, 3rd year)

Last Year: 22-33 (10-20, last in Atlantic)

Position Starters Returning: 5

Top Pitchers Returning: 9 (3)

Top Three Returning Hitters: OF Tom Bourdon (.324 BA/10 HR/37 RBI), INF Blake Butera (.267 BA/29 RBI), 1B/OF Tyler Hinchcliffe (.349 BA/10 RBI).

Top Starter/Reliever Returning: RHP Eric Stevens (14 starts: 5-3, 5.64 ERA/40 Ks); RHP John Gorman (3.76 ERA/3 saves).

COASTAL DIVISION

North Carolina

Preseason Ranking (Baseball America)/ACC Coaches Poll (Division): 1st/1st

Coach: Mike Fox (635-261, 15th year at school).

Last Year: 46-16 (22-8, 1st in the Coastal, eliminated in Chapel Hill Regional)

Starting Position Players Returning: 7

Top Pitchers Returning (Starters): 8 (6)

Top Three Returning Hitters: 3B Colin Moran (.365 BA/3 HR/35 RBI – played 41 games due to injury), 1B Cody Stubbs (.258 BA/5 HR/35 RBI), CF Chaz Frank (.293 BA/39 RBI).

Top Starter/Reliever Returning: LHP Kent Emanuel (8-4, 1.96 ERA/100 Ks), RHP Mason McCullough (3.86 ERA).

Georgia Tech

Preseason Ranking (Baseball America)/ACC Coaches Poll (Division): 16th/2nd

Coach: Danny Hall (817-375-1, 19 years at GT)

Last Year: 38-26 (12-18, 4th in the Coastal, eliminated in Gainesville Regional)

Starting Position Players Returning: 7

Top Pitchers Returning: 7 (4)

Top Three Returning Hitters: LF Brandon Thomas (.360 BA/5 HR), 3B Sam Dove (.340 BA/30 RBI), RF Daniel Palka (.303 BA/12 HR/47 RBI).

Top Starter/Reliever Returning: RHP Buck Farmer (16 starts: 8-4, 3.54 ERA/115 Ks), RHP Alex Cruz (8-3, 1.83 ERA/2 saves).

Virginia

Preseason Ranking (Baseball America)/ACC Coaches Poll (Division): NR/3rd

Coach: Brian O’Connor (411-149-2, 10th year at school).

Last Year: 39-19-1 (18-12, 2nd in the Coastal, eliminated in Charlottesville Regional)

Starting Position Players Returning: 5

Top Pitchers Returning: 7 (3)

Top Three Returning Hitters: OF Colin Harrington (.305 BA/28 RBI), OF Derek Fisher (.288 BA/7 HR/50 RBI), INF Jared King (.263 BA/4 HR/44 RBI).

Top Starter/Reliever Returning: RHP Artie Lewicki (13 starts: 4-3, 3.82 ERA), LHP Kyle Crockett (5-2, 2.25 ERA).

Miami

Preseason Ranking (Baseball America)/ACC Coaches Poll (Division): NR/4th

Coach: Jim Morris (850-344-3, 20th year at school)

Last Year: 36-23 (16-14, third in Coastal, eliminated in Coral Gables Regional)

Starting Position Players Returning: 6

Top Pitchers Returning (Starting): 7 (3)

Top Three Returning Hitters: INF Brad Fieger (.295 BA/39 RBI), OF Chantz Mack (.289 BA/33 RBI), INF Michael Broad (.247 BA/4 HR/30 RBI).

Top Starter/Reliever Returning: LHP Bryan Radziewski (5 starts: 2-0, 3.08 ERA – sat out most of the season due to injury), LHP A.J. Salcines (3-0, 1.40 ERA/7 saves).

Virginia Tech

Preseason Ranking (Baseball America)/ACC Coaches Poll (Division): NR/5th

Coach: Pete Hughes (217-73, 7th year at school).

Last Year: 38-26 (12-18, 5th in the Coastal)

Starting Position Players Returning: 6

Top Pitchers Returning (Starters): 5 (3)

Top Three Returning Hitters: C Mark Zagunis (.344 BA/5 HR/34 RBI), INF Chad Pinder (.325 BA/7 HR/37 RBI), OF Tyler Horan (.282 BA/15 HR/41 RBI).

Top Starter/Reliever Returning: LHP Joe Mantiply (13 starts: 5-6, 3.53 ERA), RHP Clark Labitan (6-2, 3.18 ERA/3 saves).

Duke

Preseason Ranking (Baseball America)/ACC Coaches Poll (Division): NR/6th

Coach: Chris Pollard (First season)

Last Year: 21-34 (9-21, last in Coastal)

Position Starters Returning: 7

Top Pitchers Returning (Starters): 8 (3)

Top Three Returning Hitters: C Mike Rosenfield (.312 BA/31 RBI), OF Grant McCabe (.283 BA/23 RBI), C Jeff Kremer (.292 BA/21 R).

Top Starter/Reliever Returning: LHP Trent Swart (13 starts: 4-8, 4.28 ERA/76 Ks); RHP Andrew Istler (3 starts: 4-4, 3.63 ERA/3 saves).

(Used some info from College Baseball Today's ACC preview, which is a worth a look here)

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