By Jeff White
GREENSBORO, N.C. — When the ACC baseball tournament resumes at noon Friday, No. 8 seed Boston College and fifth-seeded Florida State will meet in an elimination game.
The loser will have no chance of advancing to Sunday’s championship game. A BC loss would knock out top-seeded UVa too, but don’t expect to see Brian O’Connor‘s club at NewBridge Bank Park cheering for the Eagles.
Virginia was scheduled to practice Friday, starting at 11 a.m. Even if the Cavaliers didn’t have a conflict, O’Connor said, they wouldn’t watch the BC-FSU game.
“I can’t control, and our team can’t control, what other people do,” O’Connor said Thursday night after UVa’s 11-4 loss to Florida State.
“It’s a great tournament, and the reality is, we controlled our own destiny tonight, and we didn’t do it. We’re at the mercy now of what somebody else does in a ballgame.”
Virginia, ranked No. 1 nationally by Baseball America, opened the ACC tourney Wednesday afternoon by rallying to beat Boston College. Had the Wahoos (46-11) beaten FSU in their second game, they could have clinched a spot in the championship game with a Saturday win over Miami.
But the ‘Hoos turned in one of their worst performances of the season, losing for only the second time in the past 19 games. UVa used six pitchers, and they allowed five home runs — three by shorstop Stephen Cardullo and the other two by left-fielder Mike McGee — threw six wild pitches and walked seven. The Cavaliers, who totaled only six hits, also hurt themselves with two baserunning errors.
“You’re just not going to win a college baseball game doing that,” O’Connor said.
The Seminoles (40-17) twice scored on wild pitches.
“Plain and simple, Florida State kicked our butts,” O’Connor said. “They played a terrific ballgame, they really swung the bats well and really took it to us, and they deserved to win today.”
For defending ACC champion Virginia to reach the title game for the second straight season, two things have to happen. First, BC must beat Florida State. Then the ‘Hoos must defeat fourth-seeded Miami.
The teams are scheduled to meet Saturday at noon, and ACC pitcher of the year Danny Hultzen will start for the Cavaliers.
“Whether we have a chance to play for a title or not on Sunday, we’re here to win,” O’Connor said Thursday night, “and it’s a great opponent, Miami, and we’ll be here to play.”
Virginia took two of three from FSU during the regular season — in Tallahassee, no less — and liked its prospects for collecting a tournament win over the ‘Noles. On the mound for UVa was junior right-hander Robert Morey, a second-team all-ACC pick who’d won his previous five starts.
“I felt great physically,” Morey said afterward. “Just wasn’t in rhythm. Didn’t have my timing.”
Not since April 10 had he pitched fewer than seven innings in a game, but Morey lasted only four against FSU. He gave up six runs and seven hits and walked four.
“I was out of rhythm for pretty much the whole game,” Morey said. “I wasn’t making adjustments. I think that was the big thing. Florida State hitters, they made good adjustments, and they didn’t chase bad pitches, and I was the one who didn’t make the adjustments throughout the game.”
In the first game Thursday, Boston College rallied for five runs in the bottom of the ninth and eventually beat Miami 12-10 in 12 innings. That pushed back the start of the UVa-FSU game about 90 minutes.
O’Connor said the delay didn’t affect his players. It clearly didn’t bother the ‘Noles, who entered on a four-game losing streak.
“Florida State looked like a team that really had something to prove tonight,” O’Connor said. “Maybe it’s because of the sweep they had at Clemson, and then losing to Miami. Maybe they said, ‘Enough’s enough.’ I don’t know, but that’s what it looked like to me. They looked like a very, very determined baseball team tonight, and it showed.”
Asked if he agreed with O’Connor’s assessment, Cardullo said, “Definitely. We’ve been on a tough stretch with four straight losses. We needed to come out and make a statement.”