Conference foes gear up for tourney
No. 19 Georgia Tech and No. 5 Virginia will see who owns the ACC
The sun is shining, the birds are chirping and the flowers are blooming, which means one thing -- it’s a great time to enjoy the springtime and all the outdoor sporting events that come with it. It doesn’t matter which sport you might favor, there are some exciting matchups going on all around the nation.
If you’re looking for some great baseball to watch this weekend, a three-game series between Atlantic Coast Conference foes Virginia and Georgia Tech should satisfy your appetite.
No. 19 Georgia Tech is 3-4 in its past seven games as the Yellow Jackets play host to one of the most crucial series of the season as they try to gain some ground in the league standings. The Yellow Jackets sit 3.5 games behind top-ranked North Carolina in the ACC Coastal Division, while No. 5 Virginia is in second place in the division standings, just a half-game out of first place.
“I think they’re one of the best teams in our league,” Georgia Tech head coach Danny Hall said. “They have no weaknesses. They do everything really well. They’re a good program with great coaches. It’s a big series.”
Tech boasts one of the top offensive teams in the nation, batting .328 (fifth) as a team with 0.91 home runs per game (10th) and scoring 7.8 runs per game (seventh). The Yellow Jackets’ leading hitter, Brandon Thomas (.439), returned to the lineup in Tech’s 7-5 win against Georgia on Wednesday after a bout with mononucleosis, and went 2-for-5 with a double and two RBIs in the contest. He had missed nine games. Catcher Zane Evans continues to thrive pulling double-duty for the Jackets, hitting .347 with 10 homers and 41 RBIs, and has had three saves in six relief appearances on the mound.
The Cavaliers will counter with one of the nation’s top pitching staffs, and an offense that ranks fourth in the nation with 8.1 runs scored per game. Heading into the week, Virginia owned a 2.55 ERA and 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings, while allowing only 2.02 walks per game (second in the nation). At the plate, the Cavaliers are hitting a solid .309 and rank sixth in the nation with a .418 on-base percentage. Virginia’s four losses this season have come by a total of five runs.
Georgia Tech is 6-0 in ACC play at home, but the Cavaliers do not lose easily or often. Their four losses this season have come by a total of five runs.
“It seems like when we play them every year all the games are pretty tight and competitive,” Hall said. “It should be a fun weekend.”
The series in Atlanta will start at 7 p.m. ET Friday, and all three contests will be broadcast on ESPN3.
• The Michigan softball team takes the nation’s longest winning streak of 14 games into a series at Big Ten rival Michigan State on Friday in the meeting of the top two teams in the league standings. The No. 12 Wolverines are unbeaten in conference play with a 9-0 record and they shut out Michigan State in a three-game series last year, but the Spartans are a different team than the one that went 0-19 in Big Ten action last season. MSU has rebounded from an 11-42 record in 2012 with a 21-14 mark and 7-1 record in conference play heading into the weekend. The Spartans have won eight of their past nine games. The series starts at 4 p.m. ET Friday. The first contest will air live on the Big Ten Network.
• The Delaware baseball team is on fire, winning its past 13 games with one of the top offenses in the nation. The Blue Hens are batting .335, which ranks second in the nation, and tops Division I with 2.7 doubles per game and a .500 slugging percentage. Delaware is also scoring 7.7 runs per game (eighth). First baseman Jimmy Yezzo paces the nation with 18 doubles, and ranks fourth nationally with a .444 batting average. The Blue Hens bring a 23-8 overall record into a critical series against Colonial Athletic Association foe UNC Wilmington on Friday. The Seahawks are in first place in the CAA standings with a 7-1 mark, but the Blue Hens are not far behind with a 9-3 conference record. If they keep up their winning ways, the Blue Hens may have a chance at securing their first NCAA tournament berth since 2001.
• If the Indiana baseball team scores first, look out. The No. 16 Hoosiers have scored in the first inning in 18 of 30 games -- outscoring foes 34-6 in the first frame -- this season. The early scoring has sparked the Hoosiers to a 26-4 record on the season entering a three-game Big Ten series at Michigan State beginning Friday. The Hoosiers, who broke into the national polls for the first time in program history on March 11, have risen to as high as No. 12 in the rankings. Indiana heads into the series against the Spartans with the fifth-best ERA in the nation at 2.34.
• The No. 24 USC Upstate softball team has been rolling through the competition in recent weeks, and owns a 13-game winning streak, which bumped the Spartans into the national rankings for the first time since 2011. USC Upstate has won 15 consecutive games against Atlantic Sun opponents following a doubleheader shutout of East Tennessee State on Wednesday. The Spartans put their two winning streaks on the line against Lipscomb in a two-game league series beginning Saturday. Lipscomb should give the Spartans a challenge, as the Lady Bison have won eight of their past 10 games.
• Two of the three remaining unbeaten Big East women’s lacrosse teams will meet on Sunday as No. 8 Georgetown travels to No. 6 Notre Dame. The Irish are 10-0 overall and 4-0 in league action, while the Hoyas are 8-2 and 3-0 in Big East play, although both have contests on Friday against Loyola (Md.) and Marquette, respectively. The Irish came out on top of last year’s 7-6, double-overtime meeting, but Georgetown leads the overall series 11-7. If the Irish beat Loyola on Friday, they will set a program record for best start to a season.
• Tiffin’s Alexandria Quast may stand only 5 feet, 2 inches tall, but she plays big. Last week, Quast set two NCAA women’s lacrosse single-game records and tallied seven goals and 13 assists for 20 points in a 24-0 drubbing of Walsh. The assists mark broke the NCAA Division II single-game mark, while Quast’s 20 points was an all-division record. Quast, who also posted 13 points in a defeat of Findlay last week, totaled 23 goals, 20 assists and 43 points in two contests. She is now ninth on the NCAA career goals list with 237 and 11th on the all-time points list with 328. She will continue her incredible season when Tiffin plays Notre Dame (Ohio) on Friday.
• Abilene Christian men’s golfer Alex Carpenter collected his 20th individual medalist title at the Dallas Baptist Classic on Tuesday after capping off the three-round tournament with a 2-under-par 70. Carpenter’s 20 titles are believed to be an NCAA career record for individual wins. Previously, the closest known total was 16 set by Phil Mickelson at Arizona State from 1989 to '92. Carpenter topped that number on March 5 when he won his 17th career tournament title at the St. Edward's Invitational. He has won four consecutive tournaments this spring.
"I worked really hard over the offseason and I got to play in a couple of big events, and that hard work gave me a lot of confidence going into this semester," Carpenter said. "I knew this was my final collegiate semester, and I wanted to put forth my best effort."
A senior at ACU and three-time NCAA Division II All-American, Carpenter has now won 20 of 48 tournaments during his four-year career. In two weeks, Carpenter will compete at The Golf Club at Champions Circle in Fort Worth, Texas, to defend his Lone Star Conference championship. He won the LSC title in 2010 and '12 and will try to become a three-time winner at the tournament, which will be played April 15-16.
• The Albany men’s lacrosse team vaulted eight spots to No. 12 in both national polls after knocking off then-No. 10 Johns Hopkins on April 10. With the win against the Blue Jays, Albany became only the second team in NCAA men’s lacrosse history to defeat both Johns Hopkins at Homewood Field and Syracuse in the Carrier Dome in the same season. In 2009, Virginia was the only other team to accomplish the feat against the two traditional powers. Albany has won seven of its past eight games. The Great Danes will look to stretch their four-game winning streak against Vermont on Saturday.
Follow Amy Farnum on Twitter: @NCAA_Amy