Image credit: Notre Dame LHP John Michael Bertrand (Photo courtesy of Notre Dame)
In many ways, it was a typical ACC baseball season. Teams like Miami and Louisville were in the mix at the top of their respective divisions, North Carolina won the ACC Tournament, the league put nine teams into the postseason and four of those teams competed in a super regional.
But in other ways, it had a different feel. Virginia Tech broke through in a big way, putting together the best regular season of any team in the league, hosting a regional and advancing to a super regional for the first time. And of those four teams that made it to super regionals, the only one to advance to the College World Series was Notre Dame.
Once the season ended as the Irish were eliminated in Omaha, some turnover took hold in the conference. Florida State moved on from Mike Martin Jr. after three years, Link Jarrett left the Irish to fill that opening at FSU, his alma mater, and Clemson brought in Michigan’s Erik Bakich to replace Monte Lee. In short, the most successful ACC team over the last two seasons plus two of the ACC’s best baseball brands turned over coaches in one offseason.
The ACC by most measures is still the second-best baseball conference in the country, but to narrow the gap with the SEC in front of it—especially as the latter added Texas and Oklahoma—having brands like Clemson and Florida State competing to go to Omaha with more consistency is a huge key.
- Max Wagner, 3B, Clemson – After collecting just 99 plate appearances in 2021, Wagner broke out in a big way in 2022 by batting .369/.496/.852 with 15 doubles, 27 home runs and 76 RBIs to win ACC player of the year honors. His slugging percentage, home run total and RBI total led the league, his average was the sixth best and his on-base percentage was good for third.
- Tommy White, DH, North Carolina State – White was a sensation early in the 2022 season when he hit nine home runs in the first eight games of his career, and while he didn’t keep up that kind of breakneck pace all season long, he still had a monster season with a .362/.425/.757 slash line, 27 home runs and 74 RBIs. After the season, he entered the transfer portal and landed at Louisiana State.
- Rhett Lowder, RHP, Wake Forest – One season after putting up a 6.12 ERA in 67.2 innings as a freshman, Lowder won ACC pitcher of the year honors as a sophomore. He went 11-3 with a 3.08 ERA and 105 strikeouts compared to 26 walks in 99.1 innings and will go into next season as a potential first-round draft pick.
Most surprising team: Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech faded down the stretch in 2021 and missed a regional, but took a big enough step forward along the way that you had to figure it’d be in the mix for the postseason again in 2022. As it turns out, the Hokies did much more than that. They finished 45-14 overall and went 19-9 in conference play, giving them the best record in the ACC, hosted a regional and advanced to the first super regional in program history. To paraphrase the legendary Houston Oilers coach Bum Phillips, Virginia Tech knocked on the door in 2021 and kicked the door in last season.
Most disappointing team: Duke
Coming off of a 2021 season in which it got hot down the stretch to fight its way into the postseason at the last minute, the perception of Duke going into the 2022 season wasn’t all that different from the perception of Virginia Tech. This was expected to be a team that ended the season in position to reach a regional. Instead, the Blue Devils went the opposite direction of the Hokies. They didn’t win an ACC series until mid April—a sweep of Notre Dame that’s an even bigger head scratcher now than it was at the time—and won just two conference series all season on the way to finishing 22-32 overall and 10-20 in league play, which kept them out of the ACC Tournament.
Team-by-team stock watch
Boston College (19-34, 5-25), no postseason, ?? – Boston College began the season with a series loss to Austin Peay, and unfortunately, it was a harbinger of things to come for the Eagles, who had just one winning weekend all season and won five total ACC games.
Clemson (35-23, 13-16), no postseason, ?? – A fast start in non-conference play, including a sweep of rival South Carolina, didn’t hold for Clemson, which had a roller coaster season that ended off the bubble and out of the postseason, leading to a coaching change from Monte Lee to Erik Bakich.
Florida State (34-25, 15-15), reached regionals, ?? – A promising season for Florida State sputtered down the stretch, right up through the Seminoles giving up 21 runs to Auburn and scoring one run against UCLA in two regional losses, and after the season, Mike Martin Jr. was replaced as head coach by Notre Dame’s Link Jarrett.
Louisville (42-21-1, 18-11-1), reached super regionals, ?? – Led by one of the most dynamic offenses in the country, Louisville bounced back nicely from missing the postseason in 2021 by winning 40 games, topping the Atlantic Division, hosting a regional and advancing to a super regional.
North Carolina State (36-21, 14-15), no postseason, ?? – With a rebuilt team coming off of a College World Series appearance, NC State still managed to have a solid season but it wasn’t enough to reach the postseason, as the Wolfpack was shockingly snubbed on Selection Monday.
Notre Dame (41-17, 16-11), reached College World Series, ?? – After a breakthrough 2021 season that ended in a super regional, Notre Dame took it one step further by getting to Omaha in 2022, beating No. 1 Tennessee in super regionals along the way, after which coach Link Jarrett departed for Florida State and Virginia Commonwealth coach Shawn Stiffler took over.
Wake Forest (41-19-1, 15-14-1), reached regionals, ?? – Wake Forest was steady throughout the regular season to earn its first postseason appearance since 2017, which may set the stage for even bigger things with a very talented roster set to return in 2023.
Duke (22-32, 10-20), no postseason, ?? – Duke got off to a slow start, didn’t win an ACC series until mid April when it swept Notre Dame and won just two conference series all season on the way to going 10-20 in ACC play and missing the ACC Tournament.
Georgia Tech (36-24, 15-15), reached regionals, ???? – With its typically powerful offense and its typically inconsistent pitching staff, Georgia Tech had an up-and-down season not unlike the 2021 campaign and once again ended things with a loss in a regional final.
Miami (40-19, 20-10), reached regionals, ?? – With the No. 6 national seed, which came at the end of a regular season that saw Miami get off to a 27-6 start, the Hurricanes’ regular-season success can’t be denied, but it was a disappointing ending to see them finish 1-2 in a home regional.
North Carolina (42-22, 15-15), reached super regionals, ?? – After a sluggish middle portion of ACC play put UNC in danger of missing a regional, the Tar Heels caught fire, winning their last three regular-season series and the ACC Tournament on the way to hosting a regional and super regional, in the latter of which they were eliminated by Arkansas.
Pittsburgh (29-27, 13-16), no postseason, ???? – It hasn’t resulted in the program’s first regional appearance since 1995, but with a 13-16 ACC record in 2022, including series wins over Louisville and Virginia, combined with a 16-17 ACC mark in 2021, Pitt has shown that it’s capable of competing in the conference in a way that it hadn’t shown in the years prior.
Virginia (39-19, 17-13), reached regionals, ???? – Virginia didn’t quite live up to its high preseason ranking, but by winning 39 games overall and going 17-13 in the ACC in the regular season, along the way toying with hosting a regional before ultimately earning a No. 2 seed, it was a worthy follow-up to the Cavaliers’ run to Omaha in 2021.
Virginia Tech (45-14, 19-9), reached super regionals, ?? – The 2022 season was nothing short of historic for Virginia Tech, which set the high-water mark for wins in a season since 1985, had the best record in the ACC, hosted a regional for the second time in program history and advanced to a super regional for the first time.
Offseason questions to answer:
- Who will replace Carson Palmquist at the front of the Miami rotation? Does Andrew Walters return and transition to that role like Palmquist did at this time last year or will someone like Karson Ligon or Alejandro Rosario earn the Friday spot?
- How do the Clemson and Florida State rosters take shape as new coaches Erik Bakich and Link Jarrett, respectively, take over? Do those teams reboot and show improvement immediately or will one or both require a slower build?
- Who steps forward on what will be a relatively unproven Georgia Tech pitching staff and will that bring much-needed consistency to that unit?