DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — For everything Louisville’s baseball program has done in its short time in the Atlantic Coast Conference, there’s one achievement that has eluded the Cardinals — winning the league tournament.
Louisville (43-13) holds the No. 1 seed for the third time in five years at the tournament that starts Tuesday at the Triple-A Durham Bulls’ ballpark. But the Cardinals have yet to turn that regular-season success into a tournament title. They reached their first championship game a year ago, losing to Florida State.
Louisville has won at least 40 games for the 12th time in 13 seasons under coach Dan McDonnell, and only three teams in the country have more regular-season victories than the Cardinals.
McDonnell isn’t putting too much pressure on his team because success in the conference tournament doesn’t necessarily mean a deep run in the NCAA Tournament is a guarantee.
“The tournament’s fun, don’t get me wrong. We’re going to go to the tournament and do our best to win,” he said. “But we’ve gone 0-2 in the tournament and gone to (the College World Series in) Omaha. Teams go 0-2 and win a national championship. It’s fun. We’re going to go down there and try to play good baseball.”
Georgia Tech (38-16) earned the No. 2 overall seed and is the top seed in its three-team pool. North Carolina State (41-15) is the tournament’s third seed with Miami (38-17) as the No. 4 seed.
Other things to watch this week at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park:
The ACC is still trying to decide where next year’s tournament will be played. The event is moving out of Durham because of a change in scheduling policy for the Triple-A International League, of which the Bulls are members. The policy switch prevents the Bulls from reserving the dates for the tournament.
EYE ON THE NCAA
A few ACC teams could help themselves with a few victories in the tournament. Eighth-seeded Clemson (33-23), No. 9 seed Virginia (32-22), and 10th-seeded Wake Forest (30-25) appear to be on the NCAA bubble. Louisville, Georgia Tech and Miami look like safe bets to host four-team NCAA regionals next week, and N.C. State and fifth-seeded North Carolina (38-17) could make a case to be site hosts as well.
Keep an eye on a pair of shortstops — N.C. State’s Will Wilson and Clemson’s Logan Davidson — and North Carolina outfielder and first baseman Michael Busch. They could hear their names called early during the Major League Baseball draft in a couple of weeks. Wilson ranks fifth in the league in hitting (.361) and is tied for third with 16 home runs.
The 12 teams are split into four three-team pools, with the winners of pool play advancing to the single-elimination semifinals on Saturday. Those winners play Sunday for the league’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.