As when I say crucial, I mean any hope of playing in the ACC and NCAA Tournaments probably rides on the next three weeks.
According to Warren Nolan, UNC is presently 47th in the RPI after losing to East Carolina(71st) on Tuesday then knocking off Liberty(17th) on Wednesday. Those two games essentially caused the Tar Heels to "yo-yo" in the standings. The Heels dropped into the 50s with the loss to ECU then bounced back with a win over the Flames. In an ideal world, beating ECU then Liberty would have given the Heels a nice boost but alas it didn't happen.
That brings UNC to a weekend series with Virginia Tech, which the Heels beat in the ACC Championship game last May. The Hokies are 118th in the RPI making this series the last one in ACC play against a lower ranked opponent. Give Virginia Tech's RPI standing, UNC probably needs to sweep the Hokies to avoid damaging the RPI in any way. A loss is going to hurt and losing the series would be nearly catastrophic.
The other pertinent matter UNC is dealing with is qualifying for the ACC Tournament. Unlike in basketball where everyone gets to play, baseball limits the field to 10 teams. The Tar Heels are 10-11 in ACC play and sitting in eighth place. They are a half game ahead of ninth place Maryland and a game ahead of tenth place Pitt. UNC got series wins against both of those teams. The Heels are a game behind 7th place Georgia Tech(UNC lost the series to the Jackets) and two games back of fifth place Duke(swept UNC) and Wake Forest(lost to series to UNC.)
Duke plays Wake Forest this weekend while Georgia Tech visits NC State. In theory, a UNC sweep of Virginia Tech plus at least a series win by Duke and NC State could push the Heels up to a sixth place tie with Wake Forest and a game ahead of Georgia Tech. Regardless of what happens in Raleigh, UNC can draw closer to the loser of the Duke-Wake Forest series providing the Heels take care of business versus Virginia Tech.
Yes, it's been a rough season when UNC is sweating out ACC and NCAA Tournament berths.
Schedule This Weekend vs Virginia Tech
All games at Boshamer Stadium
Friday, 7:00 PM: Trent Thornton(7-2, 1.75 ERA) vs Sean Keselica(3-2, 4.26 ERA)
Saturday, 6:00 PM: Benton Moss(2-2, 3.61 ERA) vs Brad Markley(2-5, 2.84 ERA)
Sunday, 1:00 PM: Zac Gallen(4-3, 4.83 ERA) vs TBA