ACC Tournament: #7 UNC vs #3 Virginia, 7:00 PM, RSN/ESPN3
Before this game even begins, UNC's could be eliminated from the ACC Championship game. If FSU knocks off Maryland and moves to 2-0 in pool play, then UNC cannot advance to the title game since the best the Tar Heels could muster is a 2-1 tie with the Seminoles who also hold the tiebreaker. In that respect the ACC Tournament format is a bit limited but such is the price the league coaches have chose to pay in an effort to better keep their respective pitching rotations intact for the NCAA Tournament.
Regardless of potentially being out of the hunt for the title game, UNC is still seeking to shore up an NCAA Tournament bid. The last official RPI from the NCAA put UNC at #44 with games against #3 FSU, #1 Virginia, #28 Maryland and #54 NC State. The Tar Heels took care of the Wolfpack but lost to FSU. Warren Nolan's constantly updated RPI has UNC at 40th with Virginia #1 and Maryland #26. The Terps beat the Cavaliers on Thursday meaning the Heels will be facing a Virginia team hoping to avoid an 0-2 start to pool play and certain elimination from a championship game bid.
Mike Fox will send Benton Moss to the mound. Moss faced Virginia on April 19th going 7.2 innings giving up three runs on three hits and a trio of walks. He also struck out six in UNC's 3-1 loss to the Cavaliers. Since Zac Gallen has already been named the starter for Saturday's game against Maryland, it stands to reason Trent Thornton is going to probably throw in relief at some point this weekend. It could be in this game or on Saturday but chances are the sophomore will put in work at some point so he can be ready for a possible regional game next weekend.
The other questions surrounding the Tar Heels is the condition of shortstop and leading hitter Michael Russell. Russell left the game against Florida State in the fourth inning on Wednesday with a sore back. Fox said afterwards Russell's availability for the rest of the tournament was up in the air. The team had a day off on Thursday which was fortunate since it gave Russell an extra day to rest.
The bottom line is UNC still has plenty to play for and needs wins even if said wins don't necessarily get them to Sunday's title game.