You’re excused if you haven’t noticed. It’s not as if there haven’t been any distractions around the ACC this spring.

But while you were caught up in the madness of March that spilled over into April with 3 teams getting to the Elite Eight and NC State’s incredible run to the Final Four, an NFL draft that saw 41 conference players selected and all those dueling lawsuits, there’s been some good baseball played.

And believe it or not, the season is already heading down its home stretch.

A lot has happened since the 1st pitch was thrown back in February. So before looking ahead to the final few weeks of the regular season and a postseason that could include as many as 9 ACC teams, let’s get caught up on what you may have missed.

Quality and quantity

Even for a conference that has sent at least 1 team to the College World Series in each of the past 18 years it’s been played and is perennially 1 of the top 2 leagues in the country, the depth and talent in the ACC this year is off the charts.

There are currently 6 teams among the top 12 in the D1Baseball rankings – Clemson, Florida State, Duke, Virginia and Wake Forest – and 7 in the poll overall with NC State checking in at No. 20. And the hottest team in the league, Georgia Tech with its 4 straight ACC weekend series wins, isn’t even among them.

That balance should make for an interesting week when the top 12 teams converge on Charlotte for the conference tournament at the end of the month. It also ensures that the ACC will have plenty of candidates to extend its streak of consecutive CWS appearances.

Tigers on the prowl

Clemson caught fire late last season by winning 17 straight on the way to the ACC Tournament title in its 1st season under new coach Erik Bakich. And the Tigers have picked right up where they left off. They’ve got 32 wins, have a 2-game lead in the Atlantic Division and are ranked No. 4 nationally by all the major polls.

Last year’s ACC Freshman of the Year Cam Cannarella is once again putting up big numbers. He’s hitting .324 with 12 doubles, 8 homers and 43 RBI. Fellow returner Blake Wright has 16 homers and 54 driven in.

Most of the heavy lifting, however, is being done by newcomers.

Leading hitter Alden Mathes (.344, 43 runs scored), is a transfer from Richmond. First baseman Jacob Hinderleider (.327, 9 HR, 43 RBI) is a graduate student from Davison, catcher Jimmy Obertop (15 HR) came over from Bakich’s former school Michigan while budding ace Aiden Knaak (4-1, 2.59, 75 strikeouts) is just a freshman.

What’s wrong with Wake?

It’s not as if the Deacons have fallen off a cliff. But after coming within a run of getting to the national championship series last year and starting this season ranked No. 1, their performance thus far can be classified a disappointment.

They’re just 12-12 in the ACC (29-16 overall). Those 12 league losses are equal to the number of setbacks they suffered for the entire season in 2023.

In retrospect, maybe we should have seen the dropoff coming.

Not only did coach Tom Walter lose 3rd baseman Brock Wilken, Wake’s all-time home run king, and fellow 1st-round draft pick Rhett Lowder, the 2-time ACC Pitcher of the Year, but he also had to find replacements for several other key players – including leadoff man Tommy Hawke and closer Camden Minacci. In all, 10 players were drafted off last year’s team.

Although 1st baseman Nick Kurtz is having another monster season with 18 homers and transfer addition Seaver King is living up to his high expectations, the Deacons’ lineup is nowhere near as deep or as potent as it was a year ago. And the pitching staff, despite the individual dominance of Tennessee transfer Chase Burns, is allowing an average of 2½ more runs per game than it did in leading the nation with a cumulative 2.83 ERA in 2023.

Tar Heels are (home) cooking

North Carolina is currently ranked No. 12 and a legitimate threat to make its 1st College World Series appearance in coach Scott Forbes’ 4-season tenure. But the Tar Heels’ chances of getting to Omaha would be greatly enhanced if they can work their way into a top 8 national seed and host both an NCAA regional and super regional.

Homefield advantage is important because UNC has been almost unbeatable at Boshamer Stadium this season. The Tar Heels won their 1st 23 games there to set a program record for the most home wins to start a season, and are 28-2 overall in Chapel Hill.

A big reason for their success has been the resurgence of junior centerfielder Vance Honeycutt.

No longer bothered by the back issue that slowed him at the plate last season, the 2023 ACC Defensive Player of the Year is hitting a career-high .330 with 18 home runs, 50 RBI and 26 stolen bases. With the 1st of his 2 homers against Coastal Carolina on April 16, Honeycutt became the 1st player in UNC history with at least 50 career homers and stolen bases.

With 56 dingers, he is just 2 shy of tying Devy Bell’s school record, set from 1984-87.

Seminoles resurgence

It didn’t take Link Jarrett long to get Florida State back on track. After stumbling to an un-Seminole-like 23-31 record in his 1st season at his alma mater, the former All-American shortstop revamped his roster and has completely turned things around.

FSU nearly matched its win total from all of 2023 by winning its 1st 19 games this season on the way to becoming the nation’s last remaining unbeaten team. They’re currently 34-9 overall (13-8 ACC) and ranked 10th nationally.

One key to the Seminoles’ turnaround has been the dramatic improvement of a sophomore class led by 3rd baseman Cam Smith (.399, 14 2b, 9 HF, 36 RBI) and Friday night starter Jamie Arnold (8-1, 1.78, 99 SO). Another has been the addition of productive transfers Daniel Cantu and Cam Leiter from UCF, Max Williams from Alabama and JUCO product Marco Dinges.

Downgraded Hurricanes

Miami was hoping to maintain continuity when it elevated long-time pitching coach JD Arteaga to replace Gino DiMare, who unexpectedly stepped down after leading the Hurricanes to 42 wins – their most since 2016 – last season.

But that hasn’t happened.

After undergoing a significant roster turnover that has left the team with more newcomers (20) than returners (15), Miami is just 17-22 overall and at 7-14 in the ACC – next-to-last in the Coastal Division – it’s in danger of missing out on the conference tournament for the 1st time since joining the league in 2005.

There have been some bright spots, particularly the emergence of freshman 3rd baseman Daniel Cuvet. But those have been offset by a pitching staff in general and a bullpen in particular that’s allowing better than 6 runs per game.

Fantastic freshmen

As heavily as teams rely on veteran additions off the transfer portal these days to fill holes in their lineup and rotation, there’s still plenty of opportunities for talented freshmen to make an impact.

And the ACC has a bumper crop this year, yielding plenty of viable candidates for the conference’s Rookie of the Year award.

The favorite heading into the final month of the season is Georgia Tech slugger Drew Burress. One of the highest-rated recruits in the country after hitting 31 homers and driving in a Georgia state record 73 runs as a junior, the compactly-built outfielder has lived up to his advance billing by hitting .368 with 18 bombs and 51 RBI.

His competition will come from another hard-hitting outfielder, Garcia, who has been a catalyst for Duke’s explosive offense with a .327 average, 10 homers, 45 RBI and 40 runs scored, Virginia’s Henry Ford (.352, 15 HR, 55 RBI, 49 runs), and Miami’s Cuvet (.337, 15 HR, 49 RBI), along with pitchers Knaak of Clemson and Jason DeCaro of UNC (3-1, 3.86).