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Opponent Preview: North Carolina

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Meet the Tar Heels... gross

UNC VS. NC STATE
Trea was safe
Robert Willett/Raleigh News & Observer/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Who’s the Pack playing?

Opponent: North Carolina

Mascot: One Giant Dirty Foot | School Location: Fourth Circle of Hell, NC | Conference: ACC

2021 Record: 13-6 (8-4, T-1st Coastal) | 2021 RPI Rank: 23

2020 Record: 12-7 (0-3, T-6th Coastal) | 2020 RPI Rank: 68

2019 Record: 46-19 (17-13, 3rd Coastal) | 2019 RPI Rank: 14


When? Where? How do I watch?

Location: Bryson Field at Boshamer Stadium (Chapel Hill, NC)

Game Time(s): Friday, Mar 26 @ 6:00pm | Saturday, Mar 27 @ 1:00pm | Sunday, Mar 21 @ 1:00pm

TV: ACCNX (Friday | Saturday | Sunday)

Radio: TuneIn App, GoPack (Friday | Saturday | Sunday)

Live Stats: Friday | Saturday | Sunday


Tell me about this team

This is the first year of the Scott Forbes era of UNC baseball, as the long-time Mike Fox assistant rather quietly took the reigns over following the 2020 season. Fox posted eight Top 5 RPI finishes in his 22 seasons, which is remarkable. It’s doubtful that Forbes can match that level of output... and let’s be honest, we’re all hopeful he can’t.

The 2021 Tar Heels squad is another solid one, but one with a lot of questions marks. If things shake right, this could be a potential College World Series team, but for that to happen they’ll need the starting rotation of Max Love (Max Alba and Austin Love) to consistently pitch to their talent level, while hoping the talented-but-inconsistent bats gel. There are a lot of players on this team that will play in the professional ranks; it may not be a Top 5 RPI team, but the talent is there.

Of course, if things don’t align for UNC - if Alba can’t complement Love, if the bullpen can’t find more than a couple dependable arms, and if the batting order can’t produce 1 through 9 - then this is a team that could flame out in dramatic fashion down the stretch (the last four ACC series for UNC are vs Miami, at Notre Dame, vs Louisville, and at Georgia Tech).


Who’s on the mound for these guys?

Friday: RHP Austin Love (rSO)

Saturday: RHP Max Alba (rFR)

Sunday: TBD


Key Players:

Offense

CF Justice Thompson (SO) - .356/.466/.575, 4 2B, 4 HR, 20 R, 8 RBI, 13 BB, 19 K, 10-11 SB. Two-hole hitter and the top offensive prospect for UNC in this year’s draft. 6’4, 200 lbs with great athleticism and a projectable bat. Slashing .412/.512/.647 in ACC play. He’s going to shoot up draft boards.

LF Angel Zarate (rSO) - .315/.420/.411, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 10 R, 13 RBI, 12 BB, 14 K, 3-7 SB. Lead-off hitter without much pop in the bat, but very good contact skills. Is slashing .344/.447/.375 in ACC play.

SS Danny Serretti (SO) - .219/.329/.493, 4 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 12 R, 16 RBI, 10 BB, 18 K, 1-2 SB. A switch-hitter who has shown more pop in the bat this year than people thought was there. Solid defensively and after a slow start, the bat is heating up (8-game hitting streak during which he’s 12-for-32). This kid is basically UNC’s baseball version of Scheyerface.

RF Caleb Roberts (SO) - .239/.398/.522, 2 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 13 R, 15 RBI, 12 BB, 16 K, 7 HBP, 3-3 SB. The lefty hitter had risen up draft boards after a great summer season last year. He has struggled in ACC play (.156/.293/.438), but is 4-for-12 in his last three games.

3B Clemente Inclan (JR) - .200/.333/.543, 4 HR, 9 R, 10 RBI, 3 BB, 17 K, 4 HBP. The lefty hitter has only 7 hits on the year, but 4 of them are home runs, and 3 of those 4 home runs came in conference play, and all 4 home runs came in consecutive games. Slashing .333/.444/.933 in ACC play.

Pitching

RHP Austin Love (rSO) - 4-0, 2.25 ERA, 32.0 IP, 20 H, 9 BB, 37 K. Top bullpen arm the last few years who has moved into the starting rotation with great results thus far. The 6’3, 232 pounder works in the low-to-mid 90’s.

RHP Max Alba (rFR) - 2-1, 5.09 ERA, 23.0 IP, 19 H, 5 BB, 23 K. Just now rounding back into shape from Tommy John Surgery that cost him the 2019 season. 6’5 projectable frame.

RHP Max Carlson (FR) - 2-1, 4.56 ERA, 25.2 IP, 19 H, 14 BB, 20 K. Has made five starts on the year, including three in ACC play (1-0, 4.91 ERA, 14.2 IP, 10 H, 12 BB, 10 K). Has very good stuff, but control has been his undoing (14 BB, 2 HBP, 4 WP), which is odd considering he was billed as a strike-pounder coming out of high school.

RHP Joey Lancellotti (JR) - 1-1, 1 SV, 2.45 ERA, 11.0 IP, 11 H, 4 BB, 12 K. UNC’s preferred bullpen arm, returning to that role after being a rotation member in 2020. Was shocked to find out that this isn’t his 12th year in the program.

LHP Caden O’Brien (SO) - 1-0, 2 SV, 1.42 ERA, 12.2 IP, 9 H, 3 BB, 14 K. Former Freshman All-American who has been one of the most used bullpen arms for UNC over the last four seasons. Has battled control issues in the past, but appears to have honed it in this year.

LHP Will Sandy (SO) - 1-0, 3.27 ERA, 11.0 IP, 11 H, 6 BB, 6 K. Raleigh kid (Leesville Road HS) who is UNC’s midweek starter and excels at inducing weak contact. Threw 66 pitches over 4.2 IP allowing just one run this past Tuesday against East Carolina. Was a weekend rotation member in 2020 as well as making several weekend starts in 2019, so he could be a candidate for the Sunday start.


Quick! Fun Facts!

There is nothing fun about UNC. That institution is despicable.


Prediction

I will not predict a series loss to UNC... I will not predict a series loss to UNC... I will not predict a series loss to UNC...

Outcome: State takes two out of three with Kent Klyman earning a win and a save on the weekend.