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2023 NC State Baseball Preview - Part V: ACC Opponents

A first look at the 2023 Wolfpack baseball season

COLLEGE BASEBALL: MAY 19 Wake Forest at N.C. State Photo by Nicholas Faulkner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We’re less than a month out from the 2023 college baseball season, so let’s take a look at the NC State Wolfpack team that will take the field this season. We’ll attempt to do this in a four-part series again (just trying to cover my rear in case life gets in the way):

Let’s get this thing started!

ACC Opponents

(For a look at the schedule, head on over to


Game Dates: March 10, 11, 12

2022 Record: 40-20 (20-10) | 2022 RPI: 27

Brief Outlook:

The Hurricanes program continues to be on solid footing as they enter Year 5 under Gino DiMare. A mid-season 14-game win streak put Miami in really good shape, but the season ended on a down note despite hosting an NCAA Regional. It wasn’t exactly a great pairing for Miami, what getting Arizona and eventual national champ Ole Miss in Coral Gables, but it was the second 40-win campaign in three full seasons under DiMare. Still, the Hurricanes lost eight of their last 11 games on the year, and they’ll no doubt be looking for a better ending to 2023.

Miami returns seven starters and two top reserves from a year ago, led by JR 3B Yohandy Morales (1.061 OPS, 12.1 BB%, 21.4 K%) and JR INF C.J. Kayfus (.985 OPS, 13.2 BB%, 12.5 K%). Those two are probably about the only two guaranteed to retain their starting roles from a year ago as the others either didn’t produce well enough or could be pushed by newcomers. Among those newcomers are transfer OFs JR Ian Farrow (1.034 OPS, 9.7 BB%, 24.0 K%) and SR Dario Gomez (Nevada; .894 OPS, 5.0 BB%, 16.3 K%), as well as highly-touted freshmen INF Blake Cyr and OF Kaden Martin (former Tennessee QB Tee Martin’s son). The lineup could also get a boost from the return of rFR OF Lorenzo Carrier, a big-bodied power bat who was supposed to be a breakout players last year, but played in only 15 games before being lost for the year to injury.

The pitching staff should be the strength of this year’s Miami squad, despite the loss of starter Carson Palmquist and reliever Alex McFarlane. SO RHP Karson Ligon (6-6, 4.90 ERA, 75.1 IP, 9.2 BB%, 19.4 K%) is the top returning starting pitcher, having started 15 games a year ago, while JR RHP Andrew Walters (0-1, 14 SV, 1.65 ERA, 32.2 IP, 5.0 BB%, 51.2 K% <— that is not a typo) is the best overall returning arm and again figures to be an All-Everything stopper for the Hurricanes. JR RHP Ronaldo Gallo (3-0, 3.47 ERA, 36.1 IP, 11.4 BB%, 28.2 K%), SO RHP Gage Ziehl (2-2, 1 SV, 4.04 ERA, 35.2 IP, 10.4 BB%, 33.8 K%), and rSO RHP Alejandro Torres (3-0, 7.13 ERA, 24.0 IP, 10.3 BB%, 35.5 K%) also return and figure to team with Walters to create possibly the best relief corps in the ACC. While the returning relievers are strong, at least one figures to be heading to a weekend rotation role along with Ligon. Also figuring into the rotation mix are JUCO transfers JR RHP Ben Chestnutt (11-0, 3.90 ERA, 83.0 IP, 9.0 BB%, 29.7 K%) and JR LHP Myles Caba, as well as FIU transfer SR RHP Carlos Lequerica (2-5, 1 SV, 5.16 ERA, 52.1 IP, 9.1 BB%, 22.2 K%).

2023 Projected Record: 35-20 (16-14)

NCAA Tournament Bound?: Yes


Game Dates: March 16, 17, 18

2022 Record: 39-19 (17-13) | 2022 RPI: 28

Brief Outlook:

The Wahoos started out 2022 about as hot as anyone, winning 22 of their first 23 games and sitting at 26-3 heading into their fifth ACC series of the year. They would win just eight of the next 17 (although three of those wins were against UNC, lol), as the season turned into more of a slog. Virginia made the Greenville regional, but got bounced after three games.

The lineup figures to be solid with Golden Spikes Award semifinalist JR 3B Jake Gelof (1.241 OPS, 15.6 BB%, 18.7 K%), SO INF/OF Casey Saucke (1.029 OPS, 10.6 BB%, 28.6 K%), SO C/UTIL Ethan Anderson (.900 OPS, 11.3 BB%, 20.4 K%), and JR C Kyle Teel (.841 OPS, 14.8 BB%, 13.0 K%). Sophomores INF Justin Rubin (.874 OPS, 10.6 BB%, 6.7 K%) and C/OF Colin Tuft (.785 OPS, 11.1 BB%, 15.4 K%) were great as backups last year, and look to continue that production in expanded roles. To add to the returning production, Virginia welcomes transfers JR OF Ethan O’Donnell (Northwestern; 1.029 OPS, 11.2 BB%, 20.1 K%), SR OF Tommy Courtney (Penn; .733 OPS, 7.3 BB%, 16.4 K%), and SR OF Chris Baker (Washington College; .959 OPS, 14.1 BB%, 8.5 K%). The freshman class of position players is small, but figures to have an opportunity to contribute early, with that group being OF Harrison Didawick and INFs Luke Hanson, Henry Godbout, and Juan De la Cruz.

The pitching staff has a lot to replace with starters Nate Savino (3rd round pick) and Brian Gursky and closer Brandon Neeck now out of the program. 6’10 JR LHP Jake Berry (5-3, 4.79 ERA, 56.1 IP, 10.6 BB%, 28.2 K%) is back after making 9 starts a year ago and can pretty much be counted on for one rotation role, but the other two are up in the air. SO RHP Jay Woolfolk (3-0, 2.87 ERA, 37.2 IP, 11.6 BB%, 31.8 K%) didn’t make a start as a freshman, but could be a potential weekend arm, as could SO LHP Matthew Buchanan (3-1, 3.49 ERA, 28.1 IP, 5.8 BB%, 29.8 K%), who did make four starts during his first year in Charlottesville. There aren’t any other returning arms who notched at least 20.0 IP in 2022, so Virginia is bringing five transfer arms (all D1) and eight impressive freshmen to complement the staff. JR LHP Connelly Early (Army; 7-4, 3.26 ERA, 85.2 IP, 10.2 BB%, 23.7 K%), SR RHP Nick Parker (Coastal Carolina; 6-3, 4.45 ERA, 85.0 IP, 6.2 BB%, 22.0 K%), and SR RHP Brian Edgington (Elon; 6-4, 3.56 ERA, 86.0 IP, 7.4 BB%, 23.4 K%) should be contenders for the weekend rotation. Among the freshmen, RHP Jack O’Connor (son of head coach Brian O’Connor) LHP Bradley Hodges were both Top 100 players in the 2022 class, while RHP Cullen McKay was just on the outside as the 130th player. All three figure to contribute early and often to the Cavaliers in 2023.

2023 Projected Record: 39-17 (18-12)

NCAA Tournament Bound?: Yes

Boston College

Game Dates: March 24, 25, 26

2022 Record: 19-34 (5-25) | 2022 RPI: 136

Brief Outlook:

2022 was a rough season for Boston College, losing every single one of their ten ACC series, and with that Mike Gambino is... back for his 13th season at the helm of the Eagles program. Boston College hasn’t cracked a winning ACC record under Gambino, but they did make a Super Regional run in 2016 and the team has done well at developing lightly recruited players - they’ve had seven MLB draft picks over the last two years and have a projected first round pick for this year’s draft in JR OF Travis Honeyman.

While free-swinging, contact-heavy Honeyman (.908 OPS, 6.0 BB%, 8.7 K%) is obviously the headliner of the... err... lineup, he’s not the only one with some firepower. The Eagles do lose Luke Gold (5th round pick), but their top three other power hitters all return. That group is JR 1B Joe Vetrano (.958 OPS, 9.6 BB%, 25.4 K%), SR C Parker Landwehr (.906 OPS, 12.5 BB%, 25.5 K%), and JR OF Cameron Leary (.945 OPS, 17.8 BB%, 27.7 K%). That’s a solid core to build a lineup around, and the challenge will be filling in the gaps around those four. SR INF Vince Cimini should be a welcomed addition after missing all but last year’s opening weekend. Transfer SO 3B Nick Wang (1.042 OPS, 14.6 BB%, 17.0 K%), the 2022 Patriot League Rookie-of-the-Year, is a plug-and-play... err... player for the Eagles. The six-man freshman class should provide an impact early.

Like Virginia, Boston College loses their top starter (Joe Mancini) and reliever (Brandon Coffey) from last year. Unlike Virginia, Boston College doesn’t have the pitching depth to easily overcome that hurdle. Like Virginia, Boston College is hoping some transfers (three, to be exact) will help here. Unlike Virginia, Boston College’s transfer arms aren’t all D1 (only one is, the other two are D3 transfers).

Those three transfers are graduate RHPs Chris Flynn (Roger Williams; 7-2, 1 SV, 2.21 ERA, 61.0 IP, 3.7 BB%, 38.9 K%), Ian Murphy (St. John’s; 0-2, 4.88 ERA, 24.0 IP, 7.3 BB%, 20.9 K%), and Andrew Roman (Salve Regina; 1-1, 5 SV, 1.59 ERA, 28.1 IP, 8.7 BB%, 32.5 K%). It would be unlikely that all three don’t end up with prominent roles for the Eagles in 2023. Of the six freshman arms, RHP Bobby Chicoine was impressive in fall camp and could snag a weekend role right out of the gate.

2023 Projected Record: 25-30 (10-20)

NCAA Tournament Bound?: No


Game Dates: March 31, April 1, 2

2022 Record: 42-21-1 (18-11-1) | 2022 RPI: 21

Brief Outlook:

After missing the NCAA Tournament in 2021, Louisville returned to their normal perch in 2022, hosting a Regional (the 9th time in the last 13 postseasons) and participating in a Super Regional (the 7th time in the last 9 postseasons). In typical Louisville fashion, the team also lost a slew of highly talented players (five picks in the first 10 rounds of the draft). Building upon last year, and in spite of the talent lost, 2023 looks to be an even stronger season for the Cardinals.

As a quick aside, the Louisville Athletics Department is a big wet paper bag by not posting the team’s 2023 roster, so boo on them for that and wishes of only the sweatiest John Schnatter visits to their offices.

The Cardinals are a consensus top 20 team and most expect them to be in contention with the next team on our preview here for the Atlantic Division (yes, that still exists in baseball) title. The offense is led by the return of four starters as good as you’ll find in the ACC: JR C Jack Payton (.933 OPS, 10.8 BB%, 17.2 K%), JR SS Christian Knapczyk (.945 OPS, 15.0 BB%, 9.9 K%), JR RF Isaac Humphrey (.948 OPS, 15.9 BB%, 19.4 K%), and JR 2B Logan Beard (.841 OPS, 10.9 BB%, 15.8 K%). While Payton probably won’t make it three years in a row with a Louisville catcher selected in the first two rounds of the MLB Draft, he probably won’t be far behind. Knapczyk is smaller dude, but as hard an out as you’ll find in the conference. That group is supported by a JUCO transfers JR 1B Ryan McCoy (Wabash Valley; 1.296 OPS, 16.7 BB%, 17.7 K%), the return of rFR OF Eddie King Jr (he missed 2022 with an Achilles injury), and the 3rd ranked freshman class in the country - a ranking that accounts for the Cardinals losing three of those players to the draft. Among that freshman class, INFs Patrick Forbes and Gavin Kilen look like instant-impact players, but the entire group is absurdly talented per usual Louisville baseball standards.

The starting rotation must replace staff ace Jared Poland, but they welcome back both LHPs JR Riley Phillips (5-1, 4.34 ERA, 58.0 IP, 6.9 BB%, 27.9 K%) and SR Tate Kuehner (7-3, 4 SV, 3.57 ERA, 70.2 IP, 10.1 BB%, 22.1 K%), who combined to start 21 games a year ago. There are a slew of quality options to fill that third weekend starter gig. JR RHP Ryan Hawks (5-3, 1 SV, 4.96, 49.0 IP, 7.2 BB%, 29.3 K%), SR LHP Garrett Schmeltz (2-0, 3.99 ERA, 29.1 IP, 11.6 BB%, 33.1 K%), and SO RHP Carson Liggett (3-0, 4.68 ERA, 25.0 IP, 13.4 BB%, 18.8 K%) all have starting experience. Add to that group JUCO transfer JR LHP Greg Farone (Herkimer; 7-0, 1 SV, 1.65 ERA, 60.0 IP, 10.1 BB%, 61.0 K% <— that is not a typo), and there are options aplenty for the coaching staff to work with. The bullpen figures to be a strength as it’ll feature at least three of the above names plus SR LHP Evan Webster (2-1, 1 SV, 30.2 IP, 4.8 BB%, 24.6 K%) and several talented arms from the aforementioned highly ranked freshman class, including RHP Patrick Forbes (yes, he’s a two-way gifted freak).

2023 Projected Record: 40-15 (20-10)

NCAA Tournament Bound?: Yes

Wake Forest

Game Dates: April 7, 8, 9

2022 Record: 41-19-1 (15-14-1) | 2022 RPI: 15

Brief Outlook:

The hype surrounding Wake Forest this spring is unreal for a team that didn’t make it out of a regional in 2022, which just so happened to be the program’s first postseason appearance since 2017. Really, that regional appearance wasn’t all that guaranteed until a regular season ending series sweep at NC State. Man, what a crazy impact that series had on both programs.

Anyways, the reason this Demon Deacons team is so hyped is because they marry high-end talent (three potential 2023 1st round picks and a potential 2024 1st rounder) with other good-to-great returnees and a Top 15 transfer class. If the pieces all fall in place, this could be a team headed to Omaha. For a program without a track record of success, though, a wait-and-see approach isn’t an incorrect one to take.

Also, like Louisville, Wake’s Athletics Department can wear the wet paper bag label for not having their 2023 roster loaded on their site less than a week out from the start of the season.

JR 3B Brock Wilken (.964 OPS, 11.6 BB%, 24.2 K%) is one of those potential 2023 1st round picks and he’s getting a ton of attention - and rightfully so - for how hard he can pummel a baseball, but I’m here to tell you SO 1B Nick Kurtz (1.108 OPS, 18.5 BB%, 14.7 K%), who happens to be that potential 2024 1st rounder, is the best all-around hitter on the team. The entire outfield returns in rJR RF Pierce Bennett (.989 OPS, 11.3 BB%, 8.1 K%), rJR LF Adam Cecere (.963 OPS, 10.9 BB%, 24.8 K%), and SO 1st Team All-Name honoree CF Tommy Hawke (.967 OPS, 18.2 BB%, 16.1 K%). JR DH/1B Jake Reinisch (.985 OPS, 21.1 BB%, 23.0 K%) also returns, as does SO 2B Danny Corona (.755 OPS, 10.2 BB%, 22.2 K%). Tulane transfer JR C Bennett Lee (.765 OPS, 13.2 BB%, 15.0 K%) also joins the mix, and it’s easy to see why people are so hyped on this lineup, especially with them playing in that Cracker Jack box of a stadium in Winston-Salem. INF Marek Houston was the top ranked recruit in Wake’s 2022 recruiting class to make it to campus, and among the small freshman group of position players, he would appear to have the best shot at early playing time.

As great as that hitting group looks, it’s the pitching staff that has a lot of folks jazzed up about the 2023 Demon Deacons. All told, Wake returns seven of the eight pitchers who tossed over 30 innings last season. JR RHPs Rhett Lowder (11-3, 3.08 ERA, 99.1 IP, 6.2 BB%, 25.1 K%) and Teddy McGraw (5-2, 4.08 ERA, 70.2 IP, 12.0 BB%, 21.2 K%) are projected 1st round picks in the 2023 draft, while SO LHP Josh Hartle (7-6, 5.30 ERA, 69.2 IP, 7.4 BB%, 16.7 K%) completes the return of the entire weekend rotation from a year ago. Add to that the return of closer JR RHP Camden Minacci (2-4, 6 SV, 2.18 ERA, 45.1, 9.4 BB%, 30.7 K%), JR RHP Seth Keener (5-1, 5.87 ERA, 53.2 IP, 8.2 BB%, 23.0 K%), rJR RHP Reed Mascolo (2-0, 5.30 ERA, 37.1 IP, 8.2 BB%, 25.7 K%), and JR LHP Crawford Wade (3-1, 3.13 ERA, 31.2 IP, 9.5 BB%, 35.5 K%) along with the introduction of transfers SO LHP Sean Sullivan (Northwestern; 5-2, 4.45 ERA, 64.2 IP, 8.7 BB%, 27.2 K%) and SO RHP Michael Massey (Tulane; 3-4, 1 SV, 5.03 ERA, 68.0 IP, 5.4 BB%, 17.5 K%) and this is going to be a strong group that can light up the radar gun and offer several multiple-inning options. And that’s not to mention some of the other transfers or any of the freshman arms.

2023 Projected Record: 40-16 (17-13)

NCAA Tournament Bound?: Yes

Florida State

Game Dates: April 14, 15, 16

2022 Record: 34-25 (15-15) | 2022 RPI: 33

Brief Outlook:

For the first time since 1979, a Mike Martin will not be coaching the Florida State baseball team. After the legendary Mike Martin Sr. stepped down in 2019, his son, Mike Martin Jr., took the reigns and - unlike his father - unceremoniously got the boot after just two full seasons, both of which ended in NCAA Regional appearances and Top 50 RPI teams. Turns out, when your dad made it to the Super Regional round 17 of his last 21 seasons (including 17 College World Series appearances), the bar is set pretty dang high.

The program won’t be out of the hands entirely of the Martin tree, though, as favored son - and noted father of J.T. - Link Jarrett returns to take over at his alma mater. Jarrett, if you were unaware which I’m sure you aren’t - was the head coach at Notre Dame for the past three seasons, leading the Fighting Irish to their best three-year run and first trip to Omaha since the legendary Paul Mainieri was leading the charge. Jarrett will inherit a talented roster that’s Regional-ready, even though it’ll be down it’s two-headed pitching ace from a season ago (2nd round pick Parker Messick and 3rd round pick Bryce Hubbart).

Hitting and defense are the things Jarrett teaches best, and he’ll have his work cut out for him, although the clay is there to work with. Sophomores OF Jaime Ferrer (.975 OPS, 8.6 BB%, 20.7 K%) and OF/1B James Tibbs (.964 OPS, 12.4 BB%, 31.7 K%) are the two most notable returnees, along with JR SS Jordan Carrion (.723 OPS, 8.8 BB%, 14.6 K%). The Seminoles will also welcome back SR INF Nander De Sedas (Missouri; .764 OPS, 9.4 BB%, 24.5 K%) after he spent 2021 playing in the SEC. The freshman class looks incredibly strong, including some high-upside outfielders (Jordan Taylor, DeAmez Ross), but 3B Cam Smith has blown people away since he stepped foot on campus in the fall and looks to be ready to be the next great FSU player to man the hot corner. Two transfers figure to bolster the lineup in JR C McGwire Holbrook (West Virginia; .893 OPS, 11.2 BB%, 9.6 K%) and rSO OF Jordan Williams (San Jacinto College; .929 OPS, 10.6 BB%, 16.8 K%).

Replacing Messick and Hubbart will be a challenge, but building out a deep and reliable bullpen might be the hardest part. JR RHP Carson Montgomery (4-1, 1 SV, 5.00 ERA, 54.0 IP, 9.3 BB%, 25.2 K%) is the returning weekend starter and will be expected to take a big step forward. JR LHP Wyatt Crowell (6-1, 2 SV, 2.12 ERA, 51.0 IP, 7.8 BB%, 33.0 K%), SO RHP Conner Whittaker (2-2, 2.48 ERA, 36.1 IP, 8.8 BB%, 23.0 K%), and SO RHP Jackson Baumeister (1-2, 5.60 ERA, 27.1 IP, 15.9 BB%, 32.5 K%) are the other notable returnees, each with high expectations of increased performance in more prominent roles, but will also leave sizeable holes in the bullpen should one or more of them move into starting roles. The bullpen will need to be made of lightly-used returnees to make a major step forward and a talented freshman class. Among those freshman, RHPs Ben Barrett and Davion Hickson and LHP Jamie Arnold were the highest rated arms.

2023 Projected Record: 33-22 (15-15)

NCAA Tournament Bound?: Yes


Game Dates: April 21, 22, 23

2022 Record: 35-23 (13-16) | 2022 RPI: 39

Brief Outlook:

Like Florida State, Clemson welcomes a new coach to campus for the 2023 season. Former Michigan head coach, Clemson assistant coach, and ECU player Erik Bakich takes over the Tigers program following a successful 10-year run in Ann Arbor. Bakich cut his teeth among some of the games greatest coaches (Keith LeClair, Jack Leggett, and Tim Corbin) and has produced winners at some hard-to-win-at schools, which is why people are so pumped about this hire. Like Jarrett at FSU, the theory is that if you can combine the coaching abilities with the program resources and talent-rich recruiting bed around the area of the school, the results could be phenomenal.

Bakich have a great base to work with as five high-end starters return to form a solid nucleus for 2023. JR C Cooper Ingle (.975 OPS, 14.8 BB%, 11.3 K%) , JR 1B Caden Grice (.813 OPS, 13.5 BB%, 36.3 K%), SR OF Tyler Corbitt (.836 OPS, 5.4 BB%, 19.7 K%), JR 2B Blake Wright (.999 OPS, 7.6 BB%, 12.4 K%), and SR SS Ben Blackwell (.849 OPS, 11.9 BB%, 18.9 K%) will give the lineup a nice blend of hitting abilities. It will be interesting to see how much more aggressive Bakich is on the bases than his predecessor. SO OF Will Taylor (.717 OPS, 14.3 BB%, 17.5 K%) was a former top recruit in both baseball and football, but missed almost all of last year after a knee injury in football; he’s an easy-choice breakout candidate. SR INF Riley Bertram (Michigan; .791 OPS, 8.5 BB%, 16.6 K%) followed Bakich from the Big Ten and should easily find a role in the lineup. There are some nice pieces to the freshman class, but playing time will be hard to come by with a roster full of veteran bats.

On the mound, SO RHP Billy Barlow (2-4, 4.84 ERA, 57.2 IP, 8.6 BB&, 22.3 K%), JR RHP Nick Clayton (0-1, 5.97 ERA, 31.2 IP, 9.7 BB%, 14.9 K%), and JR RHP Nick Hoffmann (3-6, 6.40 ERA, 52.0 IP, 5.0 BB%, 15.0 K%) are the only returning players to have started more than a single game a year ago, but Barlow is likely the only one with a solid spot in the weekend rotation heading into the year. Last year’s closer JR LHP Ryan Ammons (1-2, 8 SV, 4.61 ERA, 27.1 IP, 11.8 BB%, 33.6 K%) is likely to move into the rotation, but if he returns to the bullpen he will be joined by SR RHP Jackson Lindley (6-0, 1 SV, 4.28 ERA, 40.0 IP, 10.5 BB%, 22.1 K%), SO RHP Jay Dill (2-2, 1 SV, 5.45 ERA, 38.0 IP, 11.1 BB%, 24.0 K%), SO RHP Casey Tallent (1-0, 3.86 ERA, 23.1 IP, 11.7 BB%, 21.4 K%), JR RHP Ty Olenchuk (2-0, 4.11 ERA, 30.2 IP, 6.8 BB%, 21.2 K%), and SO RHP Austin Gordon (1-0, 2 SV, 5.14 ERA, 28.0 IP, 7.4 BB%, 25.4 K%). Several of those arms are options, though, to join Barlow in the weekend rotation. From the freshman class, LHP Tristan Smith was a big win for the Tigers to get to campus as he was a Top 25 rated recruit in his class. RHP Joe Allen is another highly-touted freshman who could contribute early.

2023 Projected Record: 34-22 (15-15)

NCAA Tournament Bound?: Yes

Notre Dame

Game Dates: May 4, 5, 6

2022 Record: 41-17 (16-11) | 2022 RPI: 3

Brief Outlook:

It’s going to be really hard not to make a bunch of American Pie jokes this year with Shawn Stiffler taking over for the Golden Domers. Stiffler takes over at Notre Dame following a successful 10-year run at VCU, where he led the Rams to six A10 regular season or tournament titles, with three NCAA Regional appearances and one Super Regional (2015). He might not be as highly regarded as Link Jarrett, but Stiffler has proved he can coach baseball.

Quick aside, because I failed in my duties during the non-conference opponents preview: Replacing Stiffler as VCU’s head coach is none other than NC State alum and MLB veteran Tracy Woodson, the guy whose Wolfpack home run record Tommy White broke last year.

A quartet of seniors returns from last year’s Omaha team to lead the way. 1B Carter Putz (.911 OPS, 7.9 BB%, 19.6 K%), OF Brooks Coetzee (.820 OPS, 6.2 BB%, 16.7 K%), OF Jack Zyska (1.008 OPS, 10.8 BB%, 25.0 K%), and SS Zack Prajzner (.757 OPS, 7.7 BB%, 16.7 K%) will provide the leadership necessary to navigate both the coaching change and the loss of several impact players from a year ago. Filling the holes left by the five departed 2022 starters will be tough, but SO INF Jack Penney (.996 OPS, 12.8 BB%, 24.5 K%) looked the part of a future star as a freshman last year and will have an opportunity to shine in a starting role. Among the freshman, INF Estevan Moreno was the top recruit and by most reports played the best in the fall.

SO LHP Jack Findlay (6-2, 4 SV, 2.17 ERA, 49.2 IP, 8.1 BB%, 27.3 K%) and SR LHP Aidan Tyrell (5-2, 2 SV, 3.75 ERA, 48.0 IP, 6.9 BB%, 17.1 K%) return after great 2022 campaigns to lead a pitching staff that must replace two stud starters and four top relievers. SR LHP Will Mercer (2-1, 1 SV, 4.18 ERA, 23.2 IP, 9.2 BB%, 24.5 K%), SO RHP Radek Birkholz (1-0, 4.98 ERA, 21.2 IP, 13.3 BB%, 27.6 K%), and JR RHP Jackson Dennies (1-1, 6.35 ERA, 17.0 IP, 13.4 BB%, 24.4 K%) showed promise last year and will have an opportunity to shine in expanded roles, with the third weekend starter probably coming from this group. Three transfers (all D1) and four freshmen arms will provide reinforcements. SR RHPs Carter Bosch (Georgetown; 6-4, 4.50 ERA, 64.0 IP, 8.6 BB%, 21.9 K%) and Blake Hely (Davidson; 9-2, 3.80 ERA, 85.1 IP, 10.6 BB%, 25.7 K%) will likely carry the largest impact, and both have prior starting experience with 61 combined college starts between them. Among the freshmen, RHP David Lally (a Top 100 recruit) was the highest rated player in the class to make it to campus and impressed in the fall. Two-way freshman RHP/INF Rory Fox apparently turned some heads in the fall.

2023 Projected Record: 32-21 (13-17)

NCAA Tournament Bound?: No

North Carolina

Game Dates: May 11, 12, 13

2022 Record: 42-22 (15-15) | 2022 RPI: 11

Brief Outlook:

The Tar Heels’ 2022 season was really one of three acts. The opening act was an 18-3 start, the middle act was a hard 5-14 skid towards the start of ACC play, and the final act was a 19-5 finish that included an ACC Tournament title and a Super Regional appearance. They got bounced quickly in two games in that Super Regional at the hands of Arkansas, but it was still an impressive rebound for a team that looked in late April like they weren’t even going to make the conference tournament.

In no way was Scott Forbes going to get fired after last year, but had he not pulled North Carolina out of the nose dive they were in during the middle third of the season, this year might be taking on a different meaning for him considering he followed up the long-time successful tenure of Mike Fox with a 28-27 effort in 2021. Forbes bought himself at least a couple more seasons with how 2022 ended.

The 2023 lineup will revolve around CF Vance Honeycutt (1.082 OPS, 13.5 BB%, 29.7 K%), one of the top prospects for the 2024 MLB Draft. Juniors 3B Mac Horvath (.947 OPS, 15.3 BB%, 19.0 K%), 1B/DH Alberto Osuna (.912 OPS, 9.9 BB%, 31.6 K%), 2B Johnny Catagnozzi (.809 OPS, 9.5 BB%, 19.4 K%), and C Thomas Frick (.720 OPS, 7.1 BB%, 15.1 K%) also return to provide a veteran boost to the lineup. The Tar Heels brought in just one transfer for the position player group, but he’s expected to break the starting lineup from the get-go. JUCO transfer JR INF Jackson Van De Brake (Tacoma CC; .844 OPS, 17.7 BB%, 14.4 K%) looks to have the inside track on the starting shortstop gig for North Carolina.

The pitching staff returns a lot of key pieces and is buoyed by a large transfer class, but most overcome the loss of starting pitcher Brandon Schaeffer, grunt king Davis Palermo, and 9th-year senior Gage Gillian. JR RHP Max Carlson (4-3, 3.71 ERA, 77.2 IP, 11.1 BB%, 25.8 K%) was the Tar Heels best starting pitcher a year ago and he’s back again, as is the aptly named for a UNC baseball player JR RHP Connor Bovair (5-4, 1 SV, 5.50 ERA, 54.0 IP, 13.0 BB%, 19.9 K%) who made 9 starts a year ago. SR RHP Nik Pry (3-0, 4.54 ERA, 37.2 IP, 10.4 BB%, 24.9 K%) and SR LHP Will Sandy (1-0, 2.59 ERA, 24.1 IP, 16.2 BB%, 12.6 K%) are the only other returnees who tossed more than a single inning last year, although it’s considerable experience with the pair having made 121 career appearances between them, including 26 starts by Sandy. To bolster the pitching staff, Forbes and crew brought in five transfers (2 D1, 3 JUCO). JR RHP Jake Knapp (Walters State; 14-1, 2.40 ERA, 82.2 IP, 7.4 BB%, 33.5 K%) and SR RHP Kevin Eaise (Penn; 7-1, 4.03 ERA, 67.0 IP, 9.5 BB%, 26.7 K%) both have extensive starting experience and you’d have to guess at least one of them earns a rotation gig. Two other players to keep an eye on are Vanderbilt transfer JR LHP Nelson Berkwich (1-0, 3.00 ERA, 15.0 IP, 11.6 BB%, 27.5 K%) and rFR LHP Dalton Pence. There are seven true freshman arms in the mix for bullpen roles, although you can count on a few of those to redshirt.

2023 Projected Record: 37-19 (16-14)

NCAA Tournament Bound?: Yes


Game Dates: May 18, 19, 20

2022 Record: 29-27 (13-16) | 2022 RPI: 70

Brief Outlook:

I really don’t think Mike Bell is getting enough credit for the job he’s doing at Pittsburgh. That’s a program that hasn’t been a Regional since 1995, but the former Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Florida State assistant coach has put together back-to-back seasons of RPIs better than 70, something that hasn’t been done at Pitt since they started tracking RPI. The 2022 Panthers were sitting at 12-11 heading into the final two regular season weekends of the season and looking at potentially breaking that almost 30 year NCAA drought, but even an ACC Tournament semifinal appearance couldn’t overcome a 1-7 finish to the regular season and the Panthers sat at home yet again.

Pitt loses five starters from a year ago, including their top four home run hitters. Back are SR OF Kyle Hess (1.092 OPS, 9.3 BB%, 12.7 K%), SR C/INF/DH Jack Anderson (.846 OPS, 14.8 BB%, 30.1 K%), JR OF C.J. Funk (.987 OPS, 21.7 BB%, 27.0 K%), and SR INF Sky Duff (.779 OPS, 18.3 BB%, 22.8 K%). Also back to help lessen the blow of the group that is no longer with the program are SO INF Tommy Tavarez (.863 OPS, 19.8 BB%, 32.7 K%) and JR OF Dom Popa (.821 OPS, 16.9 BB%, 24.1 K%), both of whom expect to take on starting roles this year. Four transfers (2 D1, 1 D3, 1 JUCO) will also help, with SR INF Noah Martinez (Central Connecticut State; 1.031 OPS, 14.0 BB%, 18.2 K%) and JR INF Justin Acal (Frederick CC; 1.161 OPS, 13.6 BB%, 9.9 K%) looking like instant impact players. SR INF Brett Heckert (Allegheny College; .979 OPS, 12.3 BB%, 10.4 K%) had a great career at the D3 level and could provide value to the lineup if he can adjust to ACC pitching. The freshman class includes seven position players.

JR RHP Logan Evans (4-8, 7.43 ERA, 66.2 IP, 5.4 BB%, 16.6 K%) is the only returning member of last year’s weekend rotation, a group which prided itself on pounding the zone and forcing opponents to put the ball in play. The team also loses a lot from the bullpen, including closer Baron Stuart. Only two key returnees are there in rJR RHP Brady Devereux (4-2, 4.58 ERA, 39.1 IP, 8.0 BB%, 19.0 K%) and SO RHP Jonathan Bautista (0-1, 1 SV, 5.81 ERA, 26.1 IP, 16.3 BB%, 17.8 K%). It’s a tough go of it when you only return four arms who tossed five or more innings the year prior. As you’d expect facing a pitching rebuild like that, Pitt is going heavy on transfer arms, with nine total (3 D1, 1 D2, 5 JUCO) joining their ranks. SR RHP Erubiel Candelario (Marist; 8-3, 4.24 ERA, 76.1 IP, 10.5 BB%, 25.7 K%), JR RHP Matthew Fernandez (Miami-Dade CC), JR RHP Kyle Mosley (Hill College), and SO LHP Ethan Firoved (Tallahassee CC) all appear to be in contention to contribute to the starting rotation. Four freshmen have also joined this year and could carve out roles in a wide open pitching staff.

2023 Projected Record: 26-29 (10-20)

NCAA Tournament Bound?: No

Projected ACC Standings:

Atlantic Division

  1. Louisville (20-10)
  2. Wake Forest (17-13)
  3. NC State (17-13)
  4. Clemson (15-15)
  5. Florida State (15-15)
  6. Notre Dame (13-17)
  7. Boston College (10-20)

Coastal Division

  1. Virginia (18-12)
  2. Miami (16-14)
  3. Virginia Tech (16-14)
  4. North Carolina (16-14)
  5. Georgia Tech (14-16)
  6. Duke (13-17)
  7. Pittsburgh (10-20)