UNC will host an NCAA Regional this weekend, as 64 teams will be whittled down to 16 by week’s end. East Carolina will pose a serious challenge, but the Tar Heels should make it to the Super Regionals. But first, let’s go through their team and look at their chances.
(Tar Heel Blue has complete statistics from the regular season.)
Pitching: UNC made it to the finals of the College World Series in 2006 in part because they had three fot the best pitchers in the country: Andrew Miller, Daniel Bard, and Robert Woodard. Only Woodard returned from last year, but the Heels still have a great pitching staff. Woodard set a new UNC record for career wins, and underclassmen Alex White, Luke Putkonen and Adam Warren have combined for an 23-5 record, with ERAs of 3.35, 4.23, and 2.09, respectively. Since most of Warren’s games are against bad teams, White and Putkonen will be in the starting rotation with Woodard.
UNC also has excellent relief pitching. Matt Danford has played more than 100 games in relief for the Tar Heels over his career, and Andrew Carignan is considered one of the best closers in the nation.
Offense: The Tar Heels have one of the most powerful offenses in the ACC, taking 24 of their 48 wins this season by 5 runs or more. Seven of UNC’s starting 9 have a batting average above .300, and the team averages 7.5 runs per game. The offense is led by Dustin Ackley, Reid Fronk, and Tim Federowicz, each of whom have at least 50 RBIs in a 60 game season.
They number for UNC to reach is 6 runs. The Heels are 37-1 when they score at least six runs, and 11-11 when scoring 5 runs or less. Runs could be scarce in this tournament, so the pitching will need to be extraordinary for UNC.
Bench: The Tar Heels have a deep bench, with 6 players having made at least 20 appperances this season. Two of those bench players, Benji Johnson and Mike Cavasinni, were starters on the 2006 College World Series team.
There is great anticipation for this team to make another run to Omaha. Tickets to the regional sold out in one day. I’ll be at the games this weekend to “report on our progress.” Action starts today with East Carolina facing Western Carolina and UNC facing Jacksonville. According to the bracket, The winner of this regional will face the winner of the Columbia, SC regional. Seven of the 8 teams in these two regionals are from North or South Carolina, so it should be very interesting.
P.S. I was hoping we would draw Coastal Carolina in the Super Regional and then have them host. Not only would it be great baseball, it would be an excuse to go to Myrtle Beach for the weekend. Oh, well.