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NCAA Baseball Tournament – Chapel Hill Regional

NCAA Baseball Tournament – Chapel Hill Regional

NCAA BASEBALL TOURNAMENT – CHAPEL HILL REGIONAL — North Carolina has to be looking longingly at No. 3 seed Texas A&M’s draw. While the Aggies appeared to get a gift-wrapped draw, the Tar Heels got a dogfight at just one seed lower.

Such is life for a high seed from the ACC. As the nation’s No. 2 baseball conference and one that geographically overlaps the top-ranked SEC, it’s nearly impossible for a seeded ACC team to avoid an SEC foe. But the Heels would have been hoping not to draw defending national champion LSU, and especially not after the Bayou Bengals’ run in Hoover.

Related: NCAA Baseball Tournament – Tallahassee Regional

The good news for Carolina is that even years aren’t LSU’s time to shine. The Tigers have made the super regional in in seven of the past eight odd years, but just two of eight even years. The bad news is that although Paul Skenes traded his purple for Pittsburgh’s black, LSU still has pocket aces in Luke Holman and Gage Jump.

Wofford ranks second in the nation in runs per game with 10.2. Even Long Island features a pair of strikeout artists. This isn’t the simple path you’d expect for the No. 4 seed.

Players to Watch

When men get on base, Casey Cook usually drives them in. Cook led the Tar Heels with 76 RBIs and ranked third with 18 home runs, along with a .345 batting average. Five Tar Heels hit double-digit home runs, led by Vance Honeycutt’s 22.

Getting quality starts from Jason DeCaro and Shea Sprague is vital for the Heels. North Carolina believes in its bullpen and should be fine if its starters get it there. Both pitched well in the regular season, taking just two losses combined.

Related: NCAA Baseball Tournament – Tucson Regional

LSU counters with Holman and Jump, one of whom will certainly go against Carolina. The Bayou Bengals have a pair of sluggers in Jared Jones and Tommy White, who combined for 50 home runs. The rest of the lineup doesn’t really have that kind of power, and base stealing isn’t a Tiger strength.

Wofford, however, can run teams to death. One reason the Terriers score is because Marshall Toole ranks third nationally in steals with 42. He’s not alone in that; five other Terriers have swiped double-digit bags. Long Island will try to keep teams off the bases, as Garrett Yawn posted 1o4 strikeouts.

The Favorite

North Carolina has the pitching on paper to make it through this regional. Whether it holds up could be another matter. The Heels had the best ERA in the ACC, but they’ll likely throw at least one bullpen game in the regional. As long as Carolina manages its bullpen well, it should be fine.

Related: NCAA Baseball Tournament – College Station Regional

One thing the Heels do well is keep the ball in the park. Nobody gave up fewer home runs in the ACC than UNC’s 55, and limiting the big play will make a difference against LSU.

Potential Surprise

With Wofford’s base stealing, I won’t count them out. But the team with the best chance to upset the apple cart is LSU. The Tigers’ pitching was outstanding in SEC play, and they keep the ball in the park even better than Carolina. As long as Wofford doesn’t run LSU out of the park, it should have the edge in reaching the regional final.

Related: NCAA Baseball Tournament – Charlottesville Regional

The Tigers are coming in hot, and the Heels know it. This will be anything but easy and likely takes the full seven games. After the Bayou Bengals’ run in Hoover, it’s hard to pick against them. North Carolina takes one out of three against LSU, but it’s not enough to end the champs’ season.


  • Dan Angell, Contributor

    Dan is originally from Virginia and has covered basketball games across the country over the past 18 years. He now resides in Indianapolis and loves a good defensive showcase. His Twitter @danangell11.

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