clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2012 UNC Baseball Preview

Opening Day!

UNC opens on the 2012 baseball season today with the first of three games vs Xavier at Boshamer Stadium. The Diamond Heels head into the season ranked #9 in the Baseball America preseason top 25 and picked to win the ACC Coastal Division which, as usual, is loaded. The Heels will be looking to make their sixth trip to the College World Series in seven years under head coach Mike Fox and return an experience lineup as well as a deep bullpen.

Key Returning Players

3B Colin Moran, So, 2011: .335 BA, 9 HR, 71 RBIs, 46 R, 47 BB

Moran comes into 2012 looking to build off an outstanding freshman campaign that saw him named first team All-ACC, ACC and Baseball America freshman of the year and to the Baseball America All-American team. Moran led the Heels and the ACC in RBIs with 71 batting .335 which was good for 12th in the conference. Moran will be a key cog in the UNC offense and will also look to improve on his .936 fielding percentage at third base. Moran has been named to the Baseball American preseason All-American team and is on the watch list for the Golden Spike Award, college baseball's version of the national player of the year award.

C Jacob Stallings, Sr, 2011: .292 BA, 4 HRs, 43 RBIs, 52 R, 44 BB

Stallings, the son of Vanderbilt head basketball coach Kevin Stallings, is considered one the best defensive catches in the ACC recording throwing out 32 baserunners last season. He is also solid with the bat ranking 16th in the ACC in runs scored with 52 and 20th in RBIs with 43. It stands to reason Stallings offense will improve but his value is behind the plate cutting down baserunners and shepherding a fairly young starting pitching rotation.

SS/2B Tommy Coyle, Jr, 2011: .311 BA, 2 HR, 36 RBIs, 18 SBs, 57 R, 40 BB

Coyle was a second team All-ACC selection as a sophomore and led the Heels in stolen bases, hits and runs scored. His .311 batting average was second on the team and his 84 hits, one ahead of Moran, was good for sixth in the ACC. Coyle was seventh in the league in runs scored with 57. Coyle played second base a year ago but could move to shortstop to make room for either Mike Zolk or Shell McCain.

CF Chaz Frank, Jr, 2011: .278 BA, 35 RBIs, 10 SBs, 45 R, 43 BB

Frank routinely led off for UNC in 2011 and is one of four returning Tar Heels to record 40 or more walks underscoring the propensity for patience at the plate by Mike Fox's team. UNC had five players in the ACC top 15 in walks. Frank record 10 stolen bases in 14 attempts and along with Coyle represent the primary base stealing threats for the Heels.

P Kent Emanuel, So, 2011: 9-1, 2.33 ERA, 104.1 IP, 89 K, 2 CG

Like Moran, Kent Emanuel is coming off an excellent freshman season and enters 2012 as the ace of the pitching staff. Emanuel led the starting pitchers with a 2.33 ERA giving up 27 earned runs in 104.1 IP. Emanuel's ERA was seventh in the pitching heavy ACC just ahead of teammate Patrick Johnson. Since the ACC schedule is comprised of weekend three game series, having at least one dominant pitcher for the first game is crucial. Emanuel will need to step into that role and get the Heels off on the right foot. Emanuel was also named to the Golden Spikes Award watch list.

P Michael Morin, Jr, 2011: 4-2, 4.33 ERA, 64.0 IP, 10 saves, 66 Ks.

Morin began the 2011 season as a starter with mixed results. After injuring his ankle in March, Morin was moved to the closer role where he flourished recording 10 saves and striking out 66 batters in 64.0 innings. The UNC single season record for saves is 18. Morin, with a full season in the bullpen could threaten that mark. At any rate, Morin gives UNC a solid pitcher to shut the door in tight games.

P Andrew Smith, So, 2011: 3-1, 2.77 ERA, 26.0 IP, 27 Ks.

Smith will likely move into the starting rotation after spending his freshman season in the bullpen. Smith, who according to Baseball America, had his fastball reach the 90s during the fall, could prove to be a solid second option behind Emanuel in the starting rotation.

P Chris Munnelly, Jr, 2011: 6-5, 4.03 ERA, 70.1 IP, 57 Ks.

Assuming Munnelly is in the weekend starting rotation he will be the most experienced starter UNC has. The junior will need to improve on his 4.03 ERA and cut down on his walks surrendering 31 in only 70 innings(compared to 23 by Emanuel in 104 IP.) The key for Munnelly will be control but with UNC's deep bullpen, the goal of any UNC starting pitcher is to simply keep it on the road for 5-6 innings until the offense can put together some runs.

Newcomers to Watch

1B Cody Stubbs, Jr, 2011(Walters St. CC): .403 BA, 17 HRs, 75 RBIs, 56 R

Stubbs started his college career at Tennessee before transferring to Walters State Community College where he had an outstanding season leading the Senators to a 43-15 record. Stubbs will start at 1B replacing Jessie Wierzbicki who graduated. It will be interesting to see how much of Stubbs translates to Division I baseball. His numbers at the JUCO level were impressive and if he can bring some of that power to UNC's lineup it will help tremendously.

P Benton Moss, Fr, 2011: Rocky Mount(NC) HS

Moss has a fastball in the mid-90s and is expected to make an immediate impact. Moss was all-state in high school and is also a Morehead-Cain Scholar.

2B Mike Zolk, Fr, 2011: Nuemann-Goretti(PA), HS

Possible starter at second base with Levi Michael graduation and Coyle moving over to shortstop. Bats left handed and according to his bio was named by Philladelphia Inquirer as PA's top prep second baseman two years running.

2B Shell McCain, Fr, 2011: Trinity Christian Prep(NC)

The other possible starter at second base. Mike Fox has indicated that since McCain bats right and Zolk bats left the opposing pitcher may dictate which one gets the start.

Outlook

The Baseball America preview of their top 25 assigns grades to each team based on their various strengths and weaknesses. BA gives UNC a 60 which indicates they are a "strong Omaha contender." UNC is not a power hitting team and many games will come down to solid pitching, mistake free defense and timely hitting. The starting pitching is good enough to keep the game under control and UNC's bullpen is extremely deep. That could be both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, having a roster full of good pitchers is a luxury, especially if a starter has a rough go of it. On the other hand, with Mike Fox as head coach, UNC almost needs to install a revolving door on the Boshamer bullpen. Fox loves to play the matchups and changes pitchers with an almost alarming frequency. It seems in most cases Fox is simply over thinking the game which leads to times where UNC runs out three pitchers in one inning. That is not going to change so having a deep bullpen will help in most cases provided Fox doesn't get more trigger happy than usual.

Offensively speaking, it will be interesting to see if Moran can maintain the level of hitting he showed as a freshman. Probably more important is whoever hits in front of and behind Moran in the lineup. The Heels need to get runners on base for Moran to drive in but almost as important is having a legitimate offensive threat next in the lineup. The last thing you want is opposing coaches taking the bat out of Moran's hands with an intentional walk so whoever follows has to be enough of a threat to take the intentional pass off the table. Last season Wierzbicki, Coyle and Stallings filled in the 4-6 slots behind Moran in different orders. Stallings will probably be in a similar position again as well as the addition of Cody Stubbs who could provide the Heels with a little pop in the middle of the lineup.

UNC is certainly good enough to win the ACC Coastal Division but it will be tough with the likes of Georgia Tech, Miami and Virginia on the schedule. UNC plays both Miami and UVa away from Chapel Hill as well as their ACC opening series at Clemson. Maryland and Duke are the other two league road series for the Heels. UNC will host NC State, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Boston College and Virginia Tech. In short UNC's home schedule is much easier than their road slate in ACC play. UNC plays the usual slate of regional non-conference schools and a three game series at home versus USC(the real one, not the fake on in Columbia) as well as Xavier and Wright State as part of an 11 game home stand to open the season. Overall, the key to NCAA Tournament success is getting to a place where you can host a regional and Super Regional. That has been the case in every season UNC has made the College World Series in the recent streak save the first one. The fact that UNC plays in the ACC helps their RPI and providing the Heels can reach the 45-50 win range, they should be in good shape for the postseason.

For additional takes on the Diamond Heels be sure to check out Baseball America's ACC preview and the Daily Tar Heel has been running several good features previewing the baseball team.