At the beginning of the season this weekend was circled on UNC's baseball schedule as one of the most crucial of the season. The preseason polls had the Tar Heels #1 in the country and picked to win the Coastal Division of the ACC. NC State was tabbed as the Atlantic Division champion. UNC had Kent Emanuel and Colin Moran. The Wolfpack had Carlos Radon and Trea Tuner. It was seen then as a battle of the two best teams in the ACC. Add to the mix a 13-inning match-up between the two in the 2012 ACC Tournament which UNC won, this series was destined for ridiculous hype.
For the most part, it has all fallen into place. The #1 ranked Tar Heels at 40-3 overall and 18-2 in ACC play will travel Doak Field at NC State to take on the Wolfpack who come in riding a 15 game winning streak. The Pack are 33-10 and 14-7 in the ACC giving them a game lead of Florida State in the Atlantic. With nice weather in the offing, all three games are sold out.
ESPN3 will have the Friday and Saturday games with the series finale being shown on ESPNU Sunday night starting at 7 PM.
Via GoHeels.com here are the probable pitching match-ups.
|Friday||LHP Kent Emanuel||RHP Ryan Wilkins|
|(Jr., 8-1, 1.82 ERA, 79.1 IP, 58/14 K/BB)||(Sr., 5-1, 3.16 ERA, 37.0 IP, 31/9 K/BB)|
|Saturday||RHP Benton Moss||LHP Carlos Rodon|
|(So., 7-0, 2.81 ERA, 57.2 IP, 67/23 K/BB)||(So., 4-2, 4.48 ERA, 60.1 IP, 95/27 K/BB)|
|Sunday||LHP Hobbs Johnson||LHP Brad Stone|
|(Jr., 2-0, 2.45 ERA, 44.0 IP, 36/25 K/BB)||(Fr., 2-1, 6.23 ERA, 39.0 IP, 41/15 K/BB)|
It is interesting to note that the Kent Emanuel-Carlos Radon duel is not happening. While Radon's ERA is a little inflated he still leads the ACC in strikeouts with 95 and is 5th in opponents batting average. UNC, on the other hand, has four pitchers in the top eight of the latter category.
On paper and assuming the Tar Heels play up to their capabilities, this is a series UNC should win. The Heels leads the ACC in every major offensive statistical category except for doubles and triples. The Heels also lead the league in ERA and opposing batting average. In other words, the ridiculous 40-3 mark is backed up by some stats illustrating how dominant this team has been. Even with Skye Bolt out of the lineup, it doesn't appear the Heels have missed a beat.
This series marks the first of three against ranked ACC opponents and should serve as a nice few weeks of testing for a team that has it's eyes on the ultimate prize in Omaha.