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North Carolina Baseball: NCAA Tournament - Chapel Hill Regional Preview

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The Tar Heels are hosting a regional for the first time since 2013.

NCAA Men’s College World Series

The North Carolina baseball team earned a No. 2 national seed and will open up the NCAA Tournament this upcoming Friday against the Davidson Wildcats. The Wildcats, along with the Michigan Wolverines and Florida Gulf Coast Eagles, will compete in the Chapel Hill regional in order to try and earn a spot in the Super Regionals.

The Tar Heels return to the tournament after a two-year hiatus, having finished the season with a record of 47-12, and were runners-up in this past weekend’s ACC Tournament. North Carolina is looking to return to the College World Series in Omaha for the first time since 2013; however, they must first make it out of their region before taking on the winner of the Houston regional.

Let’s take a look at each of the teams that are in the Chapel Hill regional:

Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (#2 Seed)

Record: 42-18 (13-8 in Atlantic Sun)

RPI: 33

Key Players: SS - Julio Gonzalez, 1B/DH - Nick Rivera, P - Kutter Crawford, P - Kenton Hering

Biggest Victories this Season: Swept #2 Florida, Defeated FSU 5-2

Team Stats: ERA - 3.65 (32nd in NCAA), Batting Avg. - .282 (103rd in NCAA)

  • Florida Gulf Coast will be making their first ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The Eagles finished in third place in the Atlantic Sun Conference; however, they won their conference tournament with two wins over top-seeded Jacksonville.
  • FGCU has had some quality wins throughout the season (Florida, FSU, Miami), so they won’t be scared of the seeing the No. 2 seeded Tar Heels. The Eagles have had an up-and-down season, as they were ranked as high as number nine in the country early on, but they struggled in the middle part of their season before rebounding to earn a spot in the tournament.
  • The Eagles are led on offense by Julio Gonzalez (.337) and Nick Rivera (.304), who are each batting over .300 on the season. Rivera leads the team in home runs (17) and RBI (55), while Gonzalez has the most number of hits (83) and is tied for the team lead in doubles (15).
  • FGCU has a very good pitching staff, as they were #32 in the country in team ERA (3.65). The staff is led by Kutter Crawford (great name for a baseball pitcher) who had a 7-1 record and a team-leading 1.58 ERA (8th best ERA in the country).

Michigan Wolverines (#3 Seed)

Record: 42-15 (16-8 in Big Ten)

RPI: 35

Key Players: SS - Michael Brdar, 3B - Drew Lugbauer, 2B - Ako Thomas, P - Oliver Jaskie, P - Jackson Lamb

Biggest Victories this Season: Swept #18 Oklahoma, Defeated Notre Dame 4-3

Team Stats: ERA - 3.26 (11th in NCAA), Batting Avg. - .284 (90th in NCAA)

  • Michigan received an at-large bid to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament. The Wolverines finished in second place in the Big Ten Conference and were eliminated early on in the Big Ten Tournament with losses to Northwestern and Indiana. Michigan is currently ranked #22 in NCBWA’s rankings.
  • The Wolverines have one of the best hitters in all of college baseball in Ako Thomas. Thomas led the Big Ten and is #52 in the country in batting average (.368). Michael Brdar and Johnny Slater also hit over .300 for Michigan. Drew Lugbauer leads the team in home runs (11) and RBI (58).
  • Michigan is one of the better base stealing teams in the country, as they rank 4th overall in stolen bases per game. Also, the Wolverines are ranked 3rd in the NCAA in fielding percentage, so they play pretty good defense in the field and don’t make many errors/mistakes.
  • As seen above, Michigan is one of the highest ranked teams in the country in Team ERA Oliver Jaskie (16th in strikeouts in the NCAA) is the most successful starter for the Wolverines with an ERA of 3.30, and he leads the team with eight wins on the season. The Michigan bullpen is very strong. A number of Wolverines, like Mac Lozer and Jackson Lamb (team leading 12 saves), have done a good job of keeping opposing teams off the scoreboard.

Davidson Wildcats (#4 Seed)

Record: 32-24 (13-11 in Atlantic 10)

RPI: 126

Key Players: RF - Will Robertson, 1B - Brian Fortier, P - Durin O’Linger

Biggest Victories this Season: Defeated #1 Seed VCU twice in A-10 Conference Tournament

Team Stats: ERA - 4.54 (125th in NCAA), Batting Avg. - .277 (123rd in NCAA)

  • Just like FGCU, Davidson will be making their first ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats defeated #1 seed VCU twice in order to win their first ever A-10 Conference Tournament and earn an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. Davidson finished in 6th place in the A-10 standings.
  • The Wildcats don’t have any marquee victories or any over a ranked opponent; however, they have played some bigger named schools (Notre Dame, South Carolina, UNC) and have played them close. They are familiar with the Tar Heels and with Boshamer Stadium, as they played in Chapel Hill back at the beginning of May. Davidson had the Tar Heels on the ropes, as they led by three runs in the 9th inning, before North Carolina tied it up and then won it in the 10th inning.
  • The Davidson offense is led by their two power hitters, Will Robertson and Brian Fortier. Robertson leads the team with 18 home runs on the season, which is ranked 15th in the country. Fortier is not far behind with 15 home runs (52nd in the NCAA), and he leads the team in RBI (53). As a team, Davidson is 22nd in the NCAA in number of home runs hit this season with 70 total. Including Fortier and Robertson, the Wildcats have five batters who are hitting over .300 on the season.
  • Durin O’Linger is the team’s ace. He went 8-3 on the season and finished with a 2.85 ERA If the team holds a lead late in the game, they have a good closer in Westin Whitmire. He had 12 saves during the season, which ranks him 20th in NCAA.

NCAA Baseball Tournament Bracket