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Carolina Baseball: Down the stretch they come

Yeah, the Heels lost to State this week. It’s fine.

MLB: Spring Training-Philadelphia Phillies at Pittsburgh Pirates
That’s Colin Moran. He played at UNC.
Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

The Diamond Heels had a rough outing on Tuesday night, losing to rival N.C. State by a score of 8-3. Despite being in the weird world of a 14-team ACC, Carolina and State still have a series upcoming. This game was more just for kicks, so the silver lining is that the game did not count towards the conference standings.

The Pack got out to an early 2-0 lead on a Patrick Bailey homer in the 2nd, and the Heels (as they do) scored on a less exciting fielder’s choice to cut the margin to 1 in the bottom half.

An error in the 4th allowed State two unearned runs to push the lead to 4-1, and a Bailey RBI single pushed it to 5-1 while the Carolina bats remained largely silent. The Heels managed just two hits and four total baserunners from innings 3-7.

A two-out rally in the bottom of the 8th gave the Heels some life. With the bases juiced, Ashton McGee lined an 0-2 slider through the hole into left field to cut the margin in half. With runners on the corners, Kent Klyman got Cody Roberts to strike out to end the threat.

The team in red tacked on three courtesy of an Evan Edwards moonshot to right in the top of the 9th, creating our final margin.

Can’t win ‘em all.

Where things stand down the stretch

Carolina is currently 12-6 in ACC play, and well-positioned to win the Coastal Division.

On the strength of Duke’s series finale at Florida State being cancelled, the Blue Devils hold a half-game lead in the division. Ironically, Carolina and Duke play the same three teams (in addition to each other) in conference play down the stretch:

  • Duke: N.C. State, at Virginia Tech, Carolina, at Georgia Tech
  • Carolina: Georgia Tech, at State, at Duke, Virginia Tech

The Heels definitely have the tougher road schedule, and need to take full advantage of the Techs at Boshamer Stadium. Duke’s series against State this weekend could create an opportunity for the Heels to get a leg up.

On the strength of an early-season road sweep of Clemson, the Wolpfack (not a typo) is in the driver’s seat in the Atlantic.

As it relates to the NCAA Tournament, the conference is poised to have...a lot...of host teams. The Heels are barely on the outside looking in (at least according to BaseballAmerica) at #19 in this week’s poll. Ahead of them are Florida State (17), Clemson (14), Duke (8), and State (2). As these rankings are pretty fluid (it is baseball, after all), Wake, Louisville, Virginia, and Georgia Tech are all in position to have cases to make the tournament.

With six regular season shots at top-10 teams (both of whom happen to be in the Triangle, sadly) remaining, Carolina probably just needs to win about 4 of 6 to be pretty secure about getting a national seed—which are now done 1-16 to avoid confusion going into Super Regionals.

While not quite the regular season juggernaut they were last year, the Heels probably won’t quite be in position to bow out to Davidson as the #2 national seed again.