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UNC Baseball: Super Regional Preview

UNC will host another weekend of baseball at the Bosh

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Six ACC teams earned bids to the NCAA Baseball Regionals. Just two survived the weekend — your North Carolina Tar Heels were one of them. As a reward for taking care of business, they will host one of eight Super Regionals this weekend. The Stetson Hatters (yes, like the cowboy hat) will visit Boshamer Stadium for a best-of-three series with a bid to the College World Series in Omaha on the line.

The Super Regionals are noticeably different than the opening weekend Regional format. Whereas the Regionals consist of four teams playing a double-elimination mini-tournament, the Super Regionals are a best of-three series between two teams who won their respective Regional pod. The field is reduced from 64 teams to 16 and the winner of each Super Regional will advance to Omaha.

North Carolina (#6 national seed)

Record: 41-18, 22-8 ACC, 3-0 Regional
Last Super Regional Appearance: 2013
Last CWS Appearance: 2013

Regular Season Recap: Just read our original Regional Preview.

How they got here: The Heels ran through North Carolina A&T (once) and Houston (twice) to clinch their Regional over the weekend. You can check each individual game recap here, here, and here. However, all you really need to know is that UNC were led by red-hot hitting and timely defense - especially from the outfield.

North Carolina scored 34 runs on 35 hits over the three games. Kyle Datres and Michael Busch led the way hitting a combined 12-23 with 13 RBI. The duo also scored 12 of UNC’s 34 runs. Second baseman Zach Gahagan contributed a pair of home runs.

The hitting was helped by solid defense that only committed one error. UNC was aided by a pair of outfield assists. On Saturday, Josh Ladowski denied the Cougars a run in the bottom of the seventh when he gunned down a runner at the plate after a fly ball into right field. It proved crucial as UNC won 4-3 — just their seventh victory when scoring fewer than 6 runs. Then on Sunday night, Cody Roberts caught Houston being greedy when he threw a rope from right field to second base as the runner tried to stretch a single into a double.

Needless to say, it was an (almost) flawless weekend for the Diamond Heels. With a now 34-0 record when scoring six or more runs, they will only go as far as their bats will take them. Last weekend was an encouraging start.

Player(s) to watch: On Saturday, all eyes were on Gianluca Dalatri as he made his third start since returning from injury. He did not disappoint, allowing just one run. This weekend, Cody Roberts bears consideration as a guy to watch.

Roberts, whose primary position is catcher, needed surgery after being hit in the groin by a foul ball against Duke. He missed the rest of the regular season and ACC tournament, but returned over the weekend. Roberts was only 2-11 with 3 runs and 2 RBI, but as mentioned above, he also proved his worth in the field.

He gives the Heels more depth and versatility as he played two of the three games in right field, and one game at catcher. It was Roberts who was behind the plate when Dalatri pitched. Mike Fox also uses him in multiple places in the batting order where he is often slotted anywhere from third to seventh on the lineup card. An extra week of recovery can only help Roberts prepare for the visiting Hatters.

Stetson

Record: 48-11, 15-3 Atlantic Sun, 3-0 Regional
Last Super Regional Appearance: None
Last CWS Appearance: None

Regular Season Recap: Earning both the regular season and conference tournament championships, the Hatters may be the most underrated team remaining. Finishing the season with an RPI of 4, the committee did them no favors seeding them all the way down at #11. They likely deserved better, as their schedule included wins over Virginia Tech and Maryland and tournament participants Army, Florida State, and Purdue.

How they got here: For as hot as UNC’s offense was, Stetson’s was equally impressive. They notched 29 runs on 33 hits on their way to three straight victories, and 18th straight win overall. The final two games saw them outscore Oklahoma State 21-4. It’s worth noting they didn’t score using the power hitting that Houston displayed in the final game Chapel Hill. Stetson only recorded one home run on the weekend.

However, where UNC relied on steady defense to back up some shaky pitching, Stetson’s pitching staff dominated their opposition. Relying on just five pitchers over 27 innings, Stetson allowed 4 runs on 18 hits. That was in spite of five errors by the Hatter defense. The bullpen will be well rested when they visit next weekend.

Player(s) to Watch: You’re going to hear about RHP Logan Gilbert all week. Gilbert was drafted by the Seattle Mariners (not the Florida Marlins, as I originally wrote) with the 14th overall pick in last night’s MLB draft.He’s posted an 11-1 record with a 2.52 ERA thanks to 157 strikeouts in 107 innings. Against Oklahoma State, he allowed 2 runs on 5 hits and fanned 14 Cowboys. Dude is legit.

However, if you want another reason to be concerned, check out RHP Jack Perkins. He’s struck out 105 batters in 103.2 innings, while compiling a 2.32 ERA and an 11-2 record. He closed out last weekend with a complete game, 13 strikeout, 3-hit, 1-run outing against Oklahoma State.

The first game begins on Friday, June 8th at 11:00AM. It will be broadcast on ESPN2.