It’s officially baseball season. Finally.
The start of baseball season is significant because it’s synonymous with so many other important milestones. Just as football kicking off means the start of a new school year and unseen opportunities ahead, baseball season brings impending graduation and reflection on the past year. Baseball season also brings warmer weather, barbecues, pool parties, bonfires, fireworks, you name it. Baseball season means spring is here and summer is around the corner.
Most importantly, it means that baseball is back, and Carolina has a chance to have a really special season in 2019.
Coming off of a 2018 College World Series appearance, North Carolina started the 2019 season by routing Xavier in the first series of the year. Carolina scored a combined 34 runs in the three game series, and that doesn’t even speak to how overwhelmed Xavier looked at Bosh. Five different Tar Heels homered in the series, which is the most players to homer in an opening series since 2008. The 34 runs scored are the most in an opening series since 2006.
Wins Are Wins
After the Xavier series where Carolina’s win differential was more than eight runs a game, they won the next five games by six runs combined. That stretch included a 2-1 win over North Carolina A&T, and a 4-3 win over UNC Wilmington courtesy of a walk off home run by Senior Dylan Enwiller. The series against South Florida, however, has been the most entertaining series of the year.
Fresh off a win against the then #4 Florida Gators, South Florida came into Bosh looking to avenge their series loss to Carolina last season. Update: they got swept, but it was a really fun series none the less.
North Carolina starting pitcher Tyler Baum recorded twelve strikeouts in seven innings in his start against South Florida. Outfielder Dylan Harris hit the first walk-off home run of the season for Carolina as well. Infielder Ike Freeman is batting .500 (not a typo) through the first two weeks of the year, including a go-ahead two-run home run against South Florida. As a team North Carolina extended their home winning streak to twenty six games (as of writing,) dating back to last season.
Moving On Up
North Carolina started the season ranked 6th in the nation in preseason polls. Through the first two weeks North Carolina has jumped up to 4th, due mostly to their series wins over Xavier and USF, as well as 4th ranked Florida Gators’ loss to the Bulls. North Carolina is currently the highest ranked ACC team. They’re joined in the top 25 by Florida State at 6th, Louisville at 12th, Clemson at 14th, and Duke at 22nd. The only conference with more members currently in the top 25 than is the SEC with eight teams.
The way their schedule set up, North Carolina could be really hot as they open conference play at Clemson on March 8th. The Clemson series is actually the first time that North Carolina has to leave Chapel Hill for a series. Playing their first three weeks of the season at home will absolutely pay dividends when the grind of ACC play starts.
As competitive as ACC play will be, Carolina does miss series against both Florida State and Louisville. The remaining out of conference schedule has games against East Carolina and South Carolina lined up as the toughest remaining games, but the schedule is still set up in the Tar Heels favor.
In short, 2019 is going to be a really fun year for Carolina baseball. The biggest takeaway from watching them early in the year is that they love playing baseball together, and the love playing baseball for North Carolina. Combine that with the talent and schedule that they have and they have a really good shot to win the conference and make it back to the College World Series.