The 2021 Carolina baseball season was a bit of a rollercoaster ride. The Diamond Heels (under first-year manager Scott Forbes) had some big series wins, and some head-scratching losses. Whatever UNC lacked in consistency, they certainly made up for with raw talent. MLB teams agreed, and three Tar Heels were selected on Day 2 of the MLB Draft.
Let’s take a look at the three Heels moving on to the professional ranks!
Austin Love - Pitcher (St. Louis Cardinals: Third Round, 90th Pick)
The UNC ace and first-team All-ACC selection was the first Tar Heel taken in the draft, and why not? Love’s stat-line this season was terrific - 10-4 record, 3.71 ERA, 129 strikeouts against only 32 walks. Love had some big wins when the Heels needed them for their postseason lives - most notably against NC State in the ACC Tournament and UCLA in the Lubbock Regional.
Love’s 129 K’s this year is the second highest total for a season after former UNC-great (and current Cardinal!) Andrew Miller.
Caleb Roberts - Right Fielder (Arizona Diamondbacks: Fifth Round, 138th Pick)
Ignoring the COVID-19 shortened 2020 season where he only played three games, Caleb Roberts showed significant improvement in all offensive categories this past season from his freshman season in 2019. Roberts batted .270 (+.043), slugged .476 (+.196), hit 36 RBIs (+19), 10 home runs (+10!), and drew 44 walks (+15). He did strike out more, but with the trade-off in hugely upgraded power numbers, Scott Forbes would take that every time.
Justice Thompson - Center Fielder (Cincinnati Reds: Sixth Round, 180th Pick)
✈️— Carolina Baseball (@DiamondHeels) July 12, 2021
Justice Thompson became the third Tar Heel to be chosen this afternoon when the @Reds selected him in the sixth round with the 180th overall pick. #ProHeels | #CarolinaBaseball pic.twitter.com/lrNyOg2hir
Don’t cry because it’s over, be happy that it happened.
I was super excited to see Justice Thompson in Carolina blue. The junior college transfer came to UNC to showcase his skills, and unfortunately for Tar Heel Nation, he did a good enough job of that to stay in Chapel Hill for just a single season.
Thompson flashed some nifty tools, covering tons of ground in centerfield, and could really put some distance on his home runs. His batting was inconsistent, [Thompson had more strikeouts (67) than hits (63)] but he did put up some decent numbers (.304 AVG, .444 SLG%, 36 runs, 24 RBIs, 7 home runs).
He also endeared himself to the Carolina faithful by striking the Jumpman logo pose while robbing Liberty of an extra bases hit, and sending a homer straight back to Durham during UNC’s absolute demolishing of Duke back in April (see below).
The Draft continues through 20 rounds, so stay tuned to Tar Heel Blog to see if any more Diamond Heels come off the board!