Thanks to a remarkable stretch run and ACC Tournament championship, North Carolina baseball is not only in the NCAA Tournament, but they’ll be hosting a regional starting today. With three other teams descending on Chapel Hill for the tournament, starting later today, let’s take a look at the three teams the Heels may have to take on this weekend.
As the #1 seed in the regional, UNC will first be matched up against the #4 seed Hofstra. The Pride are in their first ever NCAA Baseball Tournament, led there by former Major Leaguer and first year head coach Frank Catalanotto. They clinched their bid by winning the CAA Tournament, beating Northeastern in the final on a walk-off hit by pitch.
Hofstra is led by all-conference outfielder Brian Morrell, who won the CAA batting title after hitting .352. Meanwhile, the Heels will likely have to face the Pride’s ace Brad Camarada in the tournament opener. The All-CAA first team pitcher had an 8-1 record after a 3.46 ERA. Camarada went seven innings in the CAA championship game, and won the Most Outstanding Player honors after allowing five runs in 15 innings during the tournament.
In the second day of action tomorrow, UNC will be matched up against one of the other two teams in the Chapel Hill Regional, Georgia or VCU.
Georgia, the #2 seed in the regional, is coming in with a 35-21 record, and are led by All-SEC pitcher and top 100 MLB draft prospect Jonathan Cannon.
Cannon comes into the tournament with a 3.62 ERA having struck out 65 batters in 74.2 innings this season. However, there’s a chance UNC might not end up facing him, should they send him to the mound in the Bulldogs’ opening round game.
Offensively, Georgia features a strong lineup, with eight different hitters with an OPS over .800. Connor Tate leads the way with a 1.035 OPS, having slugged 30 extra-base hits over the course of the season.
In the opening round, Georgia is set to take on the region’s #3 seed, VCU. The Rams went 40-18 and won the the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament title, running through the tournament with a perfect 4-0 record.
VCU features a highly rated draft prospect in Tyler Locklear. The infielder had an excellent season, putting up a .403 batting average, while also slugging 19 home runs. He went an extraordinary 9-for-11 in the A10 Tournament, hitting three home runs and driving in six RBI.
The Rams also feature a decently strong pitching staff, featuring five pitchers who’ve started games with an ERA under four.
UNC and Hofstra are set to kick off the action today at 2 PM ET in the regional opener. The regionals featured a double elimination format, so no matter what happens, UNC will be in action tomorrow (as long as the weather cooperates). They’ll play the Georgia/VCU winner if they beat the Pride, or the loser if they start with a loss. It’ll take at least three wins to advance, possibly a fourth if they end up having to go through the loser’s bracket.