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UNC baseball: Zack Gahagan returns to North Carolina for senior year

The Tar Heels get their utility infielder back.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at San Diego Padres Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Zack Gahagan was selected in the 40th round by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2014 MLB Draft but decided to go to college. In 2017, he was taken in the 39th round by the Cincinnati Reds. Now he’s decided to return to Chapel Hill for his senior year in 2018. Gahagan helped the Tar Heels reach the College World Series regionals as the no. 2 seed before they were prematurely ousted by Davidson. He thinks next year will be better.

Not only is Gahagan hoping the team does better next year, but he’s also looking to build off somewhat of a down season in 2017 to better position himself for the 2018 MLB Draft. After undergoing surgery on a blood clot before the season, Gahagan hit .243/.366/.386 with seven home runs in 62 games this past season. He certainly had a chance to take the money and finally get paid to pay baseball, but it only took him a matter of days to declare his return for his senior year.

It’s a good thing too, because North Carolina will need his versatility next year to fill in a roster that has lost several of their best players. UNC has already come to terms with losing right-hander J.B. Bukauskas, shortstop Logan Warmoth, and center fielder Brian Miller in this year’s draft. All three went in the first round and are projected to earn somewhere over a million dollars, so there’s no way any of them were going to return.

They have also lost two members of their incoming freshman class with outfielder Austin Beck and third baseman Buddy Kennedy turning pro. Beck was selected sixth overall by the Oakland Athletics and Kennedy was taken by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the fifth round.

Gahagan is taking a little bit of a gamble here, considering he is already on the fringes as a draft player. However, there isn’t much more room for him to fall from here, so if he can put up a stronger year in 2018, teams will take him as a senior sign.

Catcher Cody Roberts, who was drafted by the Miami Marlins in the 38th round, has yet to officially sign.