Bryson Field at Boshamer Stadium should be a summer destination for UNC fans to catch some winning baseball!
A season full of high expectations is now upon the Tar Heels Baseball team. In fact, I can’t remember a time the UNC Men’s baseball team had as high of expectations from a national standpoint in quite some time. The USA Today/ESPN Preseason Poll has UNC ranked 4th in the nation following a 5th place finish in the 2011 College World Series (51-16 overall record, 20-10 ACC). Then you scour the internet and pick up any College Baseball preview you see just about everyone picking the Heels to win the ACC. Granted, they would have to win their division within the conference in order to get an opportunity first but even then most including myself see the Tar Heels potentially running away with the ACC. The roster top to bottom alone screams “deep CWS run”.
Head Coach Mike Fox is entering his 14th season in the dugout leading the Heels. Fox has managed UNC to 5 College World Series in the last 6 seasons. Prior to that, his Carolina teams didn’t make it to Omaha for seven straight years. Another consistency with Coach Fox and his Heels are their winning seasons. Since arriving in Chapel Hill, Fox has averaged 45 plus wins each year and a .70 plus overall winning percentage. And in the ever fluctuating top of the ACC Head Coach Mike Fox has a .60+ conference winning percentage, suffering only two losing seasons in conference with sub five hundred records. Fox appears well on his way to having more than a road or highway named after him in Chapel Hill.
Also along with the winning have been some talented players to contribute. This season looks no different. The loss of shortstop Levi Michael, starting pitcher Patrick Johnson, and the very talented RHP Cody Stiles will show up at various times throughout the season, more so in the field than at the plate. With 3B Colin Moran, 2B Tommy Coyle, and C Jacob Stallings all coming back to the top of the UNC lineup, all three have All-American potential. Despite the losses it took, the depth UNC has at pitcher is really second to none. Listen for names like Kent Emanuel and Chris Munnelly to pick up the slack when it comes to picking up wins and eating innings. Let’s not forget about one of the best closers in college baseball either. Michael Morlin will be key in late innings if this UNC team plans on winning those close games and returning to the CWS.
This 2012 recruiting class was another in the line of consecutive star-studded classes. Assistant Coach Scott Jackson has made it a habit of bringing in pro talent to Chapel Hill as the recruiting coordinator. He has played major roles in the development of several great players who went on to be drafted in the Majors. From former Tar Heel great Dustin Ackley to Levi Michael, the team as a whole the last few seasons can be credited also to Jacksons due diligence in development once he gets a player on campus. This season look for several first year names who could contribute in major ways. RHP’s Adam Griffin and Chris McCue, along with shortstops Zack LaNeve and Josh Ake were all MLB draft picks. Instead of heading to The Show they decided to come to Chapel Hill and put on a team show of their own. The combination of LaNeve and Ake should make us lesson the loss of Michael in the middle after a short time. Watch out for North Carolina natives RHP Benton Moss and 6-4, 225 pound 1B/OF Cody Stubbs. Stubbs may force himself into the lineup if he excels when given the opportunity.
The bullpen looks deep for UNC overall and has to be a focal point if starting pitching does not perform well. The lineup looks primed to put up runs consistently throughout the season. Then again, on those days they cannot score consistently the Heels will have to rely on good pitching. That is something they will have to prove. Along with Moran and Stallings looking to make a deeper run in the postseason, 2012 looks like a season for the Tar Heels taking. Meaning that long awaited CWS title could make its way to Chapel Hill sooner than later.
Below is the entire season schedule. The conference games will be marked *. (*Conference Record *)
UNC (OVERALL RECORD)=( #-#) Following Each Game or Series
Friday February 17th – Sunday February 19th vs. Xavier Opening 3 Game Series UNC WINS SERIES 2-1
Friday February 24th – Sunday February 26th vs. Wright State 3 Game Series #6 UNC SWEEPS SERIES 3-0 (5-1)
Tuesday February 28th vs. St. Johns #4 UNC WINS GAME 8-4 (6-1)
Friday March 2nd – Sunday March 4th vs. USC 3 Game Series (First big test following opening day)
Tuesday March 6th vs. Davidson (Potential “let down” game)
Wednesday March 7th @ Elon (Tar Heels first road game) Elon, NC
Friday March 9th – Sunday March 11th @ Clemson* (first Conference series) Clemson, SC
Tuesday March 13th @ UNC-Greensboro Greensboro, NC
Wednesday March 14th vs. Gardner-Webb
Friday March 16th – Sunday March 18th @ Maryland * 3 Games College Park, MD
Tue Mar 20th vs. Princeton
Sat Mar 24th- Mon Mar 26th vs. NC State* 3 Game Series
Wed Mar 28th vs. Coastal Carolina
Fri Mar 30th- Sun Apr 1st vs. Wake Forest* 3 Game Series
Wed Apr 4th vs. Elon
Fri Apr 6th- Sun Apr 8th @ Miami* 3 Game Series Miami, FL
Wed Apr 11th vs. UNC-Asheville
Fri Apr 13th- Sun Apr 15th @ Virginia* 3 Game Series Charlottesville, VA
Tue Apr 17th vs. High Point
Wed Apr 18th vs. Liberty
Fri Apr 20th- Sun Apr 22nd vs. Georgia Tech* 3 Game Series
Tue Apr 24th vs. UNC-Greensboro
Wed Apr 25th vs. East Carolina
Wed May 2nd vs. Winthrop
Fri May 4th- Sun May 6th vs. Boston College* 3 Game Series
Tue May 8th vs. UNC-Wilmington
Wed May 9th @ East Carolina Greenville, NC
Fri May 11th- Sun May 13th @ Duke* 3 Game Series Durham, NC
Tue May 15th @ UNC-Asheville Asheville, NC
Thu May 17th- Sat May 19th vs. Virginia Tech* 3 Game Series
Tue May 22nd- Sun May 27th ACC Tournament (Matchups TBD) Greensboro, NC
Friday June 1st – Sunday June 3rd NCAA Regionals (Teams, Times, Locations all TBD)
Friday June 8th – Sunday June 10th NCAA Super Regionals (Teams, Times, Locations all TBD)
Saturday June 16th – Wednesday June 27th College World Series (Teams and Times TBD) Omaha, NE
(TBD= To Be Determined)
As the Schedule shows, UNC has several road games that are not too far from home. Greenville, Asheville, Elon, and Durham alike are all classified as on the road but some of those games will most likely see more Tar Heel blue on some nights. This is not to say they will be easy games because that is not the case. The schedule also showed me that every game and series on here is very winnable for the Heels. Having 15 of their final 20 games at Bryson Field brings new meaning to finishing the home stretch. That is something UNC as a team will have to do. Also with those same 20 games to end the college baseball season the Tar Heels don’t have to leave the state of North Carolina for any of them. All signs point to UNC competing into late June. Competing again in a place where all college players dream of winning big games in Omaha, Nebraska. Let’s just hope UNC plans to make their stay in 2012 a little longer.
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