The Carolina baseball team lost a tough game 9-8 to UNC Wilmington on Wednesday, but the Heels might have been looking forward. The match up with #6 NC State in Raleigh should be some top-notch baseball. Let’s take a look at what’s in store.
What have you done for me lately?
UNC: The Heels come in off a loss, but before the Wednesday defeat, Carolina won 14 straight games with the smallest margin of victory in that stretch being two runs. Carolina is ranked first in all major polls and boasts an impressive 35-3 record. Freshman Skye Bolt is still out with an injury, and the team should be prepared for an intimidating crowd in Raleigh.
NC State: Though the Wolfpack only sit at 33-10 overall, they’ve won their past 15 contests including a sweep of #20 Georgia Tech in Atlanta. State is 19-5 in Raleigh on the season, and the fans in Raleigh will be high in number and noise as they try to knock off America’s top team.
What’s history say?
UNC: Carolina did something a little strange for the program last year by not making it to Omaha. The Heels were upset by St. John’s in the Chapel Hill Regional. The UNC baseball program has reached the College World Series five out of the past seven years, so winning is ingrained into the culture. In this series last year, the Heels lost the opening game but came back to take the next two. The Heels won a third game against the Wolfpack last year in the ACC tournament.
NC State: Last year, NC State finished with the team’s best record since 2003 eventually losing in the Gainesville Super Regional to number one overall seed Florida. Freshman pitcher Carlos Rodon, who was named a finalist for the 2012 Golden Spike Award, led the way for the Wolfpack. Though UNC’s recent history has been more kind, the Wolfpack do have a claim that UNC baseball doesn’t: a championship. The 1968 College World Series was won by NC State in their only appearance in Omaha.
Players to Watch
UNC: Skye Bolt might be hurt, but the Heels still have two solid bats in the middle of the lineup. Sophomore Colin Moran is hitting .387 with 10 homeruns, and senior first basemen Cody Stubbs isn’t far behind hitting .373. Look for these two to cause some trouble for NC State pitching. On the mound, no one in the country is throwing much better than Kent Emmanuel. The Heels’ Friday starter is 8-1 with a 1.82 ERA and has thrown an impressive 79.1 innings in his 10 starts.
NC State: Carlos Rodon’s stats don’t match his impressive rookie campaign, but he is still a great pitcher. In his last start against Georgia Tech, Rodon threw a complete game, giving up two runs, striking out ten, and not yielding a single walk. His ERA is just under five, but if he’s throwing well, he can be difficult to hit.
NC State also features two hot hitters. Tarran Senay, the senior first baseman, was named ACC player of the week for this past week after he notched nine RBI in the series at Georgia Tech and hit .411 for the week. Sophomore Trea Turner might actually do more with his legs than with his bat, which is impressive considering he’s hitting .438 on the year. He’s stolen 18 bases so far this year, and led the nation with 57 steals a season ago.
The focus on this rivalry is generally on football or basketball, but this should be a heated series. NC State is a very good club, and they boast the nation’s longest winning streak. The Wolfpack are good, but this Carolina team is probably the best team in the nation. It’ll be a tough atmosphere, so I think NC State can take a game, but the Tar Heels are just too good to lose a series right now. UNC wins Friday, State Saturday, and the Heels take the series Sunday.