Though the biggest prize is still on the horizon for the Diamond Heels, there are several personal and team accomplishments that should be noted. Regardless of the outcome of the NCAA Tournament, Carolina can feel proud of the season thus far.
Kent Emanuel was named the ACC’s Pitcher of the Year after finishing the season 10-3 with a 2.11ERA. Emanuel held opponents to a .228 average and led the Heels in innings pitched at 110.2. The junior is the first Tar Heel to win the award since Alex White in 2008. Since the award was established in 2005, three of the nine awards have been given to Tar Heels.
Colin Moran was named ACC Player of the Year after leading the nation in RBIs (84), setting a Carolina record in the process. The junior was also named ACC freshman of the year two years ago, and Moran is the first Tar Heel to win the award since current Seattle Mariner Dustin Ackley took the award in 2009. Its the seventh player of the year award for Carolina placing UNC only behind Clemson who has 10 award winners in conference history.
These two led the pace for the Tar Heels who won the ACC regular season crown for the first time since 1990. To put that in perspective, only one current Tar Heel was born in 1990, senior outfielder Chaz Frank, who was born in October of that year. With the season ending in the spring though, no current Tar Heels were alive the last time Carolina was the regular season champion.
The good play during the season vaulted Carolina into the first seed in the ACC tournament. After the Tar Heels won the second game in a 14 inning marathon against Clemson, Carolina fans might’ve thought it couldn’t get crazier, but Saturday was something special.
The attendance for the NC State-Carolina game was listed at 11,392 which is an ACC Tournament record and the second largest crowd in the Durham Bulls Athletic Park history. The game, as many of our readers know, became an 18 inning marathon with Carolina eventually won 2-1. The game was the longest in ACC Tournament history as well as the longest in Carolina history.
UNC finished the conference tournament by defeating Virginia Tech, as freshman Taylore Cherry notched the win. It was Cherry’s first start of the season, and his five innings pitched was longer than his season total of 3.1. The championship was Carolina’s first conference tournament title since 2007, a year that Carolina ended in Omaha.
As the article stated, Carolina’s season long goal has been to win the College World Series for the first time in school history. If the Tar Heels, who have been ranked first in the nation for more weeks than any other team in the country, fail to win the championship, many people will call this season a failure. It’s the nature of sports, but the successes of the season shouldn’t be forgotten.
NCAA Champions or not, this year’s Diamond Heels are a special team, and it’s been fun to watch.