Well yesterday’s game against NC State was not what I would call “uplifting” and in fact, it was everything but. The Tar Heels looked overwhelmed, lost and completely deflated in yesterday’s opening college world series matchup against the Wolfpack and are now faced with a 4 game must win scenario in order to make it back to the college world series final for the first time since 2007.
I think all of us who have been watching Tar Heel baseball all season long, especially over the last couple of weeks, know that North Carolina has the talent and the pitching depth to make this fantasy like run, that’s ahead of them, into a reality. However, in order for them to make this run possible, whoever Mike Fox throws out there to start Tuesday afternoon, has to last longer than 2.2 innings. Kent Emanuel, Hobbs Johnson and Benton Moss have been dynamite all season long, but nothing has been easy for them since the ACC tournament. In order to get through four games of this magnitude, your arms need to be as fresh as possible for as long as possible. It’s no secret that UNC has an outstanding bullpen, but they’re no good to you if the guy you’re counting on to win you the ball game can’t go past the first third of the ball game. Longevity and consistency have been huge attributes for the Tar Heel starters since February and will need to be the official theme for the staff over the next two weeks.
Resiliency has also been a big attribute for the Heels this postseason and have not been a team to shy away from a late deficit and a long game. The bats may not be lighting up the scoreboard, but they certainly have been doing just enough to avoid elimination. I know everyone who has cheered religiously for the Heels throughout the NCAA tournament would love to see a comfortable, non dramatic win for once, but at this stage, it’s highly unlikely. With that being said, it’s nice to know that the lineup has familiarity around long drawn out games and doesn’t know when to quit. It’s also nice to know that the #1 and #3 RBI leaders in the country sit in the 3 and 5 slots in the batting order. That’s the kind of lineup you want to have and root for in an uphill battle.
Next up: LSU. This matchup slated for tomorrow afternoon at 3:00 PM EST has garnered tons of mixed reactions from a flustered Tar Heel fan base. Those who want North Carolina to win the title above everything else, are ecstatic given the circumstance. You would much rather beat LSU now, who has been just as potent as UNC has offensively all season, than potentially face them twice later in the tournament. Those fans, who want to see NC State lose above everything else, would have probably preferred UCLA have lost last night because LSU gives Tar Heel fans the best chance of preventing the Wolfpack from waltzing to the CWS final next week. For me personally, I tend to lead towards the former.
Ryan Eades has been really good for the Tigers all season long. He’s 8-1 in 17 starts with a 2.79 ERA and has good strikeout numbers. He’ll have a lineup up behind him that can put up runs just as well as they can prevent them defensively. It’ll certainly be as tough a game for the Diamond Heels as they’ve faced all season and postseason long, but as the saying goes, in order to be the best, you have to beat the best. I’m just glad that Eades is right-handed.