UNC Baseball: Diamond Heels set to take on Stetson

OMAHA, NE - JUNE 21: Head coach Mike Fox
OMAHA, NE - JUNE 21: Head coach Mike Fox /

After a dominant showing in the Chapel Hill Regional, the Diamond Heels are just two wins away from the College World Series. The only team standing in their way? The Stetson Hatters.

After defeating North Carolina A&T 11-0 and Houston in back-to-back games last weekend, the North Carolina Tar Heels have advanced to the Super Regionals of the NCAA Tournament.

Of the six ACC teams that made it to the NCAA Tournament, only UNC and Duke advanced to the next round. Now, the Stetson Hatters are the only thing standing in the way of Carolina’s first College World Series appearance since 2013.

The series between the Tar Heels and the Hatters will kick off this Friday at 11:00 AM at Boshamer Stadium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Game 2 will be Saturday at noon, and game three (if necessary) would be Sunday at noon.

It’s pretty simple for Carolina: win two out of three, and the Tar Heels will be going to Omaha.

Opponent Preview: Stetson

Stetson is in the midst of one of the best seasons in program history; the Hatters are 48-11, and will be heading into Chapel Hill this weekend on an 18-game winning streak, the longest in the country.

They got here by beating Hartford last Friday and then Oklahoma State on back-to-back days, including an 11-1 final to eliminate the Cowboys.

While Stetson is not normally a contender on the national stage, head coach Steve Trimper can feel the difference in the program and he is confident that the Hatters can compete with the best college baseball has to offer.

Trimper knows just how big the stage is this weekend.

“The buzz around the program the last few weeks has been electric,” Trimper said. “There has been a great opportunity to go out there and prove we belong with some of the nation’s best programs.”

Stetson will have a great chance to do just that against UNC this weekend.

The Hatters are led by right-handed pitcher Logan Gilbert. Gilbert, (11-1, 2.52 ERA) leads the country in strikeouts with 169 strikeouts and was recently drafted 9th overall by the Seattle Mariners. Stetson’s ace will likely start Friday against Carolina.

As for their lineup, the Hatters have two hitters batting over .300 for the season. Both Brooks Wilson (.307) and Mike Spooner (.302) have been big all season long for Stetson as they have been staples in the lineup.

Shortstop Jorge Arenas has been getting it done at the plate despite hitting .241 on the year. He leads the team with 39 RBI’s and is fourth in total bases with 81 on the year.

Another player to look out for is Jacob Koos. The centerfielder leads the Hatters with 63 hits on the year and is hitting .280. Koos has a knack for getting on base and has 31 total walks this year in addition to leading the team in hits.

The Hatters lineup won’t be an easy task for UNC pitching over the weekend, so the Diamond Heels will have to find a way to limit the damage.

Key to the series for UNC

As simple as this sounds, the most important thing the Diamond Heels need to do this weekend is keep up the recent play at the plate. Over their last three games, Carolina scored 34 runs on 35 hits.

The Tar Heels also had five home runs in the regional alone, more than they hit the entire month of May.

Next: Chapel Hill Super Regional schedule

Another telling stat: Carolina is 34-0 when it scores six or more runs, and 7-18 when it does not. Against the strong pitching of Stetson, it will be vital for the Diamond Heels to keep up their red-hot hitting to advance to the College World Series.