UNC Baseball: Diamond Heels set to take on Virginia

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

The Diamond Heels will open up their 2019 ACC Tournament on Wednesday as they take on Virginia in Durham, North Carolina.

The 2019 regular season ended with back-to-back series losses for the North Carolina Tar Heels baseball program but now they have a chance to begin their journey to the College World Series on the right foot. UNC has earned the fifth seed in the 2019 Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament and a good showing will help boost their chances to host a regional next weekend.

First up for North Carolina in that process is No. 9 Virginia as both teams open up Pool D play on Wednesday night.

The Tar Heels and Cavaliers will meet for the fourth time this season with UNC winning that series at home 2-1. The Cavaliers were able to take Game 1 of the series before the Tar Heels rallied for the final two wins.

But Wednesday’s meeting will be the biggest game of the season to date for both teams. The winner gives themselves a chance to move on and win Pool D ahead of their matchups against Miami in the coming days. The loser is eliminated due to the tiebreaker being seeding and that goes to No. 4 seed Miami.

So it’s win or plan on traveling for the first round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament for the Tar Heels.

UNC hasn’t announced their starter for Wednesday night’s game but Austin Bergner and Tyler Baum are candidates likely to start both games for in the tournament this week. Virginia’s preview has Chesdin Harrington listed as the starter although there has been no official announcement.

Both right handers have been great for UNC all year long and will look to get the Tar Heels into the weekend round of the tournament. If Bergner goes on Wednesday and can get UNC the win, having Baum ready for a deciding game on Friday would be huge.

Bergner finished the year 5-1 with a 5.06 ERA and a WHIP of 1.45 while Baum was 7-3 with a 3.91 ERA and a WHIP of 1.28.

UNC enters this tournament in a little bit of an offensive struggle, scoring just five runs in the three games against N.C. State with three of those runs coming in the win. But overall, UNC’s offense has been good this season.

They have hit 50 home runs and have been powered by freshman Aaron Sabato who leads the team with 13 and was just named the ACC Freshman of the Year. Junior Michael Busch finished with 13 and has reached base safely in 28-straight games. Meanwhile, Ashton McGee has hit safely in 13 of his last 16 games.

UNC’s offense could be the big difference maker in this game, especially if they can break out of this slump. If they can jump on the Cavaliers early and score some runs, they will have a good chance of putting it away and letting their pitching close it out.

Virginia enters this game winning 10 of their final 14 games of the season and are hoping to improve their NCAA Tournament resume. The Cavaliers won their final two series against Louisville and Virginia Tech, riding some momentum into the postseason.

Chris McMahon and Evan McKendry have also returned from injury for the Cavaliers, improving their pitching staff going into the postseason.

Next. UNC players earn All-ACC honors. dark

For more on the Diamond Heels, including a recap of the game please check back with Keeping It Heel.