NCAA College World Series: Previewing the Tennessee Volunteers

The UNC Baseball program secured another dramatic win in the NCAA Tournament to move into the winner's bracket. Now, they will face the Tennessee Volunteers.
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Vance Honeycutt delivered once again for the UNC Baseball program in the post-season as he came up with a clutch RBI single to score Jackson Van De Brake and win the first game in Omaha to move the Tar Heels to 1-0 and into the winner's bracket.

North Carolina was set to face the winner of Florida State and Tennessee. That game also had a dramatic ending, as the Volunteers scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth to complete the comeback in which they trailed 11-7 going to the bottom of the eighth. The victory moved Tennessee to 1-0 and into the winner's bracket.

The Volunteers and Tar Heels will face each other on Fathers Day, Sunday, June 16th, at 7:00 PM, with the winner looking to move one step closer to securing their spot in the National Championship game.

Let's get to know the Volunteers.

How They Got Here:

The Volunteers are the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. They had a 50-11 regular season record and went 22-8 in SEC Play. That earned them the No. 1 seed in the SEC Tournament, which they won, defeating LSU for the SEC Championship 4-3. They only lost on series all season, and it was on the road to SEC-foe Alabama.

In the NCAA Tournament, they cruised through the Knoxville Regional with victories over Northern Kentucky, Indiana, and Southern Mississippi. They averaged 11 runs per game and held their opponents to four runs per game. With those victories, they advanced to host the Super Regional and 2024 NCAA Tournament Cinderella, Evansville, the No. 4 seed from the Greenville Regional.

Evansville put up a fight and took the Volunteers to Game Three of the series by picking up a 10-8 victory in Game Two, but ultimately, the more talented Volunteers came out victorious with a 12-1 win to advance to Omaha for the third time in the last four years.

In Game One of their 2024 Men's College World Series appearance, they gave up a six-run third inning to No. 8 National Seed Florida State, which put them trailing 9-4 and later in the game 11-7. However, a four-run ninth-inning rally propelled Tennessee over the Seminoles with a 12-11 victory.

That brings us to this point and sets up the winner's bracket game between No. 1 National Seed Tennessee and No. 4 National Seed North Carolina.

Key Players to Know:

Christian Moore

Christian Moore is a junior infielder for the Volunteers and one of the most talented players in the upcoming MLB Draft Class. Moore is projected to be a top-five pick in the 2024 MLB Draft. He was named a first-team All-American by Perfect Game.

For the 2024 season, in 275 at-bats this year, he leads Tennessee in batting average (0.385), hits (106), home runs (33), RBIs (72), total bases (226), slugging percentage (0.822), on-base percentage (0.460), and runs scored (79).

Moore is the total package and added to his already impressive resume on Friday night in Omaha at the College World Series. He went 5-6 with four runs scored and an RBI. That in itself is already incredible. Now, let's add some history to that performance. Not only was he 5-6, but he had hit for the cycle by the sixth inning.

He became the first player since 1956 to hit for the cycle in the College World Series and was the second to ever accomplish that. You can bet that the North Carolina pitching staff will be fully aware of Christian Moore and how they attack him tomorrow night.

Blake Burke

Blake Burke is a junior first-basemen for the Volunteers and, like Moore, another solid offensive contributor. He is a projected MLB Draft prospect as well for the 2024 draft and is ranked in the top 75 on the MLB Prospect list. He was named a first-team All-American by four different major news outlets for this season.

ESPN released a list of their top MLB Prospects in the Men's College World Series and ranked Burke No. 17 on that list. While some other Volunteers may stand out for the MLB Draft ahead of him, Burke is most definitely someone to keep an eye on.

He is right behind Moore in several major statistical categories at the plate. In 264 plate appearances this season, he is second on the team in batting average (0.380), hits (100), slugging percentage (0.711), and on-base percentage (0.453). He also leads the Volunteers in doubles with 28 and stolen bases with 11 on 13 attempts.

Against Florida State in the College World Series opener, Burke was 3-5 with three runs, three RBIs, and one walk. One of those hits was the center of a controversial check swing that would have been the final out of the game. However, Burke was given another chance and came through with a base hit that tied the game for the Volunteers.

You can be the judge...

Bottom line: The umpires didn't call it a swing, Tennessee and Burke were given another chance, and the junior came in clutch with a two-strike, two-out base hit to tie the game. Burke will certainly be one that the Tar Heels will also be aware of on Sunday night.

Drew Beam

This is one: At the time this is being written, we are still unsure who Tennessee plans to start on the mound on Sunday night. However, several sources believe the Volunteers will turn to Drew Beam. Beam is a junior right-hander and was ranked No. 63 by MLB draft prospects heading into the NCAA Super Regional round.

He has the third-best ERA (4.44) for the Volunteers in 93.1 innings pitched. Only one other Tennessee pitcher has pitched more than 70 innings (AJ Causey with 87.2 innings). Beam is holding opposing batters to a 0.263 batting average and has achieved an 8-2 record this season in 17 total appearances.

Beam has two NCAA Tournament appearances in 2024, in the Regional versus Indiana and the Super Regional versus Evansville. However, he hasn't had his best stuff to date this postseason.

He only lasted 3.2 innings against the Hoosiers, allowing four hits and four earned runs while striking out five. Against Evansville in Game Two of the Super Regional, he allowed five runs on five hits in 4.2 innings of work and was handed the loss in that game.

Tennessee used six different pitchers on Friday night versus the Seminoles. However, no one threw more than 60 pitches, so while the Volunteers are looking to restore their bullpen strength moving forward in Omaha, we think most of their staff would be available if needed versus the Tar Heels.

This is a game to move to 2-0 (27 of the last 33 National Champions have started 2-0 in Omaha) and will certainly be treated just as important from a managing standpoint for both programs - that means pitchers could be on a short leash throughout the game.