In spite of losing six players to the MLB draft, Coach Mike Fox's Tar Heels are ranked 2nd in the preseason coaches poll. The Heels also suffered another setback with the loss of outfielder Mike Cavasini with a partially torn ACL. Mike would have been one of the outfielders for UNC this season. The Heels also lost a few players that have transferred. The most prominent are pitcher Jared Bard and outfielder Drew Paulk.
INFIELD - Carolina will be minus the cornerstone of their infield with the loss of shortstop Josh Horton to the pros. Josh's .335 average was second on the team last year. He also hit nine HRs and had 53 RBIs. The Heels have some interchangeable parts in the infield but it looks like they may open with Kyle Shelton at first base. Kyle hit .262 in 2007. Kyle Seager should open at second base. He hit .308 with two HRs and 30 RBIs last season. Replacing Horton at shortstop will be Garrett Gore. Gore hit .324 with two HRs and 27 RBIs. Chad Flack will once again be starting at third. Chad hit .247 with seven HRs and 46 RBIs.
OUTFIELD – Seth Williams and Tim Fedroff return as two of last year's starters. Missing from the outfield will be Cavasini, out with the torn ACL, Paulk, who transferred, and Reid Fronk. Fronk hit .318 last season and led the team with eleven homers. Williams will be one of the candidates to take over for Cavasini in center field. Seth hit .293 with nine HRs and 42 RBIs. Fedroff was second on the team in hitting with a .344 average. Moving to the outfield from first base will be freshman all-american Dustin Ackley. Dustin is recovering from an arm injury and may also see duty as a DH. He led the Heels in hitting with a .402 average and a team leading 74 RBIs. Freshmen Zeke Blanton and Ben Bunting as well as football player Kendric Burney could also see action in the outfield.
PITCHING – Sophomore Alex White returns as the lone starter from last year's weekend rotation. Luke Putkonen and Robert Woodard have both moved on to the pros. Woodard and Putkonen combined for 19 wins last year. With everyone having to play more weekday games this year, teams will have to go to a five man rotation. Joining White in the rotation will be Adam Warren, Rob Catapano, Garrett Davis and Matt Harvey. White, a sophomore, had a 6-7 record last year with a 4.94 era. Warren will be the most likely candidate to join the weekend rotation. He compiled a 12-0 record with a 2.17 ERA. He joins Tim Federowicz, Ackley, and Rob Wooten as preseason all-americans. Catapano may be the third man in the weekend rotation with freshman standouts Davis and Harvey starting out as the midweek starters. Harvey is projected to be one of the top freshmen in the country. The Heel bullpen suffered a big loss when Andrew Carignan was drafted. He was the top closer in the ACC compiling a 1.43 ERA. Rob Wooten will attempt to pick up the slack from the departed Carignan. Wooten was used as Carolina's setup man last year. He finished with a 6-1 record and a 2.35 ERA. Federowicz will return as the starting catcher and part-time first baseman. Tim hit .333 with nine homers and 65 RBIs. He'll be backed up by Mark Fleury who is coming off a good summer in the New England League.
OUTLOOK – The Heels and Miami should be the two leaders for the Coastal division title. They return seven players who started at one time or another in the field. This along with a deep bench should enable them to match last year's .314 team batting average. The key to the season will most likely come from their pitching staff. Will White be able to improve on last year's performance? How will Warren make the transition to the weekend rotation? How will Davis and Harvey fare against ACC hitting? And will Wooten be able to match Carignan as a closer? Those are some of the keys to the Heels winning the division and returning to the College World Series.