North Carolina Weekend Preview

Coming off a disappointing start to ACC play against Duke and a less than satisfying midweek split with Illinois State, the Miami Hurricanes will look to bounce back in a big way on the road in a series against #1 North Carolina.

The Tar Heels entered the season as the top-ranked team according to most and they have proven that they are as good as expected, if not better.

There were huge expectations for the Tar Heels pitching staff heading into the season, but they have far surpassed those so far.

The staff is led by Kent Emanuel. So far this season in four starts, he is 3-0 with a 0.56 ERA. He has struck out 25 with only six walks in 32 innings pitched. Opposing batters have managed only a .193 batting average against the left-hander.

A more unexpected staff ace has been Trent Thornton. In two relief appearances and three starts, Thornton is 3-0 with a 0.47 ERA. In 19.1 innings, he has 16 strikeouts and three walks. Opposing hitters have a miniscule .130 batting average against him.

Benton Moss hasn't been quite as good as those two, but he's been more than solid. He is 4-0 so far this season with a 2.62 ERA. In 24 innings, he has given up 10 walks, but he has struck out 30 batters. In short, hitters have had a really tough time putting the ball in play.

When you get into the UNC bullpen, things don't get too much easier. They feature seven regular relievers that have ERAs of 2.53 or lower. Trevor Kelley and Chris Munnelly lead the way out of the ‘pen. Both have thrown more than ten innings in relief and both have ERAs of 1.80 or lower.

Last season, North Carolina could pitch with just about anyone in the nation, but they struggled to find offense from anyone other than Colin Moran. This year that has not been a problem.

It's still pretty early, but freshman Skye Bolt has the inside track on national freshman of the year. So far this season, he is hitting .414 with three home runs, 16 RBI and a .520 on-base percentage.

Veteran Cody Stubbs is hitting .393 with two home runs, 23 RBI and a .478 on-base percentage.

Landon Lassiter, "the other freshman," is hitting .381 with a ridiculous .594 on-base percentage. The offense has been so good that it has been easy to forget about Moran. That's not to say that he hasn't had a very good season. He is hitting .344 with three home runs and 22 RBI. He's every bit as good as he has been in the past, but this season, he just won't have to carry such a heavy load.

North Carolina has yet to lose this season and I'm not sure they will this weekend either. Miami hasn't been good of late. The weekend series loss to Duke was tough and any thought that they would come out on fire and motivated for their Tuesday game against Illinois State was crushed when they took a 17-6 loss at the hands of the Redbirds. They say it's really tough to sweep anyone when you get into conference play, and I believe them, but UNC is just playing too well not to keep it rolling. They are significantly better than the Canes in every facet. I think UNC sweeps Miami.

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