Tar Heels All Business

The clock is running out on the University of Miami baseball team as their chances of earning a postseason berth fade with each passing game. Barely over the .500 mark and with just 17 regular-season games remaining on their schedule, the Hurricanes (21-19) can't afford too many more defeats if they hope to defend their national championship.

After taking two of three from Long Beach State, UM head coach Jim Morris is still optimistic that the Hurricanes could still reach the postseason if they continue to win consistently.

Taking Morris' positive spin into account one of things could happen at Boshamer Stadium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina this weekend: 1.) The Hurricanes will continue their slow climb back to respectability and perhaps begin. 2.) Or the final nail will be dug into what currently stands as the worse season in the program's history.

The Hurricanes will have to reserve their fortunes quickly in order to prevent the latter, starting Friday night April 26, when they travel to open a three-game series against the University of North Carolina Tar Heels, ranked No. 19 by Baseball America and No. 23 in the Baseball Weekly/ESPN poll.

Despite the series win over Long Beach, the Hurricanes are 4-8 in their last 12 games as they arrive in enemy territory to face one of the hottest teams in the country.

The Tar Heels, in the middle of a nine-game stretch in eight days, had won five of six before their game against Charlotte. But North Carolina head coach Mike Fox won't have to warn his team about any complacency before going out to face the Hurricanes.

"They're all big at this point and the fact that Miami might be struggling a little bit shouldn't affect us in the least because I feel we have a real mature ballclub," said Fox. "They know every game at this stage and the season takes on extra meaning and going up against a program with such prestige will only help us down the line. There's no question we've played a monstrous schedule this season, but playing the defending national champions is always huge."

North Carolina will host Friday and Saturday night games at 7 p.m. Sunday's series finale is scheduled for 2 p.m. And even though Morris was born and raised in North Carolina, Fox wants to make him feel far from home. Never mind that the Hurricanes are going through a youth movement and are still having problems 39 games into the season.

"We went through a similar situation last year," said Fox, when asked if the Tar Heels had ever been through such a stretch. "I know exactly what Jim is going through right now, being such a competitor and being a guy who is so used to winning. But do I feel sorry for him? I'll answer that one when his team packs up and gets ready to leave."

The Tar Heels, playing at Charlotte April 24 (press time), have won 23 of 29 games at home this season, which included a three-game sweep of previously-ranked No. 1 Florida State. As if that wasn't enough the Tar Heels are on pace to set new school records in home runs and doubles. UNC, who leads the Atlantic Coast Conference with 71 home runs, has complied a 13-5 conference record, their best mark in over a decade. Not bad for a team that hit 30 home runs all of last year.

Fox has been blessed this season with a team that has covered every phase of the game. Before the Charlotte game, the Tar Heels were hitting .320 overall and had a team ERA of 4.17 Senior Chris Maples, considered the Tar Heels best overall player, hasn't made too many friends on the opposing mound with a team-leading 17 home runs to with 50 RBI and a .330 batting average.

These Tar Heels also have the capability of making a lot of catchers look bad. In junior infielder Ross Adams and outfielder Adam Greenberg North Carolina posses the top two base stealers in the ACC and perhaps the fastest players in all of college baseball.

Adams, who has 101 stolen bases in his collegiate career, leads the ACC with 39 stolen bases and has a team-high 63 hits and .375 batting average . Adams has three HRs with 39 RBI and 15 doubles.

Greenberg has provided the Tar Heels with a spark plug at the top of the batting order since donning the Carolina blue several years ago. The 5-9, 165-pounder has 27 stolen bases in 32 attempts to with a .343 batting average. Despite his stature, Greenberg is second on the team in home runs (12) and RBI (42).

Greenberg is the reigning Co-Player of the Week after helping lead the Tar Heels to their first sweep over North Carolina State since 1990. In the series, Greenberg went 9-for-14 (.643) with five runs scored, four doubles, two home runs, nine RBIs and two stolen bases. Greenberg has started 161 of UNC's 163 games over the past three seasons and recently became the school's all-time leader in triples with his 15th in a win over Towson. He ranks fifth all-time in runs scored with 172.

"You can have all the homers and runs batted in. My job is to get on base and make things happen from the top," said Greenberg. "If I don't get on base I feel like I've let my teammates down."

Said Fox: "Its not a secret anymore why Adam is considered the best player in the Atlantic Coast Conference. He can do everything and just keeps proving it day in and day out. He can get a base hit. He can get the RBI. And he is going to end up with a ton of stolen bases. He's just been great for us. I don't know what else to say about that kid."

Fox has been pleased with everything the Tar Heels have done this season. But he would like to see the team's pitching staff start to improve as the regular seasons comes to an end.

"We haven't been as consistent in the pitching department lately. Hopefully, that will change," said Fox.

The North Carolina pitching staff is led by freshman pitcher Carter Harrell who is 7-3 with a 3.68 ERA. Harrell, who has made five starts, has recorded 54 strikeouts in 44 innings pitched. Freshman Garry Bakker is 5-2 with a 3.10 ERA. Scott Autrey (2-2, 4.58) and Daniel Moore (3-1, 7.50 ERA) round out the starters. Maple has four saves and a 1.26 ERA out of the bullpen.

It will be the first meeting between both teams since a 9-0 North Carolina victory at the 2000 ACC/Disney Baseball Blast in Orlando. The teams split two games in the 1998 Coral Gables regional with the Hurricanes earning a trip to the College World Series and winning the second game. UM, 2-2 in Chapel Hill, has won 13 of 19 against the Tar Heels, including six of eight under Morris.

"We get a lot of fan support around here and this weekend its going to be crazy with Miami in town," said Greenberg. "It is definitely a big series with the defending champions here."

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