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NCAA Super Regionals: Duke and North Carolina

Duke and North Carolina on to Super Regionals

The first weekend of the NCAA baseball tournament is over. What started out as six teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference in the field of 64 is now down to two. The Duke Blue Devils and the North Carolina Tar Heels survived the first weekend of play and find themselves one step closer to the ultimate destination of Omaha, Nebraska, and the College World Series.

North Carolina will be making their eighth trip to the Super Regional. It will be their first since 2013. The Tar Heels at 41-18, will be hosting the Stetson Hatters out of the Atlantic Sun League.

Both programs come into this series hot! The Tar Heels are riding a 16-game win streak, while the Hatters have won 18 in a row. Stetson features one of the best pitchers in the county in RHP Logan Gilbert, who was a first-round selection in this week’s MLB Draft. Gilbert is 10-1 with a 2.52 ERA, part of a four-man starting pitching staff that all possess sub three earned run average while holding opponents to a .200 batting average. Last weekend in the Deland Regional, they went 3-0 beating Hartford 8-3, then Oklahoma State twice by scores of 10-3 and 11-1. They head to Chapel Hill with an overall record of 48-11.

The Tar Heels went a perfect 3-0 themselves last weekend shutting out North Carolina A&T 11-0, then knocking off Houston by a 4-3 margin and a wild 19-11 win.

North Carolina on offense is led by two players, first Kyle Datres hitting at a .343 clip, with six home runs and 34 RBI.  Also, there is Michael Busch with a .329 average with 12 HR and 61 RBI.  Busch slugs it at a .536 clip. Both players have played every game this season for the Tar Heels and both will be important to the team because of the quality of pitching that awaits them this weekend.

These two teams have met 13 times over the years, but not since 1985 have they played each other. Stetson holds the advantage at eight wins to UNC’s five. Game one is Friday morning at 11 AM.

The Duke Blue Devils will be on the road this weekend, and they are 14-8 as the visiting team this year. Overall, Duke comes in at 44-16. They are traveling to Lubbock Texas to take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders out of the Big 12 conference.

Duke got here by winning the Athens Regional and must win four straight games out of the loser’s bracket. After losing their opening game to Troy 6-0, the Blue Devils righted the ship and defeated Campbell 16-8, a rematch with Troy 15-6, then beat the host school Georgia twice by identical scores of 8-5.

The Blue Devils are led by the power bat of OF Griffin Conine who belted 18 long balls this season and drove in 52 runs. This Blue Devils offense is built on speed, with five members of the starting nine with double-digits in steals.

However, if there is a flaw with this team, it could be their starting pitching.  All three of Duke’s weekend starters all have a high ERA. Ryan Day (5-4, 5.05), Adam Laskey (6-4 5.47), and Mitch Starlings (4-5 6.01). When they pitch well and can get to their closer, they are in good hands with Jack Labosky (3-0, 10 saves, 0.71 ERA in 38.0 IP).

The Texas Tech Red Raiders are the number nine national seed and are (42-17). They went undefeated last weekend beating New Mexico State 9-2 and Louisville twice 10-4, 11-6. The Red Raiders are led by the number one and two hitters in the league.

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