North Carolina has Ticket Punched to Omaha
For the eleventh time in program history, and the seventh time under the direction of Head Coach Mike Fox, the North Carolina Tar Heels are heading back to Omaha and the College World Series. They did this in impressive fashion last weekend sweeping a best of three matchup with the Stetson Hatters out of the Atlantic Sun Conference.
The Tar Heels (43-18) swung the bats really well in the series collecting 23 hits in the two games. And in each of the two games against Stetson, they had a big contribution from their star players with Ike Freeman being the best of the bunch, with five hits in the two contests.
Meanwhile, UNC pitching was good enough to get the job done, allowing 19 hits combined in both matchups, and getting key outs when needed to keep the Hatters at bay. They will need more of the same in Omaha.
As was the case all during the regular season, Carolina’s offense was led by three players. Kyle Datres hitting .344 is at the top of North Carolina batting order. He is getting help from Michael Bosch and a .333 batting average with big-time production of 18 home runs and 63 RBI, and Ike Freeman, who after the Super Regional is getting closer to the .300 mark. He is currently is at .295.
But to win in Omaha you have to pitch it as well. Caden O’Brien, who threw two scoreless innings of relief in game one last weekend to notch his six wins against no defeats, will take a 2.14 ERA to the CWS. Cooper Criswell, who went five innings giving up only one earned run to improve to 6-2 with a 2.82 ERA, will be called upon as well. And so too will be Brett Daniels who checks in with a 6-0 record with a 2.74 earned run average. Carolina can pitch it and hit it and that will be key for them in this format.
UNC already knows who they will face in their opening game of the CWS, the Oregon State Beavers out of the Pac-12. These two schools have some history in this event. They met for the championship in both 2006, and 2007 with the Beavers coming out on top both times. Something UNC fans surely have not forgotten.
Some are calling Oregon State the best team in this field, and for good reason. Their record of the 49-10-1 is outstanding. They swept their Super regional series versus Minnesota by scores of 8-1 and 6-3. They have the Pac-12 pitcher of the year for the last two seasons in LHP Senior Luke Heimlich who went eight innings in game one against the Gopher and gave up seven hits and one run. That was a home run to Minnesota DH, Toby Hanson.
Heimlich who will likely get the start VS North Carolina, boasting a 16-1 record with 157 punch outs in 120 innings pitched. He is backed up in the starting rotation by Bryce Fehmel who has a 10-1 mark, 33 earned runs allow in 103 innings of work. Fehmel’s one flaw is 11 home runs given up this year.
When its time to protect leads late in the game, the Beavers turn to their closer, Jake Mulholland. He has 15 saves, a 1-2 record, 10 ER allowed in 38 innings of work, and has thrown four long balls this season.
Oregon State can swing the bat and the team hits it at a .320 clip. In game two against Minnesota, the top five batters in the order went 10-for-26 with four runs batted in.
Steven Kwan is a .357 hitter with 41 runs driven in from the top spot in the Beavers lineup. He is followed by Trevor Larnach at .336 with 18 dingers and 68 RBI. He slugs it at a .645 clip on the season. Then there is Adley Rutschman with 70 RBI to go along with seven HRs.
These guys can pitch and hit and game one will be a test for UNC.
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