Colin Moran leads strong infield for UNC

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Add eight to 18, and it doesn’t only come out to 26.

According to Perfect Game and Baseball America, it equals one.

Colin Moran — the junior third baseman who wears No. 18 — and the eight players around him on the diamond are ranked No.1 in the Perfect Game and Baseball America preseason polls.

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Moran is one of the biggest reasons why.

“He’s the centerpiece of our offense,” coach Mike Fox said. “It’s up to the other guys in the lineup to protect him.”

The leader of the Tar Heel infield is a Baseball America first team preseason All-American and a Perfect Game second team preseason All-American.

He drives in runs and hits for both average and power. Baseball America recently called him “perhaps the best pure hitter in college baseball.”

Moran missed 21 games last season after breaking his right hand punching a bathroom door in frustration. But he’s healthy now.

“You definitely don’t want to lose the fire you have to be good,” Moran said. “But you also have to control it and not do anything stupid like that.”

Fox said one of the Tar Heels’ biggest concerns will be getting Moran to the plate with runners on base. Since Moran bats third, the pressure falls on the two hitters in front of him.

One of them, Fox said, could be another infielder — Landon Lassiter, a freshman who was selected in the 16th round of the 2012 MLB draft but opted to attend North Carolina.

Lassiter is competing to start at shortstop with sophomore Michael Russell, who could end up playing second base.

“We have a really, really good problem — we’ve got two really, really good shortstops, and only one of them can play there,” Fox said. “(Lassiter is) going to play somewhere, and so is Michael Russell.”

There’s another good problem at catcher, where junior Matt Roberts is in a competition for the starting job with freshman Korey Dunbar.

Like Lassiter, Dunbar was drafted in last year’s draft before deciding to come to school.

Roberts said he welcomed the competition.

“Every team that wins at (the College World Series) has two good catchers,” Roberts said.

“And I think the world of Korey.”

After last Friday’s intrasquad scrimmage, Fox said the most likely UNC starting infield will be Moran at third base, Lassiter at shortstop, Russell at second base and senior Cody Stubbs at first base.

Fox also said he expects both catchers to get playing time, but that if the season opened the next day, Roberts would likely start because of his experience.

But no matter who plays shortstop or catcher, Moran is the key to the infield.

“It all starts with Moran at third,” Fox said.

Contact the desk editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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