Current Date: Mon, 10 Mar 2014 19:29:44 -0400
Coming into this season, coach Mike Fox knew he had pitching. The North Carolina baseball team boasted one of the best staffs in the nation a year ago and returned this season with most of that staff intact.
Offense, on the other hand, was more of a mystery.
In stretches last season, pitching was the only thing keeping UNC afloat, as the Tar Heels finished 72nd in the country in scoring offense.
But this year, the Tar Heels’ bats have been steady — and potent.
No. 1 UNC (21-1, 7-1 ACC) entered this weekend’s series with Boston College scoring 9.6 runs a game and posting a 7.2 scoring margin — the best margin in the country and more than double the team’s 3.2 margin at the same point last year.
“It has been good to this point,” Fox said of the offense. “We felt like we might have a chance to be a better offensive team from maybe a speed standpoint.
“We’re well aware that the toughest part of the season is yet to be played, which means tougher pitchers.”
While it’s true that UNC hasn’t yet hit the most competitive portion of its schedule, there’s little denying how strong its offense has been.
Entering Saturday, the Tar Heels had produced 13 innings this season in which they scored five runs or more — including an 11-run frame against Miami on March 16.
In the first game Saturday, UNC flashed its explosiveness yet again, scoring three runs in the fifth and tacking on another five in the sixth to break open what had been a scoreless pitcher’s duel.
As they’ve done throughout the season, the Tar Heels scored in myriad ways, from small ball to sheer slugging. They brought across not one but two runs on a Matt Roberts suicide squeeze after a first baseman’s error in the fifth. And they flexed some muscle in the sixth with a three-run bomb from Brian Holberton that rattled the trees in right-center field.
“I think when you see a bunch of the hitters getting on a roll, you feed off of it, you kind of build confidence,” said third baseman Colin Moran, who picked up three hits on the weekend. “But the big innings, they just kind of happen … You can’t really rely on them.”
Don’t tell that to sophomore starter Benton Moss, who picked up his sixth win in the second game Saturday and has been the beneficiary of strong run support all season.
Fox said the jury’s still out on whether the team’s offensive production will continue.
But Moss? He’s already sold.
“Wholeheartedly,” Moss said, eyes lighting up. “Unbelievably so. I have so much confidence in our offense when I start the game.”
With what the Tar Heels have shown so far, it’s hard to blame him.
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