Tar Heels ?ght for baseball conference title against Virginia
After their first series loss of the season last weekend, the now No. 4 North Carolina baseball team will face No. 7 Virginia Thursday — and attempt to win the Coastal Division of the ACC in the process.
Going into the series, the Tar Heels are 20-5 in conference play and sit in first place, while the Cavaliers are 20-7 and sit in second. This final regular season series for both teams will determine the winner of the division.
“Our league’s really, really good and Virginia is right up there at the top,” coach Mike Fox said. “They have had a sensational season. Certainly they are one of the better teams in our league — I think everybody knows that.
“All you have to do is look at their record and where they are … They are always good, and this year they are especially good.”
Facing a team that is in the top 10 in the nation in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, UNC will need solid work from its pitchers.
But Fox said he has no doubts that his team and ace pitcher Kent Emanuel — who lost the game to Georgia Tech in the last inning last week — will be ready to go come Thursday.
“(Emanuel) pitched great against Georgia Tech, (he) just gave up one big inning,” Fox said. “This is a big series and a good team — no reason we won’t be ready.”
Senior outfielder Chaz Frank said his team has no problems putting losses behind them and moving forward to the next challenge.
“I think we have a really tough team,” Frank said. “A team that is not going to dwell too much on our losses.”
Sophomore starting pitcher Benton Moss said he also realizes that the next game is the one that they really need to focus on.
“This will definitely be the most important series because it is the series at hand,” Moss said. “That’s what coach says: Concentrate on the game at hand, the pitch at hand.”
The Tar Heels may have more than just concentration working in there favor though.
After breaking his foot in a game April 12, freshman slugger Skye Bolt should be back in the lineup in time for Thursday night’s game.
Fox said Bolt was cleared to play on Monday.
In 125 at-bats this season, Bolt leads the team with a .392 average, a .648 slugging percentage and is second only to third baseman Colin Moran with a .509 on-base percentage.
But regardless of who is in the lineup, the Tar Heels have shown they know how important this series is.
“Our team will bounce back (from the Georgia Tech series loss) because this is a tough team and a hardworking team,” Frank said. “But of course with me being a senior, I will be around the club house and locker room picking people up and saying ‘Let’s move on, we have bigger things ahead of us.’”
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