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The Daily Tar Heel

Spring Sports - Baseball Looks at Rebuilding Year in 2001

And, yes, the scoreboard at Boshamer Stadium does say that the home team is the Tar Heels.

But for those who payed any attention to the baseball team during its 46-17 season a year ago, most of those guys wearing home white look like impostors.

Even though the Tar Heels started out the 2001 campaign 5-2, one all-important question still lingers:

Who are these guys??

"That's just the nature of Division I baseball, losing players to the draft, losing junior pitchers," UNC coach Mike Fox said. "It's hard to see Derrick (DePriest) and those guys up there in the stands, but they're not eligible anymore, so you got to get some new ones out there."

UNC lost 15 players from last year's squad, seven of which were taken in the Major League Baseball amateur draft.

Fox, 92-37 in two-plus years at North Carolina (all stats through Sunday), is now in the unenviable position of trying to recapture last year's success with a roster featuring 15 freshmen out of 29 players.

The pitching staff was most noticeably decimated. DePriest, last season's closer, had a 2.89 ERA with 12 saves, and Ryan Snare, last year's ace, was

10-1 with a 3.14 ERA.

UNC will also have to cope with the losses of Eric Henderson (6-6, 4.32) and Ryan Earey (4-3, 3.92).

That leaves sophomore Scott Autrey

(7-0, 6.00) as this year's top dog in a starting rotation consisting of himself and a handful of freshmen.

"I am trying to show (the freshmen) how much it takes to pitch at this level. It's a different level from high school," said Autrey, who is 1-1 in 2001. "I try to show them the ropes and show that you need to work hard to be successful."

So far this season, the young guys have been up and down. Scott Manshack allowed three runs in his first 11 innings pitched this season, earning his first career win.

Daniel Moore pitched a seven-inning, three-hit shutout of William & Mary in his first start, but he got picked apart his next time out against Minnesota, giving up three runs without retiring a batter.

Fellow starter Scott Senatore has struggled, giving up eight runs in his first 4 2/3 innings pitched.

But if the Tar Heels are worried about the lack of experience in their starting rotation, they're not showing it.

"They're really coming along," sophomore catcher Ryan Blake said of his freshmen battery mates. "I really don't have to do much at all. (Pitching) coach (Roger) Williams is a great coach; he's got them ready for the game.

"All I've got to do basically is catch. They're doing an excellent job."

The Tar Heels felt a number crunch at the field positions as well. In all, UNC lost the producers of 49 of its 69 home runs (71.0 percent) from a year ago, 349 of its 479 RBI (72.9 percent) and 437 of its 719 hits (60.1 percent).

The combined batting average of those lost from last year's team was .327, while the returnees hit .324.

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But take out the offense of ACC Rookie of the Year and Tar Heel center fielder Adam Greenberg, and the returnees hit just .298 in 2000.

But that's North Carolina's luxury; it doesn't have to take out Greenberg's numbers. The Tar Heels' leadoff hitter was the consummate table-setter last year, getting on base at a .460 clip.

"That is what my role is," Greenberg said. "We are going to have to work hard to score runs this year, and (we have to do) any little thing we can do, whether it is bunting or working the pitcher and taking a walk."

UNC hasn't yet struggled offensively as the statistics of last season might predict. The Tar Heels' bats were cold last weekend, scoring just nine runs in the three games they played, but UNC is still averaging more than eight runs per game.

"We have a lot of confidence that they're going to give us what we need to win," freshman Kevin Brower said.

Former outfielder Tyrell Godwin -- he of the 11 home runs and 67 RBI last season -- was drafted 35th overall by Texas (though he did not sign).

Replacing him and Matt McCay in the outfield might eventually be junior Ralph Roberts, who hit 27 home runs in two seasons at Lenoir Community College, and UNC running back Brandon Russell.

Russell, who, as Godwin did, plays football at UNC and wears No. 24 on the baseball diamond, is sure to draw comparisons to Godwin all season.

"That may not have been the smartest thing in the world to give him No. 24, but they're not comparable," Fox said of Russell and Godwin. "Brandon's a unique individual. He's a very smart, intelligent player who really picked up on what we were doing very quickly."

Another who has seemed to learn the system well is the lone senior on the team, transfer Jason Howell, who has led the Tar Heels' bullpen-by-committee pitching

eight scoreless innings while batting .389.

He's just one of many new faces trying to look comfortable in their new digs.

Said Brower, "We all know we're here for a reason: We can all play."