The No. 21 North Carolina baseball team will travel to Charlottesville this weekend for a three-game series against Virginia.
Winning 15 of their last 20 games, the Tar Heels (22-11, 10-5 ACC) are scorching hot as they take on an ACC Coastal division rival. With a successful weekend, UNC could potentially take the outright lead in the division.
After starting the season with a solid 9-5 record, Virginia has struggled in ACC play, dropping series' to Pittsburgh and No. 14 Duke, and also getting swept by Miami.
The two teams enter this weekend with similar records, but they're headed in different directions. Both sides, however, have been hitting the ball very well.
The two hottest hitters for UVa. have been junior Andy Weber and first-year Tanner Morris. Weber leads the Cavaliers in batting average and his .373 mark ranks third in the conference. In addition, Weber has hit three home runs, driven in 31 RBIs and possesses a .440 on-base percentage. Morris currently owns a .322 average and a .416 on-base percentage.
The Tar Heels have been just as hot. Junior Kyle Datres leads UNC hitters and ranks second in the ACC with a .376 batting average to go along with a .463 on-base percentage. He also has a 13-game active hitting streak.
Sophomore Michael Busch has been just as good, if not better. The power-hitting first baseman has slugged eight home runs and has 42 RBIs — fourth most in the nation.
The difference between the two sides in hitting will be based on the supporting casts. North Carolina features seven players with a .250 batting average or better, including Brandon Martorano, who has hit seven home runs this season.
The Cavaliers don’t have the same amount of depth throughout their lineup. Virginia only has three other players apart from Weber and Morris who are hitting above .250, and the team also has 59 fewer RBIs than UNC.
While North Carolina may hold a small advantage in hitting, Virginia’s starting pitchers could negate that advantage. The Cavaliers’ Friday and Saturday starters have been a dynamic one-two punch. Derek Casey and Daniel Lynch have both logged over 50 innings in eight starts while keeping their ERAs under 4.00.
The Tar Heels have not been as fortunate when it comes to starting pitching. Head coach Mike Fox had to alter the starting rotation due to the indefinite absence of ace Gianluca Dalatri at the beginning of the year. The three weekend starting pitchers for UNC all own ERAs of 4.29 or higher, including Taylor Sugg’s 5.91 ERA. But while the weekend starters for North Carolina do not have impressive numbers, they have combined for a 9-1 record on the season.
The Tar Heels and Cavaliers make for an interesting matchup, pitting hot hitting against strong starting pitching. A series win for UNC could put the Tar Heels in sole possession of the ACC Coastal division lead, further boosting their resume.
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