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The Daily Tar Heel

Ahead of UNC baseball's season opener, here's a look at the team's key departures

Rodney Hutchison Jr. ECU

Rodney Hutchinson Jr. (48) pitches against East Carolina on Feb. 25 at Boshamer Stadium.

The North Carolina baseball team will compete in its season opener against Xavier on Friday afternoon. The Tar Heels have the opportunity to begin their fight back to Omaha, where they were eliminated by Oregon State in the College World Series last season.

In the 2018 season, UNC made its 11th appearance in the College World Series after winning the ACC Coastal Division. After their impressive season, 10 Tar Heels were selected in the 2018 MLB Draft. Here’s a look at some key departures from last year's team and the legacies they left behind.

Cooper Criswell

Serving as a valuable part of the rotation for the Tar Heels, Criswell was instrumental in the team’s performance last season and was selected as the team's Most Valuable Pitcher. Most notably, in the opener of the NCAA Chapel Hill Regional, Criswell pitched six innings allowing three hits, and led UNC to an 11-0 win against North Carolina A&T. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels in the 13th round and finished 2018 on the roster for the Arizonad League Angels. 

Replacing Criswell will be tough, but UNC has some other options available, such as sophomore Caden O’Brien and junior Austin Bergner — who was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks but chose to return to school.

Brett Daniels

Daniels was a right-handed reliever for UNC and was picked by the Houston Astros in the 17th round of the MLB Draft. He finished last season with the Astros minor league affiliate Tri-City ValleyCats. He was an important part of the Tar Heels' pitching rotation last season. One of his highlights came against Duke, when he struck out five batters over the course of 3.2 innings, assisting in the Tar Heels' 8-6 win.

Kyle Datres

Datres played third base for the Tar Heels and was selected in the 12th round of the MLB Draft by the Colorado Rockies. He finished 2018 playing for their farm team, the Boise Hawks, as a second baseman. While at UNC, Datres was a first-team All-ACC and third-team All-American selection by ABCA/Rawlings. Datres was an invaluable cog in the Tar Heels' active 18-game winning streak at home and the Tar Heels only lost six games at home last season.

Zack Gahagan

While at UNC, Gahagan was a first baseman and second baseman. He was selected to the Chapel Hill Regional All-Tournament Team. Following the Tar Heels' impressive 2018 season, he was chosen by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 39th round and finished 2018 playing as a first baseman for the Gulf Coast League Cardinals.

Rodney Hutchison

Hutchison was a right-handed pitcher for UNC and was selected in the sixth round of the draft by the New York Yankees. He finished 2018 playing for the Staten Island Yankees. During the NCAA Regional Opener, Hutchison pitched one inning against North Carolina A&T and was able to keep the Aggies scoreless.

Brandon Riley

While he was with the Tar Heels, Riley was an outfielder. After the 2018 season, he was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 14th round. He completed 2018 with the Peoria Chiefs as a center fielder. Last season, Riley was a major factor in UNC moving on to the College World Series by helping the Tar Heels beat Stetson in the NCAA Super Regional.

Cody Roberts

Roberts was a catcher for UNC, in addition to playing right fielder. He was selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the 11th round and finished 2018 playing for the Aberdeen IronBirds as a catcher. 

With the loss of all these players, UNC will have to work even harder this year to make sure that the younger members of the team can compete at the same level and successfully make it on the road to Omaha.

@MarkBurnett1234

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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