Look at the 2020 North Carolina baseball roster, and you'll see a ton of new faces — 17, to be exact.
The team lost first baseman Michael Busch and pitcher Tyler Baum, among others, to the MLB Draft, along with four seniors who graduated in 2019. Three newcomers this season were in the starting lineup for UNC on Tuesday afternoon against Elon.
Despite the fact that the Tar Heels had a lot of turnover this offseason, they haven't seemed to miss a beat early in 2020.
The team stomped the Phoenix 7-1 for its fourth victory of the young season. While everyone did their fair share in the decisive victory, it was two of the new faces that stood out — first-year catcher Eric Grintz and sophomore pitcher Kyle Mott.
With North Carolina up 1-0, Grintz stepped up to the plate and laced a sharp single into right field that scored two runs, pushing the lead up to three. In the bottom of the fourth, he got an infield hit and hit another sharp single in the right-center field gap in the bottom of the sixth.
In the eighth, Grintz collected his fourth hit, a two-out double that scored another two runs to make it 7-1 North Carolina. The first-year finished the day 4-for-4 with four RBIs, a double, and a run scored.
Grintz may be a newcomer, but he has plenty of experienced players to look up to.
“I got some great leaders in here, and they really work hard, and they’re really good role models for me,” Grintz said. “I just continue to work hard each and every day.”
Head coach Mike Fox said he put Grintz in the lineup because of his great defensive ability behind the plate. But his hot offensive start has been a pleasant surprise to Fox.
“Kids can surprise you," Fox said. "He’s got one of those swings where it’s hard to pitch him in, and he’s able to cover the breaking ball away. It's just a little bit of funkiness to his swing, but he covers the whole plate with it.”
Grintz isn't the only newcomer that made an impact for the Tar Heels on Tuesday. Mott, a sophomore who transferred from Pitt Community College, threw three innings, gave up one hit and earned a win on the mound against Elon.
“I want him to look that good when the lights come on, the scoreboard comes on and when it’s game time, you got to go,” Fox said. “That’s the best he’s thrown, so I thought he looked really good.”
He came into the game with UNC leading 4-1 and promptly struck out the first batter on three pitches in the top of the fourth. After inducing a fly-out, Mott then surrendered a two-out single, the only baserunner he’d allow.
Mott continued to dominate on the mound in the top of the fifth inning. He started the inning off shaky, with a strikeout, then made short work of the next two batters. In the top of the sixth, his final inning, he retired the side on just 11 pitches.
With the blowout win, the Tar Heels are now 4-0. Much of the credit for that record can be attributed to newcomers like Grintz and Mott.
“I think the team is doing really good now, a lot of good energy in the locker room, and everyone’s kind of chipping in doing their part,” Mott said. “We’re just playing good ball."
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