After a 2020 season cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, the UNC baseball team is now preparing for its upcoming season, with its first games scheduled for the weekend of Feb. 19 against James Madison.
The team ended last season with an overall record of 12-7 and an ACC record of 0-3 after a series loss against Notre Dame.
In the wake of Mike Fox's retirement, Scott Forbes, one of Fox's former assistants, has stepped into the role of head coach. He has high hopes for his team, as the players have trained hard in the offseason and are gearing up to compete as a team again for the first time in nearly a year.
“Overall, the two strengths of this team are the improvement of our pitching staff and the depth of our position players,” Forbes said at a Monday press conference. “We improved our pitching staff from top to bottom by adding three freshmen and returning every pitcher on our staff from last year. We are really deep behind the plate, including players on the infield and outfield, because of this year’s recruiting class.”
Shortstop Danny Serretti and pitcher Austin Love, both redshirt sophomores, also remarked on their hopes and goals for the season at the press conference.
“My goals are to be the rock at short, show the younger guys who are going to be playing the infield how to go about their business and solidify the defense,” Serretti said.
Love, who has never started for the Diamond Heels, will become part of this weekend's starting rotation.
“This year, what I look to improve is to throw more strikes and have quicker innings," Love said. "Last year, my fastball was one of my better pitches, so I’m going to keep building off that.”
There is no denying this is going to be a tough season for the Diamond Heels. The team will play a total of 50 games and 12 ACC weekend series against tough opponents. This includes midweek games against East Carolina twice on the schedule and home series against N.C. State, Duke and Miami.
Between March 23 and April 6, the Tar Heels will endure the most challenging part of the season with nine straight games against opponents ranked in D1Baseball's preseason poll including ECU, N.C. State, Florida State and South Carolina.
“They’re all really tough games, and after not playing a year, I think our guys will almost treat every game like it’s ECU or N.C. State,” Forbes said.
With a talented recruiting class and a large number of returning players, Forbes is inheriting a team with a lot of potential. Despite the challenging schedule and tough opponents, he is looking forward to leading his team to success through the ups and downs of the upcoming season.
“Not many people think we’re very good, so we’ll just have to see if we can prove them wrong from game one to finish," Forbes said. "Our expectations don’t change. No matter what preseason rankings are, our expectations are to make it to the College World Series and try to win it."