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Sunday September 26th

Preview: No. 21 UNC baseball looks to get back on track against No. 18 Florida State

UNC senior pitcher Shawn Gage Gillian (15) pitches the ball during the Tar Heels' 1-6 loss against N.C. State on Saturday, March 27, 2021 in Boshamer Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Buy Photos UNC senior pitcher Shawn Gage Gillian (15) pitches the ball during the Tar Heels' 1-6 loss against N.C. State on Saturday, March 27, 2021 in Boshamer Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Coming off an 11-10 loss to No. 8 East Carolina on Tuesday night, the No. 21 North Carolina baseball team is looking ahead to its series against No. 18 Florida State.

After jumping out to a 13-6 start to the season and rising to No. 11 in the Baseball America rankings, the Tar Heels have struggled as of late, and are currently in the midst of a four-game losing streak.

North Carolina and Florida State last faced each other in March 2018, when the Seminoles took two out of three games in Chapel Hill. In this weekend's matchup, the Tar Heels will travel to Tallahassee, Florida. 

UNC has had its troubles on the road this season, evident in the team's 3-5 record away from Boshamer Stadium. 

Here are key factors that will dictate the outcome of this week's critical ACC showdown. 

North Carolina

Despite being near the top of the ACC Coastal Division before its series against N.C. State last weekend, the Tar Heels fell flat and were swept by the Wolfpack. UNC struggled to score in the series and totaled just six runs in its three losses. The pitching staff also had difficulty slowing down N.C. State's hot hitting, and allowed six or more runs in each of the games. 

High-scoring games have typically not gone in UNC's favor this season. In the 10 games the Tar Heels have allowed six or more runs, the team has won just once. 

The Diamond Heels continue to be led offensively by sophomore outfielder Justice Thompson. Thompson leads the team with .341 batting average, 30 hits and 24 runs scored.

Alongside Thompson is sophomore outfielder Caleb Roberts, who leads the team with six home runs and has also chipped in 18 RBIs. The outfielder trio is rounded out with redshirt sophomore Angel Zarate, who complements the lineup with 26 hits and 16 RBIs. 

The team leader in RBIs is sophomore shortstop Danny Serretti, who has driven in 19 runs this season.

Florida State

Florida State holds a 12-8 record this season, including an 8-7 record in the ACC. In their last series, the Seminoles dropped two of the three games to Wake Forest. 

After starting the season slowly with a 5-6 record, the Seminoles found a rhythm and have begun to play winning baseball. Prior to its two losses to the Demon Deacons, Florida State reeled off seven consecutive wins to jump as high as No. 15 in the rankings. 

The Seminoles are led offensively by redshirt sophomore catcher Matheu Nelson, who has hit a team-leading 10 home runs while adding 26 RBIs and a .343 batting average. He also leads the team with an .814 slugging percentage and has scored 24 runs this season.

Another leader for Florida State’s offense is redshirt sophomore outfielder Robby Martin. Martin leads the team in hits and RBIs, with 28 and 27, respectively. He has also hit five home runs on the season. 

For UNC, it is important to avoid getting into a high-scoring affair, as five of Florida State’s wins this season occurred when the team scored at least 10 runs. 

The Tar Heels need to deliver a strong pitching performance to keep FSU at bay. Their primary pitching core of Austin Love, Max Alba and Max Carlson have all pitched more than 25 innings this season, and Love leads the team with four wins and 40 strikeouts. Nik Pry, who has pitched 19.1 innings this season, is second on the team with 30 strikeouts and has held opposing hitters to a .227 batting average.

With UNC sliding in the ACC Coastal, this weekend's slate will have a big impact on where the Tar Heels will move in the standings. To avoid extending its current four-game losing streak, UNC must limit Nelson's offensive production and fulfill its own scoring potential.

@jerem11ah

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com  


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