With two victories in its last conference series against Miami, the North Carolina baseball team looks to climb in the ACC standings this weekend at No. 6 Notre Dame.
UNC holds a 14-13 conference record and sits in fifth place in the ACC Coastal Division. Notre Dame ranks second in the Atlantic Division with an 18-8 record in ACC play.
The last time these teams squared off was in March 2020, when the Fighting Irish swept the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill in what would be UNC’s last series before COVID-19 ended the season.
Here is what to watch in this weekend’s matchup.
When the Tar Heels travel to South Bend, they will be tasked with halting their struggles on the road, where they are only 5-9 this season. UNC has won just one conference series away from Boshamer Stadium thus far, when the team took two games at Boston College in March.
North Carolina enters the weekend in the midst of an inconsistent offensive stretch. After scoring 23 runs in a four-game span earlier this month, the Tar Heels have only scored one run in each of their last two contests, both of which resulted in losses.
When UNC’s bats are hot, most of the production continues to come from sophomore outfielder Justice Thompson. Thompson leads the team in batting average (.352), hits (51) and stolen bases (14) and has scored the team’s lone runs in its last two outings.
Another key offensive contributor is sophomore outfielder Caleb Roberts, who leads the Tar Heels with 28 RBIs. His 39 hits, a number which trails only Thompson's, have led to a .287 batting average.
On the mound, UNC has relied heavily on redshirt sophomore Austin Love, who boasts a 5-3 record and leads the pitching staff with 74 strikeouts. Although his ERA sits at 4.23, he has been very effective at shutting down opposing batters, who have only compiled a .225 average against him.
Notre Dame has been one of the best teams in the nation this season, which is evident in its No. 6 ranking and 21-8 overall record.
After being shut out in its series opener against Boston College last week, the Fighting Irish responded by establishing a three-game winning streak. This season, Notre Dame has averaged just over six runs per game while allowing just over four on the other end.
The Fighting Irish’s offensive production is well-balanced throughout the roster. Junior infielder Carter Putz leads the team with 40 hits and a .345 batting average.
Senior infielder Niko Kavadas has also been stellar at the plate, as he leads the team in home runs, runs and RBIs, with 15, 27 and 37, respectively. His home run output ties him with three other hitters for the second-most in the nation, and he also ranks third nationally with a .832 slugging percentage.
The pitching core of the Fighting Irish is led by sophomore Tanner Kohlhepp, who is tied for first on the team in strikeouts with 37 and has a 5-1 record. He is tied with graduate student John Michael Bertrand, who is 4-1 this season.
Capturing at least two wins on the road will go a long way for a UNC team that hopes to build some positive momentum with postseason play approaching. To do this, the Tar Heels will need to overcome their offensive struggles and limit the firepower of the Fighting Irish.
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