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Sunday May 16th

Preview: Riding a hot streak, UNC baseball prepares to face No. 17 Pitt in weekend series

UNC sophomore shortstop Danny Serretti (1) celebrates his home run during the Tar Heels' 11-5 win against Duke on Sunday, April 11, 2021 in Boshamer Stadium.
Buy Photos UNC sophomore shortstop Danny Serretti (1) celebrates his home run during the Tar Heels' 11-5 win against Duke on Sunday, April 11, 2021 in Boshamer Stadium.

Coming off of two statement wins against Duke, including a dominant 21-8 win on Monday, the North Carolina baseball team will travel to No. 17 Pittsburgh for a three-game series starting on Friday.

After losing two straight series against N.C. State and Florida State, the Tar Heels bounced back with a 3-2 win against a highly-ranked South Carolina team and won two out of three against Duke this past weekend. 

With this nice stretch of games, during which the Tar Heels have won three out of their last four, UNC has improved to a 17-13 record and an 11-10 mark in ACC play as they head to Pittsburgh to face the Panthers.

Pitt got the best of the Tar Heels in their last matchup in 2019, winning two out of three games and holding UNC to just four total runs in those wins.

The Tar Heels have continued to struggle on the road this year with a 4-7 record, but have a chance to turn things around in a big way against a top-25 opponent this weekend. 

North Carolina

UNC struggled to get the bats going against Florida State, only scoring six runs in the three-game series. This trend continued in their first game against Duke in a 4-2 loss, which made it five consecutive games that the Tar Heels failed to score at least five runs.

That would all change in their next two games, as the Tar Heels scored a whopping 32 runs and hit seven home runs — three of which came from graduate student first baseman Brett Centracchio — to help them come back from down 0-1 in the series and beat Duke.

North Carolina will continue to rely on the consistent sophomore outfielder Justice Thompson, who leads the team with a .327 batting average and 37 hits. He is joined as a steady force in the lineup by sophomore outfielder Caleb Roberts, who is having a solid season as well, hitting .311. 

With sophomore shortstop Danny Serretti leading the team with 25 RBIs and Centracchio riding his hot streak, UNC certainly hopes to keep the bats rolling heading into their matchup with Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh

The Panthers enter the series against UNC with an 18-10 record and a 12-9 mark in the ACC.

Pittsburgh went through a rough patch of games at the end of March, losing five out of six matchups, getting swept by Virginia Tech and losing a series to Notre Dame. 

But Pitt was able to turn it around, winning five straight games, most recently beating Lipscomb 9-6 on Tuesday and sweeping Miami last weekend.

Pittsburgh also has the bats rolling recently, scoring at least five runs in each of its five victories and at least nine runs in three of them. The Panthers are led by senior outfielder Nico Popa, who leads the team with 44 hits, 27 runs and a batting average of .364. Popa is also an elite base stealer — a perfect 11-11 in attempts on the season.

Junior outfielder Ron Washington Jr. is another player to look out for, as he has hit .319 on the season with 37 total hits. Don’t overlook redshirt senior David Yanni, either. Although he is only hitting .219 on the season, he leads the team with nine home runs, and is a player who can definitely go yard at any at-bat.

To contain Pittsburgh’s hot hitting, the Tar Heel pitching will need to be on point in this series. Look for starting pitcher Austin Love to lead the way, along with relievers Nik Pry, Shawn Rapp and Connor Ollio getting in on the action. 

Love leads the team with 55 strikeouts and a 4-2 record, with Pry behind him in second at 37 strikeouts. Ollio is coming off of a great performance in game one against Duke, pitching 4.2 innings and only allowing one earned run with six strikeouts. For a team that relies heavily on three starting pitchers, head coach Scott Forbes is not afraid to go to his bullpen early and often.

This series has big implications for the ACC Coastal Division standings, with a series win potentially catapulting the fourth-place Tar Heels up to second as Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech are only one game ahead of UNC in the standings.

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com



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