After getting eliminated in the Lubbock Regional in the 2021 NCAA tournament, many players from the North Carolina baseball team looked to work on their game in summer leagues to prepare for their upcoming spring season.
With Austin Love, Justice Thompson, and Caleb Roberts all headed to the pros, second-year head coach Scott Forbes will be looking for some much-needed talent to replace his star players.
Whether it's incoming first-years or players who have been in the system for a year or two, some Tar Heels will have a great opportunity to fill the shoes of the team's recently departed stars.
One of the standout performers from summer league was sophomore infielder Mac Horvath. Playing 35 games for the Rochester Honkers in the Northwoods League, Horvath hit .287 with 35 hits, 25 RBIs and four home runs — with his best performance being a two-homer game on July 3.
Horvath's solid play earned him an appearance in the Northwoods League All-Star Game, home run derby and the Major League Dreams Showcase, with major league scouts in attendance.
Having started 35 games for the Tar Heels last season, Horvath will look to continue his strong play and provide some consistent hitting in the lineup.
Another big performer was sophomore third baseman Patrick Alvarez, who played for the Asheboro Copperheads in the Coastal Plain League.
Alvarez’s hitting stats show consistency. In 128 at-bats, he had 40 hits, leading to an impressive .313 batting average. In addition, he tallied 21 RBIs and three home runs.
Alvarez had a few monster games for the Copperheads, most notably a 3-for-4 performance with a homer and three RBIs on June 11.
Another sophomore infielder, Johnny Castagnozzi, got some good experience in the Cape Cod League playing for the Chatham Anglers. In 14 games, he hit .231 with two home runs.
Castagnozzi will be a pivotal player for UNC in the spring, as he started 36 out of the 42 games he played in last season.
Eric Grintz was another Tar Heel who was productive at the plate, hitting .316 in 26 games for the Bluefield Ridge Runners in the Appalachian League.
On the mound, redshirt sophomore Nick James had a nice summer league for the Full Count Rhythm in the Ohio Valley League. Although he only played in six games, he went 3-0 with a 3.05 ERA.
In 20.2 innings pitched, James struck out 28 batters while only giving up 17 hits. In a 10-0 win on June 29, James dominated in the five innings he pitched, striking out eight batters and only allowing three hits with no runs given up. Look for James to possibly find his way into the pitching rotation with Love off to the pros.
With the conclusion of the summer leagues, the production shown from some of the Diamond Heels' up-and-coming players is an encouraging sign to UNC fans. While Roberts and Thompson's prowess will be missed, the reps shown by the new wave of younger talent this summer should help the team push for contention in the ACC this spring.
After earning a spot in the top-25 last season, North Carolina struggled with consistency in the second half of the season, which led to an 18-18 record in conference play.
However, the hard work put in by the Tar Heels this summer could just be the beginning of a bounce-back season at Boshamer Stadium.