Last season, the North Carolina baseball team compiled a 28-27 record and finished fourth in the ACC Coastal Division, before being eliminated by No. 21 UCLA in the Lubbock Regional of the NCAA Tournament.
The Diamond Heels have been hard at work this fall prepping for the upcoming season, highlighted by their scrimmage against Walters State on Sept. 18 and an upcoming one with Vanderbilt, who made it all the way to the College World Series final last spring.
UNC’s main focus this offseason is to get better every day, and now having the ability to safely enjoy more normal aspects of college life certainly helps them do that.
“We’re obviously still battling COVID and the variant, but these kids are now going to class in person, going to football games, going to field hockey games, going to volleyball games, and that’s part of being here," head coach Scott Forbes said. "It’s tough when the only thing you’re able to do is be at the baseball field and be part of a bubble.”
Getting better every day is something every team works toward, but it has been an area the Tar Heels have struggled with in the past.
“Every day we just try to be a little bit better than we were yesterday," redshirt junior outfielder Angel Zarate said. "We’re not trying to look ahead at all to the season, and I think that’s one area where we’ve struggled in the past, being so eager to play that we didn’t focus on being in the moment.”
The Walters State scrimmage was the first time new players got to compete in Tar Heel uniforms, and the team's older players collectively believe the game signified the progress that was made this fall.
“The first scrimmage was awesome, seeing the new guys out there on the field for the first time, pitching especially,” junior shortstop Danny Serretti said. “They’re super cool experiences and we’re just trying to improve, looking inward and fine-tuning some things to self-evaluate.”
Those new players include a combination of transfers and first-years. And with what Serretti has to say about how they’ve done this fall, Tar Heel fans have cause to be excited for their contributions this spring.
“Patrick Alvarez jumps right off the page, Vance Honeycutt looks like a super dynamic player," Serretti said. "Pitching wise, Shaddon Peavyhouse, Connor Bovair and Brandon Schaeffer come to mind and should help us out, and Davis Palermo has been dominating the whole fall. I’m really excited to see the steps they take the rest of the fall and what they look like in the spring.”
Returning players from last year understand the importance of keeping COVID-19 out of the program, and they’ve emphasized that point to their younger teammates who are experiencing campus life for the first time.
“We still have to be careful, but the team is really buying in because we don’t want to get knocked off the field for 10 to 14 days with COVID issues,” Zarate said. “Those are 10 to 14 days where we can get better, so I think everybody knows that and nobody wants to ruin it for the rest of the squad."
The Tar Heels will next hit the field for the Vanderbilt scrimmage on Oct. 15 at 3:30 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public.
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