The North Carolina baseball team’s 2021 season ended abruptly in Lubbock, Texas, in the regional round of the NCAA Tournament with a 12-2 loss to UCLA in June.
Featuring an outstanding outfield with three draft picks, an all-Region pitcher and a power-hitting first baseman with a .465 slugging percentage, the Tar Heels managed to sweep Clemson and Louisville, take down a highly-ranked ECU team and beat their rivals from Durham, the Duke Blue Devils, 21-8.
Head coach Scott Forbes, now in his second year, faces the task of replacing those talented players with a combination of transfers, in-house options and incoming first-years, as the season is set to start in a couple weeks.
“If you let yourself learn the first year, you’ll pretty much learn the most of any year,” Forbes said. “We were happy with the way things went, being able to get into the regional, but that’s not our ultimate goal.”
On the mound pitching this season, sophomore right-hander Max Carlson, junior left-hander Brandon Schaeffer and senior right-hander Gage Gillian should command most of the workload, but also expect graduate Shaddon Peavyhouse, sophomore Davis Palermo, senior Caden O’Brien and sophomore Connor Bovair to provide relief from the bullpen or spot starts throughout the season.
Forbes has not announced his weekend starters yet, so the UNC pitching rotation should be fluid to start the season.
“Last year, we had a lot of talent, and I think that’s the same case this year,” O’Brien said. “If we can buy into the M.O. that we always have a chip on our shoulder, that people are always counting us out and we have to prove people wrong, I think that will help us out a lot.”
Sophomore catcher Tomas Frick returns after starting 52 of 53 games last year, bringing strong defensive ability and an added year of experience behind the plate. He threw out 34.8 percent of base stealers a season ago, so expect that number to only go up in 2022.
As for the infield, junior shortstop Danny Serretti returns following a strong end to last season. The New Jersey native teams up with sophomore Johnny Castagnozzi — making the transition from second to first base — and fellow sophomore Mac Horvath at third to create a talented group with another year under their belts.