With the season-opening series now under its belt, the North Carolina baseball team looks to take on in-state foe Elon on Tuesday.
The Tar Heels swept Seton Hall this past weekend in Chapel Hill, which included shutting the Pirates out 19-0 in the second game and not allowing more than six runs throughout the series. Elon also had its first series of the season last weekend, finishing 1-2 against Fairfield at home in Latham Park.
The Tar Heels come into this match-up ranked No. 25 in the nation in Collegiate Baseball’s latest Division I preseason poll. Elon is not ranked in the poll, nor did it receive any votes to be ranked.
UNC head coach Scott Forbes is in his second season with the program, leading the Tar Heels to just over a .500 record last season at 28-27.
After North Carolina fell to a talented UCLA team in the Lubbock Regional round of last year’s NCAA tournament, Forbes and UNC are now looking to take a step forward this season. The Tar Heels found success in preseason scrimmages at Boshamer Stadium and hope to keep that momentum going as the season begins.
The Phoenix finished last season similarly with an even 22-22 record (10-8 in conference play), making it all the way to the CAA championship before falling to UNC-Wilmington. Head coach Mike Kennedy is now in his 26th season with the program, which has done well in a competitive CAA conference during his time.
In the past year, Forbes made many efforts to recruit a talented crop of new players in an attempt to continue the success of the historic North Carolina program built by former long-time head coach Mike Fox. After coaching the team from 1999 to 2020, Fox was the winningest active coach in Division I baseball upon retirement.
This year’s squad has an imbalance of collegiate baseball experience, with 31 underclassmen compared to a mere 12 upperclassmen. This season, the Tar Heels are without Austin Love, Caleb Roberts and Justice Thompson, who were all drafted into the major leagues following the 2021 season.
Still, Tar Heels are in no way short on talent. With first-year standouts like Vance Honeycutt, Alden Segui and Owen Flynn, this young roster will likely turn into a dominant team of developed players in the coming years.
Elon comes into Tuesday’s game with an even younger squad, tallying 34 underclassmen and red-shirt underclassmen on a 40-player roster.
At this point, both teams are expected to finish in the middle of their respective conferences. North Carolina is projected to finish fifth in the ACC Coastal Division after finishing last season with an 18-18 record in conference play. Elon is projected to finish fourth in the CAA conference after finishing sixth last year.
Earlier this month, five Elon players were named to the Preseason All-CAA team. No UNC player was named to the Preseason All-Conference team for the ACC Coastal Division.
North Carolina has beaten Elon in their last two matchups, not allowing Elon to score more than a single run in either game.
With lots of new talent and the lack of experienced veterans, it will be interesting to see how both the Tar Heels and the Phoenix match up against each other on Tuesday — and how each team fares throughout their respective seasons.
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