As the opening weeks of the 2022 collegiate baseball season conclude, North Carolina looks to take on Liberty in an exciting top-25 match-up Tuesday in Lynchburg, Va.
Both the Tar Heels and the Flames have found early success against tough opponents. After sweeping Seton Hall in the season-opening series, North Carolina proceeded to win eight of its last nine games, including a 3-0 sweep against Coastal Carolina in astonishing fashion.
The Flames lost their first game of the season on Feb. 18, but have gone on to win 10 straight since then, including sweeps against Winthrop and Canisius.
As of Tuesday, UNC is ranked No. 15 in the nation according to D1Baseball.com and No. 18 in the USA TODAY Coaches Poll. Liberty is ranked just above North Carolina in both polls.
Both teams have worked their way into the rankings after not being recognized in the 2022 D1 Baseball Preseason Poll. It will be interesting to see if the teams can maintain their rankings once conference play begins in the coming weeks.
A few standout Tar Heels have put up some impressive performances that have fueled their early success.
Sophomore infielder Johnny Castagnozzi put up a .454 batting average with 14 hits in the first nine games of the season. In the same amount of time, sophomore pitcher Shawn Rapp has recorded 13 strikeouts and two wins.
But perhaps the most notable early season performances belong to first-year Vance Honeycutt. In the first nine games of the season, Honeycutt has hit five home runs and scored 15 runs total, all while maintaining a .553 on-base percentage. His dominance in his first year with the program has Tar Heel’s excited about the future of UNC baseball.
Liberty has historically played well at home at Worthington Field at Liberty Baseball Stadium. The 2021 season marked the team’s best home record in program history, and it has yet to lose at home this season. Since the 2020 season was cancelled, the Flames have a home record of 64-9.
Derek Orndorff has led the Flames offensively in the first few weeks of play. After transferring to Liberty this year from Seton Hill University, he has scored six home runs in his last five games, while achieving a .529 batting average with 10 hits and 10 runs. Orndorff has put himself among the nation’s leaders in home runs in college baseball this season.
The Flames have also found success defensively with some stellar pitching performances. Trey Carter has kept teams scoreless through five innings of play, while sophomore Mason Fluharty has struck out 10 total innings. The sophomore duo leads Liberty in pitching appearances, and neither has given up any runs this season.
With the similar successes of each team on both sides of the ball, this game will be crucial for determining each team’s spot in the polls this upcoming week.
A win for the Tar Heels could move them up to a more secure ranking in the polls. We can expect a competitive and scrappy matchup between the closely ranked Tar Heels and Flames on Tuesday.
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