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The Daily Tar Heel

Preview: Regional analysis ahead of Diamond Heels' opening game against Iowa

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Junior third baseman Mac Horvath trots home to score during the Diamond Heels' 10-2 win over the Virginia Cavaliers on Thursday May 25, 2023.

After falling to Clemson in the ACC Tournament semifinal, the Diamond Heels have earned a No. 3 seed in the Terre Haute Regional hosted by Indiana State. 

Here’s a look at each team in the region.

No. 1 Indiana State

Indiana State is the one seed in the region, and the No. 14 national seed, after finishing 42-15 overall and winning the Missouri Valley Conference tournament. They are one of the hottest teams in the country currently, going 34-4 since March 25. 

Since March 25, the Sycamores have hit a combined .294, adding 51 home runs. In comparison, the Diamond Heels have hit 34 home runs in that stretch. 

Pitcher Lane Miller has posted a 7-0 record on the year in his 10 starts, allowing just a 2.61 ERA in 58.2 innings pitched. Connor Fenlong has seen the mound for 100 innings this season for the Sycamores, boasting a 9-2 record and a 3.24 ERA. The duo — along with Matt Jachec — have been dominant this season and will look to help Indiana State defend home-field advantage this weekend.

No. 2 Iowa

The Iowa Hawkeyes earned the No. 2 seed in the Terre Haute Regional after posting a 42-14 record this season. To start the season, the Hawkeyes knocked off Indiana State 6-2 in 11 innings in Jacksonville, Fla.

After going 15-8 in conference play, Iowa advanced to the Big Ten Tournament championship game where they fell to Maryland — the No. 2 seed in the Winston-Salem Regional. 

Iowa ace Brody Brecht is one of the best pitchers in college baseball and a projected first-round pick in the 2024 MLB Draft. He has an ERA of 3.86 in 70 innings pitched, with a fastball reaching 104 miles per hour back in March. He will likely be the starting pitcher against the Tar Heels on Friday night.

At the plate for the Hawkeyes, Keaton Anthony and Brennen Dorighi are the main offensive threats with .389 and .340 batting averages, respectively, on the season. Dorighi has added 13 home runs and Anthony has nine. 

No. 3 North Carolina

The Diamond Heels started the season as the No. 11 team in the country, with high expectations after making a run to the Super Regionals last season. But, after a disappointing regular season, the Tar Heels earned just a three-seed in the NCAA Tournament.

In order to advance to the Super Regionals, the Diamond Heels will need to shore up their struggles with inconsistent pitching and leaving runners on base.

The starting pitching rotation has seen many changes, with junior pitchers Max Carlson and Connor Bovair both having stints in the bullpen after struggling on the mound. The one constant has been junior Jake Knapp, who has started all 16 games he has appeared in, and most recently helped the Tar Heels to a 10-2 win over Virginia in the ACC Tournament. Knapp will start the first game for the Diamond Heels on Friday night against Iowa.

Earlier this week, Forbes announced that star outfielder Vance Honeycutt will be out for the regional round due to a lower back injury suffered against N.C. State. With Honeycutt out, look for junior outfielder Patrick Alvarez, junior outfielder Mac Horvath and junior catcher Tomas Frick to have an impact at the plate. 

No. 4 Wright State

Wright State earned an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament after winning the Horizon League Conference Tournament over Oakland. On the season, the Raiders have a 39-21 overall record. 

Andrew Patrick leads the way for the Raiders at the plate, batting .333 in 59 games this season. On top of that, he has added 21 doubles, four triples, 19 home runs and 58 RBIs. On the mound, Sebastian Gongora boasts a 10-1 record with an ERA of just 2.92. 

@mdmaynard74

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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