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UNC baseball adds 24 players to roster, boasts best ACC first-year class

Junior Patrick Alverez (8) and transfer Ryker Galaska (12) celebrate a home run scored by Galaska at UNC basbeall's fall exhibition game against Walters State on Sept. 22, 2023 at Boshamer Stadium.

The Diamond Heels are ushering in a heralded recruiting class this year, which is currently taking part in fall workouts at the Boshamer Stadium. The incoming first-year class is the best in the ACC, ranks No. 10 on Perfect Game’s recruiting board and, including transfers, is ranked No. 12 by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper. 

The newcomers are comprised of six Division I transfers, three junior college transfers, one Division III transfer and 14 athletes out of high school. The pitchers outnumber the position players 14 to 10. 

The Diamond Heels announced the newcomers in September but have yet to unveil the official 40-man roster for the 2024 season.

Here's a way-too-early look at the new additions:

Which players were lost to the draft?

There were some concerns from Tar Heel fans of the class being significantly impacted by the 2023 draft, but that did not end up being the case. UNC did lose two very talented recruits. Two-time North Carolina Gatorade State Player of the Year Walker Jenkins was selected and signed as the fifth pick in the 2023 draft by the Minnesota Twins. He was followed by Zyhir Hope, who was selected in the 11th round. 

Having lost its reliable catcher Tomas Frick to the New York Yankees and both backup catchers to the transfer portal, Perfect Game’s No. 9 ranked catcher in the nation, first-year Luke Stevenson, will be a boon for UNC. Stevenson has already shown he can be vocal, take command from behind the dish and sling balls across the diamond. Elon transfer redshirt senior Parker Haskin may also see some time behind the plate. 

What will the impact of UNC's first-year pitchers be?

UNC's most notable arms out of high school are Francesco Capocci, Boston Flannery and Olin Johnson. 

Capocci, out of Denmark High School in Georgia, tops the slew of new arms coming to campus. Capocci’s fastball settles around 92 to 93 mph and has touched 94, with his body and athleticism hinting towards a higher velocity. 

Flannery — who already debuted a 95 mph fastball — from New York and right-hander Jason DeCaro are just a few more of the arms that will fight for innings. 

Another prospective starting arm for the Tar Heels is Johnson, who ranked No. 201 on’s top prospects for the 2023 draft. The 6-foot-5-inch right-hander has touched 96 with his fastball and possesses an upper 70’s slider and changeup with a high upside.  

Sophomore right hand pitcher Justin Szestowicki pitches during UNC baseball's fall exhibition game against Walters State on Sept. 22, 2023 at Boshamer Stadium.

Who are the top new faces from the portal?

Along with the incoming first-years, the Diamond Heels have also nabbed talented transfers in corner infielder Parks Harber and left-handed pitcher Shea Sprague. Harber and Sprague were named to D1 Baseball’s Top Impact Transfers list at No. 44 and No. 51, respectively. 

Harber started 53 games for Georgia last season and ranked second on the team with 18 homers while slashing .283/.342/.575 and knocking in 56 RBIs. The infielder from Atlanta will add an experienced bat and corner infield mobility.

Sprague, on the other hand, will jump into a pitching staff that lost veteran Max Carlson and struggled to get quality starts across the previous season. The former Elon standout recorded a 2.69 ERA over 90.1 innings pitched and doled out 82 strikeouts last season.

The Tar Heels also added transfers Eliot Dix, an infielder from Longwood University, and speedy graduate transfer outfielder Anthony Donofrio. 

So what's next?

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Starting spots will be hard to come by this spring, and one of the most pivotal and difficult to place will be the middle infield. Last year, Jackson Van De Brake and Colby Wilkerson roved between the corners, but incoming transfer Alex Madera could give both a run for their money. The graduate transfer out of Arcadia University, who slashed an absurd .458/.533/.633 last season could slot into either spot. 

Currently, bats are alive at Boshamer Stadium with team scrimmages and exhibitions. The Diamond Heels decimated Walters State Community College, 26-5, in their first 14-inning exhibition scrimmage in late September. 

The Tar Heels will play one final exhibition scrimmage against Liberty University on Oct. 20 at 6 p.m., before participating in an intrasquad Fall World Series at the end of October. 


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