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May 22, 2012
Heels coming together at right time
Second-seeded Carolina, the champions of the baseball's Coastal Division, will play seventh-seeded Wake Forest (32-22, 13-17) at 7 p.m. on Wednesday in Greensboro, with Shane Taylor taking the hill for the Diamond Heels.
To be successful, tournament baseball requires arms and lots of them.
North Carolina (a 42-13, 22-8) will arrive at Greensboro today with an assortment of pitchers capable of throwing in the Atlantic Coast Conference Baseball Tournament, which begins on Wednesday at 11 a.m., when top-seeded Florida State (43-12, 24-6) plays eighth-seeded Georgia Tech (32-24, 12-18, 22-8) in the opening game at Greensboro's minor-league park.
Directions to NewBridge Bank Park can be found www.theaccc.org. Just go to the championships page under baseball and directions from all compass points are there.
The conference standings and notes can be located by clicking the link below:
UNC BASEBALL TOURNAMENT NEWS AND NOTES
The Tar Heels are tied for fifth in the country with LSU in the coaches' poll.
The coaches rank Florida State (43-12, 24-6) No. 1 in the nation.
Carolina senior catcher Jacob Stallings," said that he and pitching coach Scott Forbes believe the Tar Heels have six pitchers capable of starting a game and winning it.
One of the finest hitters in the nation and the Tar Heels' third baseman Colin Moran broke his hand when a door would not give.
Carolina remarkably went 13-8 in his absence, including a sweep of Virginia in Charlottesville, with pitching and outstanding defense.
But the further the Tar Heels got from Moran, the harder it was for them, and several of those losses in his absence could be attributed mostly to a lack of offensive production.
Now Moran is back, and so is the team's confidence at the plate.
"This is probably the most confident we have been all year," Stallings said. "We did some pretty impressive things when he was out. I'm not sure there are a lot of teams in the country that could have done what we did with their All-American out of the lineup."
Of course, most teams do not have an All-American, certainly not a hitter the caliber of Moran.
Now the Tar Heels are hitting and scoring runs in bunches -- at times. They still have their moments.
"Our offense is really coming on right now," center fielder Chaz Frank said.
UNC has had great pitching since they came within an error of winning the national championship in 2006, but this may be the deepest staff they have had yet.
The Tar Heels head to Greensboro with the top ERA (2.61) in the Atlantic Coast Conference --- a huge reason why they weathered the storm of Moran's absence as well as they did.
"We're just so deep (on the mound)," Stallings said. "We have so many guys we feel comfortable running out there. We average about four pitchers a game. It's not the same guys every day. We run 10 guys out there with confidence.
"Coach [Scott] Forbes and I were talking at practice. We feel like we have six guys that we feel we can run out and start, and have all the confidence in the world in them.
"It's just incredible how deep our staff is. A guy like [freshman] Luis Paula was throwing 94, 95 at Asheville the other day, and it's tough for him to get on the mound because we have guys ahead of him."
Kent Emanuel is well-known to those who follow UNC baseball. He is a sophomore left-hander who pitched a complete-game shutout against Texas in the College World Series a year ago.
He has returned to go 8-3 (severe lack of run support at times) and a staggering 1.80 earned run average. When he is on his game and has command of all his pitches, he has proven to be virtually unbeatable.
Freshman Benton Moss is the Saturday starter. He has a 2.13 ERA with a 6-2 record.
Hobbs Johnson, new to the starting pitching rotation, is coming off one of his finest outings of the season in a 2-1 victory against Virginia Tech.
He carried a perfect game into the eighth inning, but a single broke up his perfect game and no-hitter. He did get the win, his sixth of the season against one loss.
Then there is Moran, the anchor of the offense. As Fox likes to say, Moran could roll out of bed hitting. The young man is just an amazing hitter.
He missed 18 games, then drove in both runs to win his first game back.
He is hitting .399 with new bats that hit like wood. He has 34 runs batted in 34 games played.
He would have been the ACC player of the year had he not hurt his hand and missed those games.
But now he's got a chance to collect those hits he missed out on during the regular season when the Tar Heels need them the most, and in doing so putting the team in position to return to Omaha yet again.