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College  | Story  | 2/20/2018

Quick Take: North Carolina

Vincent Cervino     
Photo: UNC Athletic Communications



Opening day heat from McClanahan | Baum, Tar Heels even series
UNC wins in extras to take series
Perfect Game College Player Database

During the season Perfect Game scouts will be traveling to some of the top series to watch the very best players in college baseball. Those observations, captured with both written notes and video, will be shared in the College Player Database as linked above, notes that can also be accessed on the players' individual PG profile pages. Throughout the season select reports will be shared in feature format to promote the players, the teams and college baseball as a whole.


North Carolina Tar Heels

What Happened: The Tar Heels performed as expected, winning their opening series against a tough South Florida team on the road. The offense struggled in game one, albeit against a 1:1 draft candidate in Shane McClanahan, but woke up over games two and three, scoring a combined 21 runs. There were a couple of close plays that could have swung games one and three in either direction, as head coach Mike Fox and his staff are likely satisfied with a series victory on the road to open the season.

Carrying Tool: Sophomore stars for the Tar Heels are going to determine which direction this team takes in 2018. Three sophomores will man the rotation in Luca Dalatri, Tyler Baum and Austin Bergner with reliever Josh Hiatt coming into big situations out of the bullpen. Meanwhile, Michael Busch looks to be one of the more dangerous hitters in the ACC and Brandon Martorano will be an impact player for the Tar Heels. Ashton McGee also hit .340 as a freshman and will be a big bat despite not receiving a ton of playing time to open the year.

Concerns: The bullpen had a rough weekend as they allowed 11 of the 17 runs scored by the Bulls. Josh Hiatt was an absolute star out of the 'pen, however key arms from last year including Rodney Hutchison and Taylor Sugg struggled in the opening series of the season. The rotation is talented, but the back end of the bullpen is going to have to step up for the Heels.

Best Player on the Field: Michael Busch did nothing but punish baseballs all weekend for North Carolina as their three-hole hitter. Busch creates a lot of leverage and lift from the left side, as he launched a three-run home run on Friday night, and should be an impact bat for the Tar Heels all season long.

Fearless Forecast: The back end of the bullpen should stabilize with the help of Hiatt serving as the team's stopper, and it will have to if the team is hopeful for a deep postseason run. No one had more appearances out of the bullpen last year than Hiatt (31), and he has already been used twice. He recorded 13 saves a year ago and his changeup is one of the best pitches in college baseball, while Fox’s willingness to use him in the big situations with the game on the line makes him even more valuable. The other bullpen arms have too good of stuff to not bounce back. Hutchison worked up to 94 mph, Sugg showed a good breaking ball and look for true freshman Joey Lancellotti to become an impact piece thanks to his 94 mph fastball and hard-biting mid-80s slider. 


Database Player Reports (13):

Tyler Baum
Austin Bergner
Michael Busch
Luca Dalatri
Kyle Datres
Trevor Gay
Josh Hiatt
Clemente Inclan
Joe Lancellotti
Brandon Martorano
Brandon Riley
Cody Roberts
Taylor Sugg


Prospect Spotlight: Michael Busch, 1B



Manning the three-hole for North Carolina for their weekend series at South Florida was Michael Busch, a lefthanded hitter that is going to play a significant role in the offense all season for the Tar Heels. Busch has lots of lift and natural leverage to the swing path and displayed above average raw power during batting practice that plays very well in game action, as he launched a home run off a hanging slider on Friday night to the deepest part of the ballpark in straightaway center field. 

From a very wide set up, Busch has a ton of bat speed and torques through the ball well to create extremely hard hit line drives. This aids him in terms of his power but also makes him particularly dangerous to the pull side where most of his hits were delivered over the weekend. Busch has tremendous wrist strength too and has the ability to drive the ball with authority to the opposite field gap. The launch angle and the position his hands are in when he starts his swing are what makes his power potential particularly exciting. Busch should be in store for a lot of home runs and he had a great start to the season, collecting five hits in 13 at-bats (.385), including two for extra bases, with seven RBI and no strikeouts. 

Busch mans first base for the Tar Heels but played shortstop in high school and could likely man third base due to his athleticism. He didn't get challenged much over at first but did drop a ball that could've been scooped to save a run on Friday night. Overall, Busch's main value is likely to come from the lefthanded batter's box which he showed over the weekend will be one of the top weapons in the ACC following a scorching fall and a hot start to the season.