College : : Story
Thursday, May 30, 2013

Chapel Hill Regional preview

Kendall Rogers        


Team Conference Record Berth Last NCAA appearance
1. North Carolina Atlantic Coast 52-8 At-large 2012
2. Florida Atlantic Sun Belt 39-20 At-large 2010
3. Towson Colonial Athletic 29-28 Automatic 1991
4. Canisius Metro Atlantic 42-15 Automatic First
North Carolina
1. North Carolina
2. Florida Atlantic

3. Towson

4. Canisius
South Carolina certainly had a short trip to the SEC tournament last week, but is expected to be ready to go this weekend, especially with rival Clemson coming to town. North Carolina spent much of the season as the nation's top-ranked team, but lost that label after losing a tough road series to Georgia Tech a few weeks ago. Now, the Tar Heels hope to make the ultimate statement with a strong run through the NCAA postseason. UNC is a very balanced club with a crop of good hitters and, of course, good arms. On the mound, the Tar Heels have a stout weekend rotation with Kent Emanuel, Benton Moss and Hobbs Johnson leading the charge. Emanuel is a big left-handed pitcher who can get up to 92 at times, but he's most known for his impressive pitchability, while Moss has a 3.56 ERA in 81 innings and Johnson has a stocky frame and a 2.14 ERA in 71 1/3 innings of work. Also keep an eye on an impressive crop of relievers with freshman right-hander Trent Thornton, who's up to 93 at times, leading the way on the back-end of the bullpen with six saves in 69 2/3 innings of work. Tate Parrish (0.00), Chris McCue (2.12), Chris Munnelly (2.36), Shane Taylor (3.00) and Trevor Kelley (3.27) are other talented arms to watch. From an offensive standpoint, the Tar Heels have some impressive hitters with first baseman Cody Stubbs and third baseman Colin Moran leading the way. Stubbs is hitting .362 with seven homers and 72 RBIs, while Moran is hitting .357 with nine doubles, two triples, 13 homers and 84 RBIs. Meanwhile, freshman Skye Bolt returned to the lineup a couple of weeks ago and has a .349 average, six homers and 47 RBIs. Brian Holberton (.300/10/49) and Chaz Frank (.298/1/31) also have a knack for big hits.
Florida Atlantic
Though the Chapel Hill Regional is perceived to be very easy, don't sleep on Florida Atlantic this weekend. John McCormack will have his team ready to roll against Towson and North Carolina. The Owls have a very solid pitching staff with right-handed pitcher Jeremy Strawn and sophomore left-hander Austin Gomber leading the charge. Strawn has a 2.94 ERA in 85 2/3 innings of work, while Gomber has a 2.97 ERA in 97 innings, along with an impressive 100 strikeouts and 27 walks. In the bullpen, it doesn't get much better than Hugh Adams, who has been a true rock on the back-end of things with a 2.84 earned-run average and 17 saves in 31 2/3 innings of work. Offensively, the Owls enter the weekend with a solid lineup, hitting .289. Nathan Pittman (.332/4/36) and Levi Meyer (.319/4/32) lead the offense, while physical Tyler Rocklein is another guy to watch with a .284 average, nine homers and 43 RBIs. FAU is a balanced club and could provide some stiff competition.
What an outstanding story it is for Towson to even be in the NCAA postseason. Earlier this season, the university announced it would be cutting college baseball. However, the governor of the state stepped up and made sure the program was funded for a couple of more years, but no guarantees after that. With that said, the Tigers made the postseason via way of winning the CAA tournament with a 29-28 overall record. Towson struggles on the mound, but has a solid ace pitcher in Mike Volpe, who has started 15 games and has a 3.86 ERA in 95 2/3 innings of work, along with 74 strikeouts and 33 walks. Meanwhile, keep an eye on Andrew Parker, Kurt Wertz and Dominic Fratantuono at the plate. Parker could be a bit more consistent at the plate with just a .282 batting average, but is a power producer with 10 homers and 36 RBIs, Wertz is hitting .341 with 13 doubles, seven doubles, 13 homers and 63 RBIs and Fratantuono is hitting .345 with 16 doubles, five triples, eight homers and 51 RBIs. It's a surprise Towson is a three-seed in this NCAA Regional, as not too much is expected out of them.
Canisius will have a tough time keeping up with the rest of the NCAA Regional field throughout the weekend, but keep an eye on ace junior right-handed pitcher Garrett Cortright. Cortright has a big-time arm and a 2.24 ERA in 108 2/3 innings of work, along with 72 strikeouts and 25 walks. Stuff-wise, Cortright is up to 92-93 with his fastball, along with a plus changeup at times. Also keep an eye on fellow starting pitcher Alex Godzak (3.22), while reliever Jon Fitzsimmons is very solid with 10 saves and a 1.19 ERA in 20 appearances. He has held opposing teams to a .149 batting average. At the plate, Jimmy Luppens (.368), Connor Panas (.321/1/18) and Jesse Kelso (.299/4/38) are impressive hitters to watch for the Golden Griffs.
As the top overall national seed, North Carolina has a new host of challenges this weekend as everyone will be gunning to knock them out of the postseason. UNC is the top overall seed in the postseason for a reason. The Tar Heels are incredibly consistent and are very balanced with a strong offense, good starting pitching and a very deep bullpen. Though FAU could provide a stiff test if the two teams meet in the second round, the Tar Heels should take care of business without much of a problem this weekend.


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