#9 North Carolina Baseball 2015 Preview

North Carolina Tar Heels

Overall Rank: #9
Conference Rank: #2 ACC
#9 North Carolina Baseball 2015 Preview
North Carolina Team Page


North Carolina didn’t have the kind of year they were expected to have last season. The Tar Heels made the NCAA Tournament, but just barely as they went .500 in ACC play and finished with a 35-27 record. That record is not a good indication of the talent on that roster, especially with a good portion of the 2013 College World Series team still around. This year, North Carolina loses some key production offensively, but return a pitching staff that is almost fully intact. With some stars to build around offensively, this team will look to rebound in 2015

2014: 35-27, 15-15
2014 Postseason: NCAA Baseball Tournament
Coach: Mike Fox

Field Players:
Expect Skye Bolt to bounce back from his down 2014 season. The junior outfielder failed to build on his huge freshman year and hit just .257 last year. Bolt still finished tied for the team high with four home runs and was tied for second in RBI’s with 32, but North Carolina needs more out of their star player. The Tar Heels will also be looking for big things from Bolt’s classmate Landon Lassiter. Like Bolt, Lassiter dropped off a bit last year, but not much as he still hit .305 and posted a .415 on base percentage. Joining Bolt in the outfield will be a familiar face in Tyler Ramirez, who started 55 of his 58 appearances last year and hit .286 with two homers and 30 RBI’s. Just one regular infielder returns in Wood Myers. The Chapel Hill native put together a solid freshman year last season, hitting .298 over the course of 54 games. Korey Dunbar is back behind the plate after starting 54 games a year ago, but sophomore Adrian Chacon will push him. Both players hit just over .230 in 2014 and whichever player can show more improvement offensively should end up with the job. Adam Pate, 14 starts in 39 appearances, stole 10 bases last season and should be in the mix for an outfield spot, while sophomore infielders Joe Dudek and Alex Raburn will compete for spots alongside Myers. Freshman Zack Gahagan has a great shot at seeing early playing time in the infield as well.

North Carolina returns their entire weekend rotation, but the strength of their staff is their bullpen. Closer Chris McCue, seven saves in seven appearances, is back after an injury-shortened season, and his replacement, Reilly Hovis, 9-1 with a 2.25 ERA and six saves in 34 appearances, also returns. They are joined by Spencer Trayner, 28 appearances, 1.60 ERA, Trevor Kelley, 31 appearances, 3.25 ERA, and Zach Rice, 34 appearances, 4.29 ERA. Trayner and Kelley both topped 39 innings of work and Hovis finished with 64. All three should feature big workloads again. The weekend rotation isn’t too bad itself. Trent Thornton is the ace and he went 7-4 with a 2.73 ERA last year. Sophomore Zac Gaffen, 4-2 with a 3.62 ERA, and senior Benton Moss, 5-4 with a 4.64 ERA, round out the group that should see improvement this year. Also on the staff is Taylore Cherry, who went 2-3 with a 4.01 ERA as a midweek starter last year, and highly touted freshman J.B. Bukauskas.

Who to Watch:
Getting Chris McCue back as the closer is a huge boost. The redshirt-junior was dominant as the closer to start the season, posting a 0.77 ERA in seven appearances spanning 11.2 innings. McCue picked up the save in all seven outings and struck out more than a batter per inning of work. A reliable bullpen arm since he was a freshman, McCue struggled a bit with walks, issuing nine last season and if he can clean that up, he could take the bullpen to a new level.

Final Projection:
Anytime you return a pitching staff that looks like North Carolina’s, there is the chance for a deep run the tournament. Assuming Skye Bolt can return to his freshman form, which he is fully capable of doing, this is a team that will be in the contention for the ACC title and for a postseason run. A home series with UCLA on the second weekend should be a good measuring stick. If the Tar Heels can compete with them, they can compete with anybody in the country. North Carolina’s schedule is very favorable with the Virginia and Miami series at home. Expect this team to be hosting a regional at years end.

Projected Postseason: NCAA Baseball Tournament

Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Landon Lassiter, DH, 223
Hits: Landon Lassiter, DH, 68
Home Runs: Skye Bolt, OF, 4
RBIs: Skye Bolt, OF, 32
Runs: Landon Lassiter, DH, 41
Stolen Bases: Skye Bolt, OF, 11; Tyler Ramirez, OF, 11

Wins: Reilly Hovis, P, 9
Innings Pitched: Benton Moss, P, 97
Strikeouts: Trent Thornton, P, 83
Saves: Chris McCue, P, 7

Madness 2015 MLB Draft Rankings:
#78 Skye Bolt

Madness 2015 Baseball Recruit Rankings:
#7 Jacob Bukauskas


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