#18 North Carolina Baseball 2016 Preview

North Carolina Tar Heels
Overall Rank: #18
Conference Rank: #5 ACC
 North Carolina Logo
North Carolina’s 12 year NCAA Tournament streak came to an end last season. Back in 2001 the Tar Heels failed to make the tournament and that was in Coach Mike Fox’s third year with the program. Since 2006, the Tar Heels have reached the College World Series six times, but they were a long way away from that in 2015. The Tar Heels limped to a 13-16 ACC mark and won just 34 games for the second straight season, the lowest total since that 2001 season.
2015: 34-24, 13-16
2015 Postseason: None
Coach: Mike Fox
Field Players:
The Tar Heels offense was average at best last season, at least by ACC standards. And three of their most dangerous hitters are gone with Korey Dunbar, Skye Bolt and Landon Lassiter moving on. That leaves Tyler Ramirez as the team’s main power source. He hit ten homeruns as a sophomore and was second on the team with 40 RBI. Ramirez also led the team with 18 stolen bases. And speed is something this team can utilize this season. Logan Warmoth, Adam Pate and Brian Miller all swiped at least ten bases in 2015. Pate, a 5-9 junior, only had 92 at-bats last season, but he was productive, batting .304 with seven doubles and 10 RBIs. With a couple openings now in the outfield, he will be asked to play a much bigger role.
This is where UNC should be much improved. Trevor Kelley, Benton Kelley and closer Trent Thornton are gone, but there is still a lot of talent on the pitching staff. It starts with Zac Gallen. He made 14 appearances and 12 starts as a sophomore, totaling a team high 84.0 innings pitched and 74 strikeouts. Gallen allowed the opposition to hit just .231 and walked a mere 19 batters. When he does allow a hit, it tends to be a big hit, but Gallen is ready to be the ace of this staff. J.B. Bukauskas was a regular starter too and led the team with 14 starts on the season. He compiled a 5-3 record with a 4.09 ERA. Hunter Williams had an amazing freshman campaign. He made nine starts and had 14 appearances. While pitching just 40.1 innings, Williams allowed the opposition to hit just .193 and his ERA was even lower at 1.79. Sophomores Hansen Butler and Jason Morgan and junior Spencer Trayner all pitched at least 20 innings last season and are capable of picking up the slack.
Who to Watch:
North Carolina needs some more power and they could get it from Joe Dudek and Zack Gahagan. Dudek started 33 games last season and belted two homeruns and nine doubles in 102 plate appearances. Gahagan batted just .216, but he hit a couple homeruns and ranked third on the team with 32 RBIs. His hitting was certainly not consistent, but Gahagan was clutch. But all of that was as a freshmen and he should be more consistent and patient as a sophomore.
Final Projection:
If players like Dudek and Gahagan can help compliment the power hitting of Ramirez, North Carolina will start a new NCAA Tournament streak. The pitching staff is in pretty good shape and there is always talent in Chapel Hill. Last year the team was pretty young and inexperienced. That is not the case anymore and Coach Fox will get more consistency with this group. That may not lead to an ACC title, but it will get North Carolina back to the NCAA Tournament and by then they could be a very dangerous out.
Projected Postseason: NCAA Baseball Tournament
Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Tyler Ramirez, OF, 214
Hits: Tyler Ramirez, OF, 61
Home Tyler Ramirez, OF, 10
RBIs: Tyler Ramirez, OF, 40
Runs: Tyler Ramirez, OF, 42
Stolen Bases: Tyler Ramirez, OF, 18
Wins: J.B. Bukauskas, P, 5
Innings Pitched: Zac Gallen, P, 84.0
Strikeouts: Zac Gallen, P, 74
Saves: Jason Morgan, P, 1; Zach Rice, P, 1