Thursday, May 16, 2013

series preview: North Carolina

Date/Time: Thu./Sat., May 16-18; 6:00, 7:00, 2:00


Record against the Heels: 98-175-4

Last meeting: UNC 3-0 over UVA (1-2, 2-6, 3-5); 4/13-4/15/12, Charlottesville

Last game: UVA 17, VCU 3 (5/14); UNC 2, App.St. 0 (5/14)

Last weekend: UVA 3-0 over Duke (6-5, 17-8, 14-6); GT 2-1 over UNC (4-5, 3-1, 8-9)

National rankings:

Baseball America: UVA #7; UNC #3
Collegiate Baseball: UVA #7; UNC #2
Perfect Game: UVA #6; UNC #2
Coaches: UVA #7; UNC #2
Composite: UVA #6; UNC #2

North Carolina lineup:

C: Brian Holberton (.310-9-29)
1B: Cody Stubbs (.365-7-65)
2B: Mike Zolk (.300-2-25)
SS: Michael Russell (.304-2-27)
3B: Colin Moran (.379-13-78)
LF: Parks Jordan (.281-1-24)
CF: Chaz Frank (.293-1-27)
RF: Skye Bolt (.391-6-41)
DH: Landon Lassiter (.331-1-23)

Lineup notes: In UNC's ideal hitting world, that's who they'd start.  Skye Bolt's injury, from which he returned against Appy State this week, forced Holberton to go to the outfield.  In his absence, Matt Roberts (.167-2-16) and Korey Dunbar (.163-0-3) split catching duties.  Obviously they're both atrocious hitters, and will probably be used mainly as defensive replacements.  This is a lefty-heavy lineup, and both are right-handers, so pinch-hitting against our lefty relievers isn't out of the question either, nor, I suppose, is starting them against our lefty starters.  Utility OF Alex Raburn (.200-0-5) is a right-handed pinch-hit option as well.

Pitching probables:

Thursday: LHP Brandon Waddell (4-1, 3.88, 69 K) vs. LHP Kent Emanuel (9-2, 2.03, 73 K)
Friday: LHP Scott Silverstein (8-1, 3.21, 53 K) vs. RHP Benton Moss (8-1, 2.96, 74 K)
Saturday: TBA vs. LHP Hobbs Johnson (4-0, 1.99, 54 K)

North Carolina has been more or less the undisputed best team in the ACC all season, with only one remaining challenger to the throne: Virginia.  The Hoos can usurp the Heels' spot atop the conference with a sweep this weekend.  Unlikely, of course, but possible.  Sweep, and UVA takes the #1 seed in the ACC tourney; otherwise, the #3 seed awaits.

-- UVA at bat

UNC will send a parade of outstanding pitchers to the hill this weekend, whom they've relied on all year.  Kent Emanuel has had three excellent years at UNC, and is going to go in the first round because he's a very rare breed of pitcher: a big, tall lefty who's filled out his frame and is still upping the velocity on his fastball.  That was a decent-at-best pitch as a freshman that's worked its way into the low 90s; additionally, he's a four-pitch guy with a terrific changeup and great control.  Emanuel pitches deep into games; he's racked up four complete games and averages over eight innings an appearance.  Basically, he pitches into the ninth more often than not.

Friday will be hard-throwing, beanpole right-hander Benton Moss, who was a freshman all-American last year.  His fastball is mid-90s stuff - and that was coming out of high school.  He, too, has a nice arsenal of pitches, and is more of a strikeout fiend than Emanuel is, averaging over one per inning.  But he also brings a little less polish and control.  Finally there's Hobbs Johnson, a lefty more in the typical mold of southpaws, with a more moderate velocity on his fastball and an array of pitches that he must command well in order to be successful.  Johnson has been good at keeping hitters from making solid contact, but walks more than he should and runs up high pitch counts; he's pulled, on average, in the fifth inning.

UNC's bullpen will put UVA's reliever-eating skills to the test.  Everyone who might be expected to show up on the hill has an opponents' BA below .200, except for closer Trent Thornton at .201.  Big exception there.  The one potential chink in the armor is that they're all righties; the likelihood of the Heels bringing a southpaw out of the pen is minimal.

-- UNC at bat

There's very little point in analyzing the ups and downs of the UNC lineup, because there aren't a whole lot of downs to go off of.  Colin Moran is legitimately one of the elite players in the whole country; his 78 RBIs are tops in the nation and the pace that he's on would put the major league record to shame if applied over 162 games.

Not far behind him, though, is Cody Stubbs, whose 21 doubles are best in the ACC and near the top in the nation as well.  I'd call those two the top threats, with third going to freshman outfielder Skye Bolt, hitting .391 and recently healed from a foot injury.  On the basepaths, it's Bolt, Chaz Frank, and Michael Russell presenting the biggest steal threats.

Now that we know we don't have Brandon Cogswell, it's safe to guess that the Saturday TBA on the mound is as much about BOC deciding whether he wants Nick Howard in the infield or on the mound as it is about sorting out the postseason rotation.

-- Outlook

This is a meeting of the ACC's two best-hitting teams; the difference is that UNC has a starting rotation that's more or less elite and backs it up with a bullpen.  UVA can match up in the bullpen department but not many teams in the country can match the rotation.  I think the Hoos, with their very patient approach, should be able to find some success against Hobbs Johnson and possibly Benton Moss as well.  That doesn't translate automatically to a win, of course, but we can at least point out that the Heels won't be invincible.  The other matchup in UVA's favor is the heavy emphasis on left-handed hitting that the Heels' lineup uses, against UVA's lefty starting pitchers and relievers like Kyle Crockett.

That said, this is obviously a tough series.  Could UVA pull out a 2-1 win?  Absolutely.  More likely is a 2-1 loss; I'll be fall-off-my-chair surprised if either team gets a sweep.


pezhoo said...

Would love to see a column on how you think our running back corps stacks up now. I'm not sold on Shepard as the #2 guy and Morgan hasn't played a down yet. I'm not sure Parks is durable enough to go a full season the way he runs, so that means Smoke may be carrying the load sometime in November, when the stakes are huge. He might be up to that and more, it looks like we'll find out.

Anonymous said...

I'm still holding out some hope that Richardson can do ... something.

Brendan said...

RB corps isn't really worth a full article since there are, like, four of them. But there'll be a small something on Monday.