Starting Pitching Advantage: Even
Chris Hernandez’ line from last Friday’s start may be a bit deceiving. Sure he gave up 5 earned runs in 5 2/3 innings, but everything was running smoothly through the first 5. Eric Erickson appears to be getting stronger as the year progresses. He earned the Canes’ only win in last weekend’s series at Virginia Tech while pitching seven efficient innings. The series against North Carolina will likely culminate with the incredibly consistent Jason Santana starting on Sunday. All three give the Hurricanes a solid shot at winning their respective games, and the team has a winning record in all three’s ACC starts. UNC’s two primary starters are both junior right-handers: Matt Harvey and Patrick Johnson, who have posted ERAs of 2.08 and 3.13 respectively. They both get solid run support from their offense but are let down by those same position players when they’re behind them on defense; the two have combined to give up 16 unearned runs. Carolina has been shuffling a bit this season with their third starter.
Bullpen Advantage: Miami
Jim Morris hopes Daniel Miranda will be the answer in the ninth inning for UM after David Gutierrez struggled in that spot. Miranda has recorded one save this year, but hasn’t gotten a chance since. Gutierrez is too talented to simply give up on and he’ll still play a major role on the team either coming out of the pen or as a mid-week starter. In fact, Gutierrez just pitched in a superb start Wednesday, albeit against FGCU. Miami has talent and depth in their bullpen, as opposed to North Carolina, who’s in constant disarray out of the pen. Four different pitchers have recorded at least one save and none of them have done so in impressive fashion by any means. Freshman lefty Zach Bernard, however, is UNC’s version of Sam Robinson. He primarily comes in to retire a tough left-handed bat in the opposing lineup, and his ERA thus far is spotless in doing so.
Catcher Advantage: Miami
Yasmani Grandal is as hot as ever right now. He just took home ACC Player of the Week honors after going 7-for-12 in three games in Blacksburg, VA. He hit safely in all three games, including a 4-for-4 performance on Friday and belting two homers on Saturday. The Tar Heels’ primary catcher is Jacob Stallings, although stud junior first baseman Jesse Wierzbicki also gets some playing time at the position. Grandal’s batting average is currently .120 points better than that of Stallings, he has well over twice as many RBIs on the year, and Grandal has hit 7 home runs this season- that’s 7 more than Stallings.
Infield Advantage: North Carolina
The Carolina infield is led by first baseban Jesse Wierzbicki. He leads the taem in batting average, home runs, and RBI. The Tar Heels top three players in the batting average stat are all infielders, as Wierzbick is joined by junior Dillon Hazzlet and freshman Tommy Coyle. Offensively, this infield flat-out produces, and they dominate the base paths as Coyle and sophomore Levi Michael have both reached double figures in stolen bases. However, their weakness comes on the defensive end; this infield has gotten their pitchers into quite a bit of unwarranted trouble. Miami’s infield doesn’t quite matchup with the offensive efficiency of this Carolina crew despite Harold Martinez’ team-leading nine home runs.
Outfield Advantage: North Carolina
Just to put North Carolina’s offensive potency in perspective, the Tar Heels’ outfield trio of Ben Bunting, Mike Cavasinni, and Brian Goodwin are not part of those top three hitters alluded to in the infield section, yet all three are hitting above .300 on the year. Goodwin is second on the team, only behind Wierzbicki, in RBI with 36. Bunting (I’m not going to create a clever baseball pun out of his name), while sporting a .315 AVG, has also grounded into a team-leading 7 double plays. Look for the Canes’ middle infielders of Scott Lawson and Stephen Perez to potentially feast on turning two with a Tar Heel on first and less than two out. Canes centerfielder Zeke DeVoss turned in last Saturday’s #1 play on Sportscenter, and while he, Chris Pelaez, and Nathan Melendres have been decent, they are outmatched by the North Carolina set here.
Intangibles Advantage: Miami
The Tar Heels are a talented young group, but they’ve still been transitioning a bit this season since a number of their seniors from last year’s College World Series team departed. The Canes will be playing at home and they should be hungry to prove they can win a series against a solid opponent and that their ACC record isn’t inflated due to sweeps of Duke and Wake Forest as well as series wins against other weaker ACC foes.
David Furones may be contacted at email@example.com.