Photo by Turner Walston
UNC baseball had a great team last year. A team so good that many thought they had a chance to dance into Omaha, but a loss to Davidson in the regional put a cloud over what looked to be a promising postseason.
They'll look to continue the momentum of their 2017 campaign, and play further into the summer in 2018. A solid recruiting class bolsters an already formidable starting lineup for the spring, but there are some question marks to address.
The Fall World Series has come and gone, and we now have a better feel for what to expect in the spring. Here is a brief rundown of your Diamond Heels.
Big Bat: Kyle Datres — There were some big shoes to fill with Logan Warmoth and Brian Miller departing, but Datres is poised to fill the role nicely. His 51 RBIs paced the Tar Heels in 2017, and he’ll likely increase his average in the spring. Ashton McGee will complement him perfectly, giving UNC yet another rock solid right-left duo near the top of the lineup.
Ace: Luca Dalatri — This was a given. As a freshman he cruised his way into the Saturday role, and thrived. He has legit stuff, and a workhouse build. His mentality to go after batters results in outs, while keeping his pitch count at a decent spot. He will eat innings in big Friday night games for UNC.
Breakout: Michael Busch — In his inaugural campaign, Busch couldn’t quite find it, but showed flashes of immense talent. He really drops the barrel well, and could be a dark horse favorite to lead the 2018 Tar Heels in home runs. He’ll have to fix the swing-and-miss count, but the power is obvious, and really adds a needed dimension to the Tar Heel lineup.
Anchor: Josh Hiatt — Rinse and repeat here. The bullpen standout will look to repeat in 2018.
Question: Shortstop — It’s a mystery honestly. Only one player — Dallas Tessar — listed as a SS was rostered across either team in the Fall World Series.
As mentioned, the Tar Heels lost Warmoth and Miller, leaving some big shoes to fill. Now, I don't have any crystal ball, but here's my guess as to how it'll shake out come March.
OF - Brandon Riley
OF - Ashton McGee
3B - Kyle Datres
1B - Michael Busch
2B - Zach Gahagan
C - Cody Roberts
OF - Josh Ladowski
SS - ???
DH - Brandon Martorano
Friday - Luca Dalatri
Saturday - Tyler Baum
Sunday - Austin Bergner
Bullpen: Rodney Hutchison/ Taylor Sugg / Josh Hiatt