The North Carolina baseball team, 31-21 overall and 14-13 in the ACC, is staring at its final series of the season when taking on the ACC-leading Miami Hurricanes, 38-14 on the season and 22-5 in conference, down in Coral Gables for a three-game set starting Thursday evening at 7 p.m.
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“When you’re 22-5 in this league, you’re really good. They are going to throw three left-handers at us who are really good. We’ve got our hands full. We’re certainly very capable of going down there and beating them. We’re going to have to play at a high level,” Coach Fox says.
The Hurricanes, ranked seventh nationally by Baseball America, are the hottest ballclub in the NCAA at the moment, winning 25 of their last 27 games.
The home field advantage will only make things more difficult for the Tar Heels. AlexRodriguezPark, with a seating capacity at 4,999, will surely be rocking this weekend as Miami attempts to clinch the ACC regular season title.
Despite most observers’ attentions being drawn to the struggling Carolina offense, Coach Fox insists it’s the defense and pitching staff that will ultimately decide UNC’s fate on the diamond.
“It’s still really the key for us. Everybody looks at our offense, but we didn’t pitch great against FloridaState. Still, on that defense, we’ll have some lapses at times,” Coach Fox says.
Senior Parks Jordan, who will graduate over the summer, has been an offensive bright spot for the Tar Heels in 2014, especially in recent times. Jordan was named ACC Player of the Week Monday.
“Parks has been really steady for us. Every single day he comes down to the ballpark with a really professional approach. He’s helped us win a lot of games,” Coach Fox says.
The Hurricanes hold a 30-24-1 all-time series advantage over the Tar Heels, including a head-to-head series lead of 19-9 in Coral Gables.
And just in case Carolina needed any extra incentive to win the Miami series this weekend, Coach Fox says he’d rather avoid the dreaded No.7/8 seeding next week in Greensboro that would force the Tar Heels into a playoff scenario.
A top six seeding would ensure an escape from the playoff. If the season ended now, Carolina would land in the No. 5 seeding slot, safe from the one-game elimination contest.
“I think it’s going to be a little bit unfair to our seventh seed and potentially, our eighth. Historically, those are teams that get into the NCAA Tournament. Now, you’re making them play one game on Tuesday, one-and-done. It’s going to be interesting to see how it all plays out this year,” Coach Fox says.
Stakes are raised this time of the year. An ACC title, ACC Tournament seeding, NCAA Tournament placement and pride will all be on the line for the Hurricanes and Heels in scorching Miami beginning Thursday night.