The back end of Saturday's doubleheader against Florida State was a gut check moment for this team. Having lost five ACC games in a row, all at home, the 2019 season appeared to be stuck in neutral and possibly sliding backwards down the hill.
Few would have predicted the offensive explosion that was to come in UVA's 13 to 3 win to close the series. Now, the Hoos hit the road to play a top 25 North Carolina squad as the owners of a three-game winning streak. The program has not given up the hope of returning to the NCAA Tournament after a one-year absence. The wins over Florida State and Liberty, the first two wins of the three-game streak, were over teams that will be in the field of sixty-four. The Heels offer UVA another chance to pick up wins against a tournament team while polishing their own resume.
Virginia: 25-18 (Overall), 9-12 (ACC)
North Carolina: 31-11 (Overall), 13-8 (ACC)
Friday: 6:00 PM
Saturday: 3:00 PM
Sunday: 1:00 PM
ACC Baseball Update
The top twelve teams qualify for the ACC Tournament.
With UNC this week and Louisville in two weeks, the opportunities and challenges are clear for the Hoos.
Here's the rest of the ACC weekend schedule.
Wake Forest at Pitt
Clemson at Georgia Tech
NC State at Notre Dame
Duke at Boston College
Virginia Tech at Miami
Presbyterian at Pitt
Alabama A&M at Louisville
Projected Starting Pitchers
Friday - UVA: RHP Noah Murdock (2-4, 5.02 ERA, 57.1 IP, 22 walks, 53 strikeouts) vs UNC: RHP Tyler Baum (7-2, 3.49 ERA, 56.2 IP, 18 walks, 65 strikeouts)
Last season as a sophomore, Baum began the season in UNC's weekend rotation before being moved into the bullpen. He made 12 starts in 18 appearances where he posted an ERA of 4.57 against a 4-1 record. Baum had a 10-0 career record until the series opener against UVA last season. The Hoos beat UNC 4 to 0 in that game giving Baum the first loss of his career. In that start against the Hoos, Baum lasted 4.1 innings where he gave up 6 hits, 3 runs (all earned), 4 walks, and recorded 4 strikeouts.
The start last season was Baum's only career appearance against the Hoos.
The Heels have won in Baum's last four starts. The only losses on the year for the Heels when Baum starts were against Clemson and Virginia Tech. In both of those games, the opponents got to Baum pretty early with Clemson lighting him up to the tune of 6 runs in 1.2 innings. UNC was lucky to win Baum's last start against Boston College last Saturday. Baum went 5.1 innings where he gave up 9 hits, 4 runs (3 earned), 3 walks, and 1 wild pitch. He also struck out 4 in a game in which UNC won 8 to 7 over the Eagles.
The Heels scored 1 in the bottom of the 9th, after BC scored 3 of their own in the top of the 9th, to force extra innings. UNC ended up winning the game in 11.
Saturday - UVA: RHP Griff McGarry (3-5, 3.67 ERA, 49.0 IP, 44 walks, 59 strikeouts) vs UNC: RHP Austin Bergner (4-0, 5.07 ERA, 55.0 IP, 18 walks, 55 strikeouts)
Bergner's sophomore season last year was the opposite of Tyler Baum's. The now junior began the year as a reliever for the Tar Heels before moving into the weekend rotation where he finished second on the team in strikeouts with 84. In 82.2 innings, Bergner had a 7-3 record with a 4.25 ERA. The highlight of Bergner's sophomore season was College World Series start against Mississippi State. It wasn't necessarily successful as the Bulldogs won 12 to 7 and got to Bergner for 7 runs (3 earned) in 7.0 innings. But he did strike out 8 against only 1 walk as well.
Last week against Boston College, Bergner gave up 5 runs (all earned) in 6.0 innings of work. He surrendered 9 hits while walking 3 and striking out 5. Those 9 hits included 3 home runs for Boston College. UNC won the game in another shootout, 11 to 10. UNC had to win this one in 11 innings as well as BC scored 2 in the top of the 9th to force extra frames.
In his career against the Hoos, Bergner also started the second game of last year's series. UNC won that game 8 to 6, breaking a 6 all tie with 2 runs in the top of the 9th. For his part, Bergner pitched 7.0 innings where he gave up 5 hits, 3 runs (all earned), walked none, and struck out 4. As a freshman in 2017, Bergner picked up the win in relief against UVA in the series finale. He pitched 3.0 innings of scoreless baseball in the 12 to 2 UNC win. In those 3.0 innings, Bergner gave up 2 hits, walked 1, threw 1 wild pitch, and struck out 2.
Sunday - UVA: RHP Mike Vasil (1-4, 6.09 ERA, 44.1 IP, 18 walks, 33 strikeouts) vs UNC: LHP Will Sandy (2-0, 6.42 ERA, 33.2 IP, 23 walks, 28 strikeouts)
Sandy is a freshman out of Raleigh. He'll be making his 16th appearance on the season and 7th start.
Last weekend against Boston College, Sandy made two appearances with one being a start. He started the series finale and lasted 2.1 innings. He gave up 6 runs (all earned), 6 hits, 2 walks, 1 wild pitch, and had 1 strikeout. UNC survived the poor start to win the game 16 to 8 on the strength of a 12 run 6th inning.
Sandy also made a relief appearance in the Saturday game started by Austin Bergner. He gave up 2 runs (both earned), 2 walks, and no hits without recording an out.
This will be Sandy's debut against the Hoos.
Weather Watch (Courtesy of Weather.com)
Thunderstorms are in the forecast most of the day Friday. But they should be finishing up or out of the area when it's time to play ball Friday evening. At game time, there's only a 15% chance of precipitation. Skies should be partly cloudy yielding to sunny skies right before sunset. Temps will be in the mid to upper 60s. Winds will be around 15 MPH.
Saturday will be a beautiful day for baseball. Sunny skies and no chance of precipitation is on the menu for this game. Temps will be in the lower 70s with winds around 10 MPH.
The forecast on Sunday is almost more of the same. There's a 10% chance of precipitation on Sunday with partly cloudy skies. Winds will still be around 10 MPH with temps around 80.
As expected, ACC Network Extra via ESPN's streaming platforms has our back. Streaming for all three games is available. Be aware, however, that there will be Carolina broadcasters on the call.
For the radio fans, WINA.com is streaming the radio broadcast of each game in the series. Local to Charlottesville, WINA will also broadcast the series over the air.
Tarheel To Watch
Junior 1B Michael Busch is the guy for the Tar Heels. Busch will be a first round pick in the 2019 MLB Draft. He likely projects to go in the top half of the first round and could push to enter the top ten.
Depending on your personal preference, Busch or Georgia Tech's Kyle McCann will be the scariest batter UVA pitchers will have faced this season. You could throw in Vandy's JJ Bleday too, but I just can't get with the Commodores and the whistler.
Entering the series, Busch's slash line is .296/.455/.605 (batting/on base/slugging) with an OPS of 1.060. An OPS over .900 is considered Great by noted baseball statistician Bill James.
Busch leads Carolina in hits (45, tied), runs (50), homers (12), RBI (45), total bases (92), and walks (40). His OPS and on base percentage leads the team as well while his slugging is second. He's also second on the team in hit by pitches (6) and third in doubles (11).
UNC finds itself ranked between 12th and 17th in the various college baseball polls. The Hoos will have another opportunity to make a statement much like they did out in Arizona to start the season, against NC State, and most recently in home series against Miami and Florida State. UVA is still trying to kick in that door.
There are three things working against the Hoos in this series.
Against ranked teams, UVA is 1-5 in 2019.
In true road games, the Hoos are 5-6 in 2019.
And UNC's offense is legit.
I'm not impressed at all by their pitching. But the ACC Coastal preseason favorites have still managed a 31-11, 13-8 record in one of the nation's premiere baseball conferences. That doesn't happen unless they can light up the scoreboard.
And that's the type of team that I see as a poor matchup for this edition of UVA baseball.
I think the Tar Heels' pitching will cost them a game this series, so UVA will avoid a frustrating sweep. But they won't have enough firepower of their own to spring the upset.
UNC wins 2 to 1.