The reigning national runner-up, North Carolina, has opened its season at Boshamer Stadium in Chapel Hill. UNC senior righthander Robert Woodard looks very sharp early, striking out Seton Hall leadoff man Dan Lopez on four pitches to start the game, then retiring the next two batters on a pop-up and a ground ball to second. The Tar Heels’ lineup looks a little different than it did in the College World Series last June, as left fielder Jay Cox is now in the Rockies system and returning outfielders Mike Cavasini and Seth Williams are banged up. Junior Reid Fronk shifts from third base to his new position of left field, and freshmen Drew Poulk and Dustin Ackley occupy the center and left-field spots, respectively. Expect to see plenty of Ackley this year; he’ll play the outfield against lefthanded pitchers (like today’s Seton Hall starter, Dan Merklinger), allowing Chad Flack to slide from third base to first so the Heels can get Kyle Shelton’s bat in the lineup at third. Shelton hits lefthanded pitching well (he just singled through the left side of the infield in the top of the first inning). Against righthanded pitching, Flack figures to play third base, with Ackley shifting to first and Williams manning right field.
While we’re talking about an Atlantic Coast Conference team, there is some news from the ACC today. The conference announced that its conference tournament will switch to a new format. The eight teams that qualify for the tournament will be divided into two halves, and teams will play a round-robin tournament within their half of the bracket. The two teams with the best records will advance to a one-game ACC championship game.
The first inning came to a bit of an unusual end, by the way. Josh Horton popped up to shallow left field, but the ball popped out of left fielder Matt Smedberg’s glove. Center fielder Lopez was backing him up and made the catch, then doubled Shelton off first base. That’s your standard 7-8-6-3 double play.