2019 NCAA Baseball Tournament: Chapel Hill Regional Preview
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 4 UNC-Wilmington (2 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
No. 2 Tennessee vs. No. 3 Liberty (7 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
No. 1 North Carolina (42-17)
Season In A Sentence: A four-game sweep through Durham to win the ACC Tournament pushed the Tar Heels into place as one of the 16 regional hosts after a season that saw them go 42-17 with a 17-13 mark in ACC play.
Best Pitcher: RHP Tyler Baum, Jr. — Baum is 7-3, 3.76 and has moved to the front of the Tar Heels’ rotation this season. In 81.1 innings, Baum has 88 strikeouts and has only allowed 24 walks, holding hitters to a .259 average. Baum has good physical size and nice velocity with a tight breaking ball and fading changeup.
Best Hitter: 1B/DH Aaron Sabato, Fr. — An all-ACC first-team and all-ACC Freshman selection, Sabato brings big power to the heart of the UNC lineup. He’s hitting .338/.446/.662 with 14 home runs.
Outlook: North Carolina is hosting a regional for the third year in a row, which is important for a team that is 31-6 at Boshamer Stadium and 11-11 everywhere else. There will be some good pitching in Chapel Hill this weekend, but UNC still has the best overall staff in the field. If starters Tyler Baum and Austin Bergner and closer Joey Lancellotti deliver for the Tar Heels, they’ll be tough to beat.
No. 2 Tennessee (38-19)
Season In A Sentence: For the first time since 2005, the Volunteers are in a regional, and with a stout pitching staff led by Garrett Stallings, Garrett Crochet and Redmond Walsh, they have what it takes to make a postseason run.
Best Pitcher: RHP Garrett Stallings, Jr. — Stallings is a reliable Friday starter for the Vols and went at least seven innings in nine of his 15 starts. With a 3.24 ERA in 97.1 innings pitched, Stallings has 103 strikeouts and only 16 walks.
Best Hitter: OF/IF Alerick Soularie, So. — Named all-SEC first team, Soularie is batting .363/.468/.626 with 11 home runs to lead the Vols’ offense. He’s a key piece of making Tennessee’s offense go.
Getting back to regionals after a 14-year drought is a significant step for the program, but Tennessee won’t be resting on its laurels this weekend. All season long Tennessee has ridden its pitching staff, and this weekend will be no different. One thing to watch is how the Volunteers react to the pressure of regionals. Coach Tony Vitello said they were tight last week at the SEC Tournament, and the stakes are only going up this weekend.
No. 3 Liberty (42-19)
BA 500 Prospects: None
Season In A Sentence: In its first season as a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference, Liberty went 42-19 overall, finished second in the regular season standings and captured the conference tournament crown after dropping into the loser’s bracket on Day 2 of the event.
Best Pitcher: RHP Andrew McInvale, R-Jr. — McInvale is 10-2, 3.25 and has 97 strikeouts in 97 innings. He brings experience to the Flames’ rotation.
Best Hitter: UTL Jonathan Embry, R-Jr. — Named ASUN Tournament MVP and conference player of the year, Embry is the Flames leading hitter and is batting .311/.455/.536 with 10 home runs.
Outlook: The Flames won four straight elimination games to win the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament, and now their reward is a trip to Chapel Hill, where they’ve lost four games over the last two years. Liberty also played Tennessee earlier this year, losing a midweek game in Knoxville in February. Whether all that familiarity helps this weekend remains to be seen, but it should give the Flames some confidence going into their first regionals appearance since 2014.
No. 4 UNC Wilmington (32-29)
Season In A Sentence: In head coach Mark Scalf’s final season at the helm, the Seahawks won the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament in impressive fashion, beating league champion Elon in the title game and giving the program back-to-back regional appearances and four in the last five years.
Best Pitcher: RHP Landen Roupp, So. — Roupp earned a CAA all-tournament selection after shutdown performances as both a starter and reliever. Roupp relies on a two-pitch arsenal and is 6-2, 3.50 with 85 strikeouts in 74.2 innings.
Best Hitter: SS Greg Jones, So. — The CAA player of the year, Jones works an at-bat to his advantage and has 53 walks and a .491 on-base percentage, which helps him make the most of his well above-average speed. He’s hitting .343/.491/.551 and has an impressive set of raw tools.
Outlook: The Seahawks have heated up over the last few weeks and come into regionals 8-3 in their last 11 games. They last year reached the Greenville Regional final and play at North Carolina every year, so they shouldn’t be at all overwhelmed by the situation this weekend. Scalf’s impending retirement gives the Seahawks something extra to play for as they try to send him off with a flourish. They can’t match up on the mound against UNC or Tennessee, but there are reasons to think they could pull an upset or two this weekend.