The 2013 season brings lofty expectations for the North Carolina baseball team as the Tar Heels will open the season as the preseason No. 1 team in the country according to several publications. Carolina opens the 2013 season on Friday against Seton Hall at 3 p.m. at Boshamer Stadium.
The Tar Heels have garnered the top ranking for the first time since the 2009 season when Carolina reached the College World Series for the fourth consecutive year.
Moran enters the season as a potential first round draft pick after leading the prestigious Cape Cod League in RBIs this past summer.
Emanuel returns to anchor one of the top pitching staffs in not only the Atlantic Coast Conference but also the country. The Woodstock, Ga., native will be UNC’s Friday night starter for the second straight year after winning 17 games in his first two years.
The Tar Heels will welcome back all three of its weekend starters from a year ago, along with four others that combined to start 21 games in 2012. UNC returns 60 starts of its 62 games in 2012.
Carolina returns seven field starters as well for the 2013 campaign led by Moran manning the hot corner for his third season.
The versatile Michael Russell played all over the field as a freshman, starting in the outfield before making the move to shortstop to close out the year. Russell will likely see time all over the field this year but will open the season manning second base.
Freshman Landon Lassiter looks to take over the starting shortstop role and could become the first freshman in over a decade to start the season opener at shortstop.
A more detailed position-by-position breakdown of the Tar Heels follows:
• The Tar Heels return their entire weekend rotation from a team that won 46 games a year ago and are led by junior left-hander Kent Emanuel.
• Emanuel will open weekend series for the second straight year as UNC’s Friday night starter after posting an 8-4 record and a 1.96 ERA.
• For his efforts, Emanuel has been recognized as a preseason All-America and has a chance to become the fourth pitcher in school history to reach 300 career strikeouts. He would join Andrew Miller (2004-06), Alex White (2007-09) and Patrick Johnson (2008-11).
• The Rocky Mount High School duo are also back in the Tar Heel rotation for 2013 as sophomore right-hander Benton Moss (7-2, 1.94 ERA) and junior left-hander Hobbs Johnson (7-1, 1.56 ERA) hold the advantage in following Emanuel once again.
• Carolina returns 97 percent (60 of 62) of its starts from a year ago.
• Senior right-hander Chris Munnelly (2-0, 3.61 ERA) and junior right-hander Shane Taylor (5-1, 3.48 ERA) will battle for a spot in the weekend rotation and will likely be called upon to make midweek starts for the Tar Heels
• Sophomore left-hander Chris O’Brien (1-2, 3.46 ERA) made five starts as a freshman and should also get the ball for UNC.
• Sophomore right-handers Luis Paula (0-1, 5.95 ERA) and Chris McCue (1-0, 2.10 ERA) could also see starting opportunities in 2013.
• A pair of freshmen have been pushing the returnees in the fall and into the early spring for starting time as well.
• Right-hander Trent Thornton has impressed coaches in the spring with his competitiveness and brings a polished approach to the mound.
• Fellow right-hander Taylore Cherry checks in at 6-foot-8 and is one of the more projectible pitchers on the staff entering the season.
• Sophomore Andrew Smith returns after making 24 appearances as a freshman. He missed most of the 2012 season due to injury.
• One of the holes that will need to be filled for the 2013 season will be the back-end of the Tar Heel bullpen.
• Juniors Michael Morin and R.C. Orlan each appeared 38 times for Carolina in 2012 and both signed after being drafted in the 2012 MLB Draft.
• Morin earned several All-America honors after setting UNC’s single-season record for saves with 19.
• Orlan was an eighth-inning fixture for the Tar Heels a year ago as a power left-hander and Carolina will look to junior Tate Parrish to take over the lefty role in 2013.
• The closer role will be a battle to watch throughout the spring as Carolina has a number of options to take over the spot.
• Sophomore Trevor Kelley appears to be the front runner entering the season after dropping his arm slot and having tremendous success over the summer.
• Kelley threw only an inning and two thirds as a freshman but finished his season in the Cal Ripken League by not allowing a run over his last 12 appearances.
• Sophomore Mason McCullough will also battle for the closer’s role and brings an electric arm to the compeitition.
• McCullough made 16 appearances as a freshman and will push Kelley as long as he displays an increased control.
• Another pair of sophomore right-handers could also see action at the back-end of games in Chris McCue and Luis Paula. The pair have confidence from the coaching staff to get outs in big situations.
• The Tar Heels will have several left-handed options out of the pen once again as junior Tate Parrish will likely see the bulk of the work after making 25 or more appearances for the second straight year.
• Sophomore Chris O’Brien threw 26 innings as a freshman and could see time either as a starter or long-relief out of the bullpen.
• Redshirt freshman Peter Hendel has shown a competitive side after sitting out a year ago due to injury.
• The Tar Heels also expect contributions out of the bullpen from senior right-hander Chris Munnelly who could see time in long relief or tight situations along with junior right-hander Shane Taylor.
• Redshirt sophomore Andrew Smith returns after undergoing surgery midway through the 2012 season and has returned to form in the early going.
• A trio of freshmen right-handers should factor into the equation this season as well with Taylore Cherry, Trent Thornton and Reilly Hovis all pushing the returners for innings.
• The 2013 season will be the first year since 2006 that the Tar Heels will not return a catcher that started at least five games behind the dish the year before.
• Since 2006, Carolina has seen just three catchers earn a majority of the starts as current big leaguer Tim Federowicz led the way from 2006-08 before Mark Fleury took over for the 2009 season.
• Departing senior Jacob Stallings kept the string going from 2010 until last year as the catcher line to the pros continued.
• The starting catcher competition is a two-man race entering the spring as junior Matt Roberts is battling freshman Korey Dunbar.
• Roberts has battled injuries throughout his career but is healthy entering the 2013 season and holds a slight lead in the competition.
• Roberts was drafted in the 38th round coming out of high school and provides a power right-handed bat in the Tar Heel lineup.
• Dunbar was taken by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 39th round a year ago and showed some growing pains during the fall.
• The Charleston, W. Va., native has appeared much more comfortable in the early spring and has given Roberts a real push for starting time.
• Sophomore transfer Matt Rubino and junior Brian Holberton provide catcher depth for the Tar Heels.
• First base should be a power position once again for the Tar Heels in 2013 as senior Cody Stubbs returns after starting all 62 games a year ago.
• Stubbs led the team with five home runs and ranked second with 19 doubles. The Waynesville, N.C., native got off to a hot start as a Tar Heel but struggled during the ACC season and is looking to put together a solid senior campaign.
• Sophomore Grayson Atwood had just 17 at bats as a freshman but stepped up in a key spot at the ACC Tournament when he blasted a pinch-hit home run against Miami to tie the game.
• Atwood could see at bats against left-handers throughout the year and could spell Stubbs from time to time.
• Junior Parks Jordan is undoubtedly the top defensive first baseman on the squad and provides head coach Mike Fox another lineup option.
• The Tar Heels will be shuffling up their middle infield for the second straight season as utility man Michael Russell will make the move from shortstop to second base.
• The sophomore Russell began the 2012 season in the outfield before making the move to third base when Colin Moran was injured and moved over to shortstop late in the year.
• Russell now makes the move to second base this season and turned in a productive fall.
• Sophomore Mike Zolk made 42 starts a year ago for the Tar Heels and will battle Russell for the starting spot at second base.
• Zolk provides quality at bats from the left side for the Tar Heels and if he is not in the starting lineup provides a quality pinch hit option.
• Freshman Landon Lassiter could also see time at second base when he is not playing shortstop.
• A pair of freshmen in Alex Raburn and Matt Campbell will provide depth for the Tar Heels.
• Junior Colin Moran returns to anchor the hot corner for the third straight year.
• Moran missed 21 games a year ago due to a hand injury but still paced the Tar Heels in batting average, slugging percentage and on base percentage with a .365/.494/.434 slash line.
• Moran is a projected first round draft pick in the 2013 MLB Draft and will be called upon to carry the Tar Heel offense in 2013.
• Russell along with Raburn will provide depth behind Moran.
• Freshman Landon Lassiter looks to become the first freshman since Craig Corrado in 2004 to start at shortstop on opening day.
• Lassiter was a 16th round pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks a year ago and has shown a steady glove at shortstop during his time as a Tar Heel.
• Russell could also see time at shortstop as he showed an ability to make plays and cover ground there in 2012.
• Freshmen Alex Raburn and Matt Campbell will provide depth as well.
• The Tar Heel outfield has the chance to be one of the fastest in the country this season.
• Senior Chaz Frank returns to centerfield where he made several highlight-reel grabs a year ago.
• Junior Parks Jordan has a strong hold on the left field position and freshman Skye Bolt looks to start in right field for the Tar Heels.
• Frank will fuel the offense from the top of the order after drawing a team-high 46 walks en route to a .419 on base percentage in 2012.
• Jordan handles the bat well and does a good job of moving runners and emerged as an outfield option for the Tar Heels last year.
• Bolt enters Carolina as one of the top freshman prospects in the game. The Woodstock, Ga., native provides a ton of speed in the Tar Heel lineup and his ability to switch-hit will put his name on the lineup card from the get go.
• Junior Brian Holberton could also see time in left field for the Tar Heels after hitting .297 a year ago.
• Freshman Zach Daly showed good athleticism during the fall and could see time anywhere in the outfield.
• Fellow freshmen Alex Raburn and Michael Massardo will provide depth for the Tar Heels.
• Junior Brian Holberton will enter the spring as prohibitive favorite to start at designated hitter.
• Holberton posted a .404 on base percentage in 2012 and was very successful in moving runners.
• Other designated hitter options include the first base duo of left-handed hitting Cody Stubbs and right-handed hitting Grayson Atwood.
• Junior Tom Zengel started 24 games in 2012 and could also see time as the designated hitter.