The college baseball season is starting to sneak up on us, with the first day of play two weeks away. When the first pitch is thrown on Feb. 17, there will be 20 or so teams that everyone is looking at that have a solid chance to compete for the national championship.
The North Carolina Tar Heels are one of those teams, coming in the top 20 on the odds boards at most major online sportsbooks. While the Tar Heels did lose some excellent players to the MLB draft, Carolina is entering its second year under head coach Scott Forbes which should lead to more improvements.
In Forbes’ first season, North Carolina won three consecutive elimination games to win an NCAA Regional on its home field. The Tar Heels also hosted a Super Regional but were swept by Arkansas.
UNC Tar Heels College World Series Odds
Sportsbook Odds Odds Ranking
DraftKings +3000 T-11
FanDuel +2900 T-12
Caesars +3500 T-17
According to oddsmakers, the Tar Heels are within reach of a College World Series title, and almost all have Carolina in the top 20 of all college teams. LSU, Tennessee, and Stanford make up the top three odds-wise at almost every major sportsbook, while other teams rank as high as five or six and as low as 19 or 20.
So while the top three favorites may be set, that does not mean a team like UNC can’t make some noise and sneak its way in. DraftKings Sportsbook has the Tar Heels with the highest ranking, tied for 11th in the country odds-wise. FanDuel Sportsbook has the Tar Heels tied for 12th in the country but with the shortest odds (most likely to happen) with odds of +2900. Then the best value is found at Caesars Sportsbook, which has North Carolina tied for 17th with +3500 odds to win the College World Series.
The Tar Heel Pitching Staff
The Tar Heels coach Scott Forbes has yet to name a weekend rotation, as that will likely be figured out early in the season based on performance. If we had to take a stab at it, the first three guys to get chances are likely Junior Max Carlson, Junior Connor Bovair, and Senior lefty Brandon Schaeffer.
Bringing back three of the four pitchers with the most innings pitched last season is a massive plus for the Tar Heels. Between Schaeffer, Carlson, and Bovair, there were combined 45 starts on the mound last season. While it is possible that a new name or a player with significant off-season improvements steals a weekend starter spot. That would only be good since Carolina already has three trustworthy starters.
The bullpen should also be strong, led by graduate students, a lefty Will Sandy, and a righty Nik Pry. Each threw over 20 innings last season and combined for 44 appearances. Sandy did have some spot starts and is a lefty starting option should the matchups need one. After that, the bullpen gets a little green with some talented but inexperienced players.
The Tar Heel Lineup
Led by two preseason All-Americans named by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. The Tar Heel lineup has a chance to be very strong. While a few spots are still up for grabs, center fielder Vance Honeycutt and designated hitter Alberto Osuna are two great building blocks for any lineup.
Honeycutt has also been selected as the ACC Preseason Player of the Year by both D1 Baseball and Perfect Game. Last season as a freshman, Honeycutt put up a great stat line of .296/.409/.672 with 25 home runs, 57 RBIs, and 29 stolen bases. He was the first player in school history to have a 20-20 season (HR-SB).
The Tar Heels have a solid leader behind the dish, with Tomas Frick entering his third season as the starting catcher. It will be his second season in which he will hit for himself full-time. Doubling his at-bats from his freshman to his sophomore season Frick had a .260 batting average with 30 doubles, and six home runs. Already an excellent defensive catcher, if Frick even slightly improves his hitting, that will be icing on the cake for the Tar Heels.
The Early Season Tar Heel Schedule
Feb. 17-19: Home vs. Seton Hall
Feb. 21: Home vs. Radford
Feb. 22: Home vs. Longwood
Feb. 24-26: Away vs. East Carolina
The Tar Heels’ first conference series is Mar. 10-12 at home vs. Virginia.
AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker