Game Day: UNC vs. Charlotte Preview

Tar Heels face a tough test in red-hot 49ers

Coming off an impressive series win against Miami, North Carolina will close out a five-game homestand when it welcomes No. 19 Charlotte to Boshamer Stadium on Tuesday.

Here’s what you need to know ahead of the 6 p.m. showdown.

Matchup: UNC (20-17) vs. Charlotte (29-11)

UNC ranks: No. -/-/- (Baseball America, D1Baseball, USA Today Coaches Poll)

Charlotte ranks: No. 19/15/17 (Baseball America, D1Baseball, USA Today Coaches Poll)


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Pitching matchup

RHP Caleb Cozart (0-0, 7.82 ERA) vs. LHP Trae Starnes (1-1, 2.84 ERA)

For the first time since April 4 at Florida State, Caleb Cozart took the mound for the Tar Heels on Sunday against Miami and allowed two runs on five hits over 2 1/3 innings of relief. Tuesday’s start will be the redshirt freshman’s second of the season, as he surrendered two runs on two hits and three walks in one-third of an inning on March 30 at ECU. His season high for pitches is 40.

The 49ers will counter with Trae Starnes, who will also be making his second start of the season. The redshirt junior faced only one batter in his other start against UNCG on March 2, striking them out on just five pitches before being pulled. He’s thrown nine pitches or fewer in 11 of his 14 appearances, but has averaged 19.3 over his last three.

Scouting the 49ers

Picked to finish fifth in the East Division in the Conference USA preseason coaches poll, Charlotte not only finds itself atop the East Division heading into May, but in the midst of one of the best seasons in program history. Coached by former UNC pitcher and assistant coach Robert Woodard, the 49ers have won 20 of their last 23 games. On Monday, they broke the school record for best national ranking when they came in at No. 15 in the D1Baseball poll.

One of the best offensive teams in the country, Charlotte ranks in the top 28 nationally in doubles (96, first), hits (411, second), runs (292, tied for eighth), batting average (.306, ninth), slugging percentage (.489, 14th) and home runs (46, tied for 28th). Tennessee transfer Austin Knight has played a significant role in the 49ers’ success, slashing .374/.429/.690. He ranks first nationally in doubles (23), eighth in RBIs (47) and ninth in hits (58). He’s also 7-for-7 stealing bases.

On the mound, the 49ers’ pitching staff – led by Bryce McGowan, the No. 142 prospect in the 2021 MLB Draft, according to Baseball America – has posted a 4.59 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP. The group has held opponents to a .230 average, and ranks 18th nationally in strikeouts per nine innings (10.6) and 26th in hits allowed per nine innings (7.66).

Charlotte has also been great defensively, ranking 19th nationally fielding percentage (.978).

Numbers to know

  • UNC leads the all-time series with Charlotte, 34-7-1.

  • The Tar Heels are third in the ACC and tied for 23rd nationally with 48 home runs. Those are the most by a UNC team through 37 games since the 2002 squad hit 61.

  • Over his last 10 games, graduate transfer Justice Thompson is slashing .425/.444/.600 with 10 RBIs and six multi-hit games.

  • Thompson has stolen 14 bases on 16 attempts this season.

  • After missing seven straight games due to COVID-19 protocols, redshirt sophomore Angel Zarate returned for the Miami series and went 4-for-10 with two doubles, two RBIs and two runs scored. He started all three games at designated hitter.

  • Sixth-year senior Dallas Tessar is 13-for-37 with three homers, four doubles and 11 runs scored over the last 11 games.

  • Freshman Colby Wilkerson is 12-for-34 over the last nine games.

  • Over the last 20 games, the Tar Heels’ bullpen has registered a 3.34 ERA in 116 innings.

  • Redshirt junior Gage Gillian has recorded a 1.09 ERA and a .65 WHIP in 24 2/3 innings. He’s struck out 24 batters while walking five and holding opponents to a .134 average.

  • UNC is fourth in the ACC and 28th nationally in fielding percentage (.977).

  • Freshman catcher Tomas Frick has thrown out 12 of 27 potential basestealers (44.4). The only ACC catchers with a higher percentage are Louisville’s Henry Davis – who has thrown out 11 of 21 potential basestealers (52.4) – and Florida State’s Matheu Nelson – who has thrown out 11 of 24 (45.8).