Coming off a thrilling 10-inning win over No. 9 South Carolina on Tuesday in Charlotte, North Carolina returns to Boshamer Stadium this weekend for a three-game series against rival Duke.
Here’s what you need to know ahead of the series, which begins at 6 p.m. Friday and will continue at 2 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunday.
Matchup: UNC (15-12, 9-9 ACC) vs. Duke (12-13, 5-10 ACC)
UNC ranks: No. -/-/- (Baseball America, D1Baseball, USA Today Coaches Poll)
Duke ranks: No. -/-/- (Baseball America, D1Baseball, USA Today Coaches Poll)
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Friday: RHP Austin Love (4-1, 3.56 ERA) vs. RHP Cooper Stinson (2-1, 3.81 ERA)
A week removed from his worst start of the season against N.C. State, Austin Love bounced back last Friday at Florida State. In going seven innings for the fourth time this year, the right-hander allowed three runs (two earned) on just three hits while striking out 10 batters. He’ll look to build on that performance in his fourth career outing against the Blue Devils. The other three came in the 2019 Duke series, when he surrendered five runs in 2 2/3 innings of relief.
Opposing Love will be Cooper Stinson. Considered the No. 266 prospect in the 2021 MLB Draft according to Baseball America, Stinson leads the ACC in hits allowed per nine innings (5.40) and opposing batting average (.173). The right-hander’s only career appearance against UNC came on March 31, 2019, when he allowed three runs (one earned) while walking three batters in one-third of an inning of relief.
Saturday: LHP Shawn Rapp (0-0, 2.45 ERA) vs. RHP Henry Williams (2-3, 4.50 ERA)
Shawn Rapp will be making his first career start Saturday, assuming Max Alba’s spot in the rotation. In 21 career appearances out of the bullpen, the lefty has recorded a 2.05 ERA over 22 innings. He’s gone 2 1/3 or more innings four times this season, including a three-inning outing at Virginia Tech on March 7, when he threw 53 pitches.
Duke will counter with Henry Williams. The right-hander has shown flashes of potential this year, allowing one run and striking out 11 batters in six innings against Pittsburgh on March 6 and surrendering two runs (zero earned) while striking out nine in seven innings against Georgia Tech on March 27. But there have been a few blips, too – none worse than last Saturday, when he allowed eight runs (five earned) on 10 hits over 1 2/3 innings at Miami.
Sunday: RHP Max Carlson (2-2, 5.81 ERA) vs. RHP Jack Carey (1-1, 6.65 ERA)
After skipping his previous turn in the rotation so he could rest a sore shoulder, Max Carlson returned last Sunday at Florida State and lasted just two-thirds of an inning, giving up four runs on two hits and three walks. The freshman has walked three or more batters three times this year, registering a 9.90 ERA in those games. He has a 3.31 ERA in his other three starts.
Taking the hill for the Blue Devils in the series finale will be Jack Carey, the No. 290 prospect in the 2021 MLB Draft according to Baseball America. The right-hander has gone more than 4 1/3 innings in only one of his seven starts this season, when he surrendered one hit over six shutout innings against Notre Dame on March 21.
Scouting the Blue Devils
After advancing to the first two NCAA super regionals in school history in 2018 and 2019, Duke got off to a 12-4 start last season and appeared to have enough pieces to make it to Omaha. The COVID-19 pandemic ruined its chances of making such a run. But with many proven veterans returning, expectations remained high entering 2021.
The Blue Devils, however, haven’t met those so far, due in large part to the struggles of their two biggest stars. Catcher Michael Rothenberg, the No. 256 player in the 2021 MLB Draft according to Baseball America, is slashing .195/.330/.391. Shortstop Ethan Murray – who is No. 115 in Baseball America’s draft rankings – hasn’t been much better, slashing .253/.367/.352. Left fielder RJ Schreck (.345/.453/.575 with five home runs and 20 RBIs) has been a revelation for Duke, but the team still ranks 186th nationally and 12th in the ACC in runs per game (5.2).
On the mound, the Blue Devils haven’t quite been able to fill the void left by Bryce Jarvis, the 18th overall pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2020 draft. While Stinson has been steady, Williams and Carey have been inconsistent. The team ranks 96th nationally and 10th in the ACC in ERA (4.49).
Numbers to know
UNC leads the all-time series with Duke, 192-103-2. Sunday’s game will be the 300th between the two schools.
Redshirt sophomore Caleb Roberts has hit safely in 10 of UNC’s last 11 games. He’s slashing .425/.540/.650 in that span.
Junior college transfer Justice Thompson has stolen 12 bases on 13 attempts.
The Tar Heels are second in the ACC and tied for 22nd nationally with 33 home runs. Those are the most by a UNC team through 27 games since the 2009 squad hit 33.
Redshirt junior Gage Gillian hasn’t allowed a run in 13 innings this season. He’s struck out 13 batters while walking just one.
Over the last 10 games, the Tar Heels’ bullpen has posted a 2.95 ERA in 61 innings.
Freshman catcher Tomas Frick has thrown out eight of 16 potential basestealers.
Freshman infielder Johnny Castagnozzi hasn’t made an error on 86 chances this season.