Game Day: UNC vs. ECU Preview

Tar Heels look to build momentum against in-state rival

Coming off Sunday’s thrilling 5-4 win to clinch the series at Boston College, North Carolina returns to Boshamer Stadium on Tuesday for a top-25 showdown against East Carolina.

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

Matchup: UNC (12-6) vs. ECU (16-3)

UNC ranks: No. 11/24/25 (Baseball America, D1Baseball, USA Today Coaches Poll)

ECU ranks: No. 8/8/8 (Baseball America, D1Baseball, USA Today Coaches Poll)

TV: ACC Network

Listen: TuneIn

Live Stats: Click Here

Pitching matchup

LHP Will Sandy (1-0, 4.26 ERA) vs. RHP Tyler Smith (0-0, 4.08 ERA)

The Pirates’ most experienced arm, fifth-year senior Tyler Smith has made 65 appearances (34 starts) in his career, posting an 18-3 record and 3.74 ERA over 214 1/3 innings. A key reliever on the 2017 team, he held a spot in the weekend rotation for the last three years. But after making four starts this season, he didn’t pitch in ECU’s sweep of Illinois State last weekend.

Tuesday will be Smith’s first-ever midweek start. It won’t, however, be his first time facing the Tar Heels, who he’s tossed six shutout innings against across two appearances.

Opposite Smith will be redshirt sophomore Will Sandy. The lefty tossed five shutout innings in UNC’s first midweek game of the season against Elon, but struggled in his second start against Liberty on March 9, allowing three runs (two earned), four hits and a walk in 1 1/3 innings. He then came out of the bullpen last Tuesday at Liberty and walked the only two batters he faced.

“If you’re not attacking hitters and getting in pitcher’s counts, it’s going to catch up to you,” said head coach Scott Forbes when asked about Sandy after the second Liberty game. “If you can’t throw an off-speed pitch at any time in the count, it’s hard to get swings and misses, and Will has not been able to do that all season.”

Sandy’s only previous appearance against the Pirates came on May 8, 2019, when he surrendered an unearned run and three hits in three relief innings.

Scouting the Pirates

The preseason favorite in the American Athletic Conference, ECU has looked the part so far, thanks in large part to its pitching. The Pirates rank 30th nationally in ERA (3.29) and 15th in WHIP (1.14). They’re also 17th in strikeout-to-walk ratio at 3.45 (207 strikeouts and 60 walks).

ECU has been about just as good at the plate, hitting .288 with 27 home runs, tied for the 11th most in the nation. Catcher Seth Caddell (.310/.390/.676) leads the team with eight homers and 24 RBIs. He’s one of three Pirates with an OPS over 1.000, along with second baseman Connor Norby (.450/.494/.750) and first baseman Josh Moylan (.340/.419/.660).

Although ECU boasts a .976 fielding percentage – which ranks 50th nationally – its defense has been shaky as of late. The Pirates have committed seven errors over their last four games after making 10 in their first 15 games.

Numbers to know

  • Redshirt sophomore left fielder Angel Zarate has reached base in 38 consecutive games, dating back to the Tar Heels’ 16-1 win over Liberty in the 2019 Chapel Hill Regional. In that span, he’s slashing .371/.459/.464.

  • After going 2-for-33 in UNC’s first nine games, redshirt sophomore shortstop Danny Serretti is slashing .361/.425/.861 with two doubles, two triples, four home runs and 14 RBIs over the last nine games. His four homers in that span are one more than he hit through his first 89 career games.

  • Redshirt junior Caden O’Brien has pitched 10 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings of relief.

  • The Tar Heels lead the ACC and are tied for 26th nationally with 23 home runs. Those are the most by a UNC team through 18 games since the 2009 squad also hit 23.

  • The Tar Heels rank 25th nationally in hits allowed per nine innings (7.12)

  • UNC ranks 16th nationally in fielding percentage (.982).