Game Day: UNC vs. Louisville Series Preview

Tar Heels host Cardinals in final home series

With its NCAA Tournament fate in its hands, North Carolina welcomes No. 11 Louisville to Boshamer Stadium this weekend for its final home series.

Here’s what you need to know ahead of the series, which will begin at 6 p.m. Friday and will continue at 2 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. Sunday.

Matchup: UNC (21-22, 14-16 ACC) vs. Louisville (26-15, 16-10 ACC)

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

Louisville ranks: No. 11/15/15 (Baseball America, D1Baseball, USA Today Coaches Poll)


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Pitching matchups

Friday: RHP Austin Love (6-4, 4.02 ERA) vs. LHP Michael Kirian (5-2, 4.92)

Austin Love is coming off his lone relief appearance of the season against Campbell on May 5, when he allowed a home run and a single to the first two batters he faced before retiring the last 12. Friday could be Love’s final appearance at Boshamer Stadium, where he’s posted a 4.79 ERA in eight games (seven starts) this season. The redshirt sophomore is ranked by Baseball America as the No. 190 prospect in the 2021 MLB Draft.

Like Love, Michael Kirian – the No. 221 prospect in the upcoming draft, according to Baseball America – transitioned from reliever to starter before this season, and excelled in his first eight games (seven starts), registering a 2.41 ERA in 41 innings. The redshirt junior has struggled mightily in his last three starts, though, surrendering 20 earned runs in 15 2/3 innings.

Saturday: TBA vs. LHP Luke Seed (0-0, 2.18 ERA)

After using only three pitchers in their loss to UNCG on Tuesday, their first game in six days, the Tar Heels could go a number of different directions with their Saturday starter. If he doesn’t pitch Friday, Caden O’Brien (3-1, 3.64 ERA) seems like the most likely option after starting at Notre Dame on May 2 and against Campbell on May 5.

Luke Seed opened the season as the Cardinals’ midweek starter, but moved into the weekend rotation against N.C. State on March 21 and has remained there ever since. The John A. Logan College transfer has surrendered multiple runs only twice in 10 starts, and his 2.18 ERA is the best among qualified ACC pitchers.

Sunday: LHP Shawn Rapp (1-1, 4.91 ERA) vs. LHP Carter Lohman (2-1, 5.11 ERA)

Making his third career start against UNCG on Tuesday, Shawn Rapp gave up a single and a homer to the first two batters of the game before retiring 13 of the next 14 he faced. The redshirt freshman finished with seven strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings, and is now averaging 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings this season.

Carter Lohman will be making his first career ACC start after a pair of strong midweek starts against Kentucky and Vanderbilt. The redshirt sophomore pitched two scoreless innings against the Wildcats on April 20, then surrendered one run on two hits against the Commodores on May 4.

Scouting the Cardinals

For the third time in as many seasons, Louisville was selected to win the ACC in the league’s preseason coaches poll, and even though they’re just 2-4 in their last six conference games, the Cardinals’ .615 winning percentage in ACC play is second only to Notre Dame (.688).

Louisville’s offense is among the most multi-faceted in college baseball, as the Cardinals lead the ACC in batting average (.288), on-base percentage (.385), triples (12) and stolen bases (99). They’re also second in the league in runs per game (7.1) and RBIs (262). Catcher Henry Davis, who Baseball America lists as the No. 5 prospect in the 2021 MLB Draft, leads the way with a 1.182 OPS. His 11 homers and 43 RBIs are second to first baseman Alex Binelas (.259/.358/.601 with 14 homers and 52 RBIs), who Baseball America considers the No. 33 prospect in the 2021 draft. Right fielder Levi Usher (.214/.369/.313), meanwhile, is fifth nationally with 25 stolen bases.

After losing a pair of first-round picks in Reid Detmers and Bobby Miller, Louisville’s starting rotation has been inconsistent for much of the season. Part of that has been due to the absence of Opening Day starter Glenn Albanese, who has only pitched in four games this season, the last on April 10. As a staff, the Cardinals own a 4.84 ERA, which is eighth in the ACC. Walks have been an issue, as the team ranks 202nd nationally in walks allowed per nine innings (4.87).

Numbers to know

  • The all-time series between UNC and Louisville is tied at five games apiece. The Cardinals are 5-2 against the Tar Heels since joining the ACC in 2015.

  • Ranked No. 51 in the RPI, UNC has played the country's eighth-hardest schedule, according to The Tar Heels’ 33 games against Quadrant 1 opponents are the second most nationally, behind Virginia’s 34. They’re 14-19 in those games.

  • UNC is fifth in the ACC and tied for 34th nationally with 54 home runs. Those are the most by a Tar Heel team through 43 games since the 2002 squad hit 73.

  • Sixth-year senior Dallas Tessar is slashing .344/.452/.689 with four homers, nine doubles and 17 runs scored over the last 17 games.

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

  • Since returning from a seven-game absence due to COVID-19 protocols, redshirt sophomore Angel Zarate is 12-for-31 with a homer, two doubles, five runs scored and nine RBIs in nine games.

  • Redshirt junior Gage Gillian has recorded a 1.21 ERA and a .75 WHIP in 37 1/3 innings. He’s struck out 35 batters while walking six and holding opponents to a .169 average.

  • Tomas Frick has thrown out 15 basestealers this season, the most by a UNC freshman catcher since Mike Fox’s first season as head coach in 1999. Chris Iannetta and Tim Federowicz each threw out 14 in 2002 and 2006, respectively.

  • Frick has thrown out 15 of 37 basestealers (40.5%). The only ACC catchers with a higher caught stealing percentage are Louisville’s Davis – who has thrown out 12 of 26 basestealers (46.2%) – and Florida State’s Matheu Nelson – who has thrown out 14 of 27 (51.9%).