After a year hiatus, North Carolina will make the annual trip to Truist Field, home of the Triple-A Charlotte Knights, on Tuesday for a midweek contest with No. 9 South Carolina.
Here’s what you need to know ahead of the 7 p.m. neutral-site matchup.
Matchup: UNC (14-12) vs. South Carolina (19-7)
UNC ranks: No. -/-/- (Baseball America, D1Baseball, USA Today Coaches Poll)
South Carolina ranks: No. 9/11/12 (Baseball America, D1Baseball, USA Today Coaches Poll)
TV: SEC Network
Live Stats: Click Here
TBA vs. RHP Jack Mahoney (1-0, 1.69 ERA)
A true freshman, Jack Mahoney pitched exclusively out of the bullpen through South Carolina’s first 22 games, making nine appearances and allowing just three runs (two earned) in 12 innings. The right-hander’s performance ultimately earned him his first career start against Gardner-Webb last Tuesday, when he surrendered one run and struck out six batters over four innings.
The Tar Heels have yet to announce a starting pitcher. Redshirt sophomore Will Sandy (1-1, 5.84 ERA) – who has started three of UNC’s five midweek games – is an option, having not pitched since March 29 against N.C. State. Redshirt junior Michael Oh and redshirt sophomore Connor Ollio – who combined to throw four pitches on Saturday – are also potential candidates.
Scouting the Gamecocks
Picked to finish fourth in the Eastern Division in the SEC preseason coaches poll, South Carolina started 11-0 before dropping six straight games against Texas, Davidson and Vanderbilt. Since then, though, the Gamecocks have been among the hottest teams in the country, winning eight of their last nine – including back-to-back series against Florida and Georgia.
One of college baseball’s most powerful teams, South Carolina ranks fourth nationally in home runs (44), is 14th in slugging percentage (.485) and is tied for 16th in doubles (55). Catcher/infielder Wes Clarke (.319/.475/.835) is the biggest bopper of the bunch, having already hit 15 homers, three more than any other player in the country. He’s one of two Gamecocks with an OPS over 1.000, along with center fielder Brady Allen (.306/.381/.620).
As good as South Carolina has been at the plate, it’s been just as impressive on the mound. The staff ranks second nationally in strikeouts per nine innings (13.0), 14th in hits allowed per nine innings (7.01), 16th in strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.32), 23rd in WHIP (1.21) and 35th in ERA (3.52).
Numbers to know
UNC leads the all-time series with South Carolina, 65-36-1.
Tuesday’s game will be the fifth played between the Tar Heels and Gamecocks at Truist Field, formerly known as BB&T Ballpark. UNC is 3-1 in the previous four games, having outscored South Carolina 48-13.
Gamecocks head coach Mark Kingston played for the Tar Heels from 1989-92. He won the Francis “Tripp” Bourne Award as the team’s most dedicated player as a junior, and was a team captain his senior season.
Redshirt sophomore Caleb Roberts has hit safely in nine of UNC’s last 10 games. He’s slashing .405/.511/.649 in that span.
Junior college transfer Justice Thompson has stolen 11 bases on 12 attempts. His six-game drought without a stolen base is his longest of the season.
The Tar Heels are second in the ACC and tied for 21st nationally with 33 home runs. Those are the most by a UNC team through 26 games since the 2006 squad also hit 33.
Freshman catcher Tomas Frick has thrown out eight of 16 potential basestealers.
Redshirt junior Gage Gillian hasn’t allowed a run in 10 1/3 innings this season.