April 10, 2014

UNC baseball faces difficult path to NCAA tournament after Coastal Carolina loss

The Tar Heels are now 87th in the RPI, and several difficult ACC series remain.

It has been a difficult season for the North Carolina baseball team, and the Tar Heels (19-14, 7-8 ACC) suffered their worst loss of the season on Tuesday night – a 3-2 defeat, in 11 innings, against a Coastal Carolina team that had been ranked 227th in the RPI.

Losing to Coastal Carolina in baseball is the equivalent – at least in terms of RPI rankings – of losing in basketball to McNeese State, which ended the season ranked 264th out of 351 men’s basketball teams in the RPI. The loss against Coastal Carolina drops the Tar Heels to 88th in the baseball RPI.

As difficult as it is to believe UNC, which has made trips to the College World Series a nearly-annual event during recent years, is in danger of missing the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2001. The good news for the Tar Heels: There’s still plenty of season left.

UNC will have no shortage of chances to improve its standing – and postseason prospects – starting this weekend with a critical home series against Wake Forest, which is second in the Atlantic Division with a 10-5 conference record.

Then, next Tuesday, comes UNC’s only regular-season game against N.C. State, which has also struggled. The Wolfpack and Tar Heels, who will play at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, both reached the College World Series last June and both teams have gone through their share of issues this season.

In addition to the series against Wake, UNC also has three three-game series remaining against Virginia (10th in the RPI), Florida State (3rd) and Miami (23rd). Play well in those, and the Tar Heels can play themselves back into the postseason picture.

Still, though, there’s plenty of reason for concern. UNC hasn’t hit well all season, and its .268 batting average, if it holds, would be its worst since 1989. The Tar Heels’ pitching has usually been good enough outside of all the walks. UNC is allowing an average of 3.5 walks per game, which ranks ninth in the ACC and 131st nationally.

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UNC beat writer Andrew Carter


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