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ACC Midterm Grades: North Carolina

Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics

It is past the halfway mark in the ACC conference slate which means it's time for midterm grades to go out on all 14 ACC teams. We start with the North Carolina Tar Heels, who currently sit atop the Coastal Division.

UNC is having a stellar season so far and are 29-8 on the year. After an early season series loss to a Top 15 East Carolina team, the Tar Heels quietly racked up the wins before a resounding sweep of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in Winston Salem at the end of March. They rebounded nicely with a dominant sweep of Notre Dame following a road series loss at Virginia, and at 14-4 in ACC play, the Tar Heels have a comfortable three game cushion atop the division standings. 

Offense: A-

North Carolina’s offense is greatly improved from the 2023 season. Vance Honeycutt and Alberto Osuna are having huge bounce back years while the additions of transfers Parks Harber Anthony Donofrio have complemented incoming freshman stars Luke Stevenson and Gavin Gallaher well. Add in a breakout year from Casey Cook and you have a recipe for one of the most dangerous lineups in the country. Five hitters have double digit home runs this season and eight members of their regular lineup are hitting over .300. Not only are the Heels hitting for power, they’ve been a terror on the bases as well, going 60-64 on stolen base attempts this season. 

Rotation: B

A “B” grade seems a bit harsh here considering UNC lost its Friday starter in Jake Knapp before the season even started, and Coach Scott Forbes has had to rely on two true freshmen to lead the weekend rotation. Folger Boaz has impressed on Friday nights and boasts a 3-1 record, though he’s had some rough outings in recent starts and didn’t pitch against Notre Dame this past weekend. Shea Sprague, a transfer from Elon, has been a steady influence who throws strikes and gives the Heels a chance to win every time out. But the real ace of the rotation has been 17-year-old right hander Jason DeCaro, who is 2-1 with a 3.66 ERA in 9 weekend starts this season.

Bullpen: A

North Carolina’s bullpen has been the best in the conference. The Heels are led by the three-headed monster of Matt Poston, Dalton Pence, and Matthew Matthijs. Poston leads the team with 4 saves, while Pence has starred with a 1.84 ERA in 29.1 innings pitched. Opponents are hitting just .155 against him. Matthijs leads the country with 11 wins and has accumulated 34 innings over 21 relief appearances so far this year. As if those three weren’t enough, UNC has gotten sparkling seasons from the likes of Connor Bovair, Aidan Haugh, and Kyle Percival.  

Overall: A

Listen, North Carolina has the best conference record in the ACC and has been very impressive to this point. They appear to have exceeded expectations, especially after the loss of their ace heading into the year. They are currently ranked #10 in our latest poll and in the conversation for a Top 8 National Seed. This team featured a league best 6 College Baseball Central All Stars, which didn’t include Vance Honeycutt. Unlike in previous years, this feels like a North Carolina team that has a reasonable dream of Omaha. A strong finish could earn them a home Super-Regional.   

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