Boshamer Stadium will come alive on Friday afternoon, as the Tar Heels will open the 2020 season at home against the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders. With Mike Fox’s squad ready to get things going, let’s look at the three biggest storylines heading into the 2020 season.
Aaron Sabato Looks to Build on a Phenomenal Freshman Season
With him being a draft eligible sophomore, it is likely that this will be Sabato’s last season on campus. Last year, as a freshman, Sabato broke out to become the leader of a veteran Tar Heel team, hitting .343 while posting an on-base percentage of .453, both of which led the team a year ago. The best part about Sabato is just how complete his game is. As a freshman, he hit 18 home runs and drove in 63 RBI’s and with Michael Busch and Ike Freeman both gone, he’ll be counted on to produce similar numbers once again. If he does that, there is a legitimate chance he could earn the Golden Spikes Award, especially if he can lead this young Tar Heel team to the College World Series.
New Stars Need to Emerge Amongst the Position Players
The Tar Heels will have the arduous task of replacing a decorated group of position players a year ago. Amongst those departed are Busch, who was second behind Sabato in most offensive statistical categories, as well as Brandon Martarano and Ashton McGee who leave behind big holes behind the plate and in the outfield. This means that there will be pressure for new stars to emerge. Danny Serretti already showed last year that he is ready to handle a role like that, starting all but one game that he played in at shortstop for the Tar Heels who posted a very strong .299/.373/.424 statline as a freshman. Senior outfielder Dylan Harris has the potential to have a breakout season as the No. 2 power hitter, especially after posting a solid .268/.397/.423 and hitting seven home runs a year ago. Caleb Roberts is another name that deserves a look, but he must improve on his .227/.374/.280 statline from a year. At catcher, it looks as if a true freshman will take over, as Kyle Smith is expected to take over behind the dish. This young team will need stars to emerge, but the good news is, there are a lot of great candidates to become the leaders for this 2020 Tar Heel baseball team.
Pitching Looks for Answers
The pitching rotation lost a lot in the offseason and now they will be without their ace for a significant period of time. Gianluca Dalatri will start that season on the injured list, something that has been rather common for him throughout the last few years, with a small fracture in his right elbow. The team already came in with the task of replacing both Tyler Baum and Austin Bergner and now must find three new starters to begin the season. Joey Lancelloti will likely go from the team’s best bullpen option a year ago to the team’s ace to begin the season, a big ask of the junior who has spent almost his entire career in the pen. Max Alba has a ton of potential, but enters off of Tommy John surgery, something that is never easy to recover from. Will Sandy and Connor Ollio will bring up the end of the rotation, with both needing to show improvement from last year. In the bullpen, Austin Love will return after a phenomenal redshirt freshman season that placed him amongst the best relief pitchers in college baseball.The rest of the pen is still a bit shaky meaning Caden O’Brien must be able to put his 2019 struggles behind him. Everyone else is relatively unproven, but a few names will need to emerge, especially early in the year without Dalatri.