CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – For fans who looked around the diamond at UNC-Chapel Hill during Friday’s scrimmage against Walters State, they might not recognize too many names.
The Tar Heels baseball program added 24 new players this offseason, including 14 freshmen. Headlined by N.C. Baseball Coaches Association 4A Player of the Year and former Wake Forest High School catcher Luke Stevenson, Perfect Game USA ranks UNC’s freshmen class at 10th place nationally.
“Those recruiting rankings, I like to re-rank them after a season or after a couple of seasons,” UNC baseball head coach Scott Forbes said. “But we’re excited about them – that talent level has gone up.”
Carolina also added 10 transfers this season. Out of the 24 new faces, 14 of them are pitchers, and Coach Forbes said this is where the talent from this group of newcomers is most evident.
“Some of these transfers – fifth-year guys – had tremendous careers where they were,” Forbes said. “And somehow they slipped through the draft and we got lucky and they’re at North Carolina.”
In Friday’s scrimmage against Walters State, all but two position players were new faces this year. Although notably absent was projected MLB first-rounder Vance Honeycutt, who is still recovering from a lower back injury that kept him out the entirety of the postseason last year.
“He could probably play if we were in Omaha, but we don’t play until February,” Forbes said. “He is healed, but now I’m probably the one that’s making him go a little bit slow because I’ve seen injuries like this before, and I don’t want it to linger. I want him to be good.”
Despite the newer players on the roster, the Diamond Heels showcase an older squad this season, and that’s making fall ball a little easier on their fourth-year skipper.
“You don’t have to practice as much on the teaching side like the base running or a certain play, they know most of them, and then they can help you teach that highly ranked recruiting class,” Forbes said. “Even the guys that are new, they are older, so they have to learn how we do things at North Carolina.”
While there’s a lot of time between now and February’s season opener, there are still tons of reasons to be high on what the Tar Heels can accomplish this year.
“When you play so many games against each other, it’s good to play somebody else,” Forbes said.