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Four things to know about Tennessee baseball’s next MCWS opponent

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If there was any doubt about the tenacity and grit of the 2024 Tennessee baseball team, that was erased after Friday night’s incredible 9th inning rally to beat Florida State in game one of the College World Series. The Vols entered the final frame down by three runs and were able to manufacture four; the deciding run, a single to left center off the bat of Dylan Dreiling. Christian Moore had yet another historic day at the plate, tallying five hits and becoming only the second player ever to hit for the cycle in an MWCS game. His monstrous home run in the sixth inning measured 440 feet, the third longest recorded in Charles Schwab field. 

The Vols get a much-needed day off on Saturday as they prepare for their next challenger, North Carolina. Here are a few things to note about Tennessee’s Sunday night opponent. 

Late inning fireworks

The Tar Heels also won their opening MWCS game in a walk-off fashion. Vance Honeycutt hit a two-out single to overtake Virginia 3-2 on Friday afternoon. Astonishingly, that was the FOURTH time North Carolina has walked it off this postseason.  

Best pitcher is a closer? 

It’s not surprising when so many of your games come down to the final three outs that one of your most valuable players is the closer. That’s certainly the case for UNC. Closer Dalton Pence had eight saves during the regular season and has lowered his ERA to 2.04. He had what might be his best outing of the postseason on Friday when he retired all seven men he faced, only allowing one base runner.  

Versatile Vance

As mentioned, center fielder Vance Honeycutt was responsible for Friday’s walk-off win. Just another day at the office for the junior who is having the best season of his collegiate career. He has proved he can get on base (1.112 OPS), he can send them over the fence (26 home runs), and he is super speedy (28 stolen bases on 31 attempts). But he’s not just an offensive star. Honeycutt is a two-time NCAA defensive player of the year and some analysts say is the best center fielder in college baseball. 

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Can inspiration lead to success? 

UNC hasn’t been to the MWCS since 2018. No current Tar Heel had ever set foot in Charles Schwab Field prior to this weekend. Coach Scott Forbes wanted his players to absorb the whole experience, so he had the team fly in three days early. According to The Daily Tar Heel, Forbes hoped “that his Tar Heels will acclimate to the limelight and reach their goal — UNC’s first national championship for baseball.”  

Bottom line: This is UNC’s 12th appearance in the College World Series, and they are still looking for that elusive championship. They are a tough group that you can never count out, but with a team ERA over 4.00, look for Tennessee to manufacture some runs, as they always seem to do.

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