Let’s take a look at North Carolina baseball’s all-time starting nine in this edition of the NCAA.com series of the best possible starting lineups for some of college baseball’s most successful programs.
Here is how we picked the team: We dug deep in the record books, only considering the players’ college careers. Their achievements in professional baseball did not come into play. There was also consideration given to their positional fits and how well they fit into a batting order we made based on historical stats that could provide a combination of high batting averages, speed, and power.
The Tar Heels have never been short of talent. This is a team that made it to Omaha four straight seasons, part of a resume that includes 11 trips to the College World Series. They went to back-to-back championship series in 2006 and 2007, which explains why quite a few of the players selected came from that run.
Roberts spent just two years in Chapel Hill but he certainly made them count. He hit .427 in his Carolina debut, still tied for the best single-season mark in program history. Roberts not only holds the single-season stolen base record with 63, but he also broke his own record of 47 to get there. The 1997 national freshman of the year and 1998 ACC player of the year left the program as the all-time stolen base leader and his .398 batting average is still third all-time.
BJ Surhoff, Catcher (1983-85)
Surhoff was the rare catcher that could play solid defense, seemingly hit everything thrown his way, and light up the base paths with uncharacteristic speed for a backstop. He left the program with his name all over the record book, finishing No. 2 in batting average (.392), No. 5 in stolen bases (84), sixth in runs scored (187), and eighth in hits (265). He is the only Tar Heel to earn back-to-back First Team All-American honors, which speaks volumes of his skills on a national level.
Dustin Ackley, First Base (2007-09)
While Surhoff was the first back-to-back First Team All American, Ackley made UNC history by becoming the first Tar Heel to earn All-American honors three seasons in a row. Chad Flack — whose legendary home run heroics and College World Series records merits a mention —would be our designated hitter if we had one, but Ackley is arguably the greatest hitter in Carolina history and takes first base. His .412 career batting average, 346 hits, and 227 runs scored all still tops in the UNC record books. He never hit below .400 in leading the Tar Heels to the College World Series all three seasons he was at Chapel Hill. Once there, he left his mark on the Omaha record books, tied for the most hits in CWS history.
Devy Bell, Outfield (1984-87)
This is a simple pick. The North Carolina all-team leader in home runs gets the nod in the cleanup spot. Bell hit 26 homers in 1986, still the best single-season mark in history. He slugged 31 more home runs in his career, and when he left college baseball in 1987, that was the all-time mark in ACC history.
Jarrett Shearin, Outfield (1996-99)
Remember, we are basing this dream team off stats, and when it comes to stuffing the record book, you won’t find anyone’s name more than Shearin. He is UNC’s all-time leader with 214 RBI, 73 doubles, and 123 extra base hits while also in the top 10 in hits (284), home runs (40), runs (219), and stolen bases (75). That’s about as well-rounded a box score stuffer as you’ll ever find.
Colin Moran, Third Base (2011-13)
This was a tough one. It came down to Chris Maples and Moran, and we chose Moran based on his solid stats that allowed him to bookend his career with ACC and national freshman of the year honors in 2011 and ACC player of the year honors in 2013. Moran was never the big slugger typically found at the hot corner, but his 197 RBI rank fifth all-time and his 91 in 2013 are still the best single-season mark in history. Oh yeah, he also happens to be Surhoff’s nephew, making this the first starting nine with family bloodlines in the lineup.
Kyle Seager, Second Base (2007-09)
Looking through the UNC record books, you won’t find many All-American second basemen. Seager is the only true second baseman to earn the honors, grabbing second and third team honors in a big 2008 season. That was the year Seager set the UNC mark with 30 doubles in a season and his 66 total are second all-time. He was a member of three straight College World Series teams and being a doubles machine was a big part of that.
Tim Fedroff, Outfield (2007-08)
The final outfield spot is another difficult decision because there are so many good choices. We ultimately went with Fedroff as one of the all-time leaders in batting average, his career .379 average fourth in Tar Heel history. He had a 2008 All-American season in which he hit .404 and also earned All-College World Series Team honors in Omaha.
Andrew Miller, Pitcher (2004-06)
Picking the Friday night starter is the single hardest task in any starting nine. After much deliberation, we settled on the weekend rotation of Miller, Dave Lemonds, and Scott Bankhead with Adam Warren and Michael Hoog splitting midweek starts.
— NCAA Baseball (@NCAACWS) October 20, 2016
Lemonds was sensational during his time in Chapel Hill, taking home the Sporting News player of the year award in 1968, but that was his lone season with UNC. Bankhead was borderline absurd, going undefeated in 1983 and 1984, a perfect 20-0 in 25 starts and amongst the program’s all-time leaders in ERA. Miller gets the Friday night start because of his 2006 campaign, one which earned him Baseball America’s player of the year, the Roger Clemens Award, ACC pitcher of the year, and consensus First-Team All-American honors. He struck out a program-record 133 batters that season as well. Any of these guys can take the bump to start the weekend, but we have no problem handing the ball to Miller every Friday night.
Mike Fox, head coach (1999-present)
— Christopher Beavans (@HEELBeavans) March 4, 2019
Come on, this is an easy one. Twenty full seasons with UNC, zero losing records, five 50-win campaigns including a run of three in a row, and seven trips to Omaha with those back-to-back national runners-up campaigns in 2006 and 2007. Any questions?