Skye Bolt homered in the fifth inning to break a 2-2 tie, while little used pitcher AJ Bogucki provided the Diamond Heels with an unexpected boost on their way to a 7-2 victory over the UNC-Wilmington Seahawks on Tuesday night at Boshamer Stadium.
With the crucial non-conference victory, the Tar Heels jump to 32-19 on the year, and also send the Seahawks to their fourth straight loss–which drops the visitors’ record to 33-16.
Although Bolt’s home run swung the momentum over to the home dugout for good, it was Bogucki that provided the story of the night.
“When [pitching] Coach Forbes told me yesterday that I [was getting] the ball on the mound today, I was super pumped,” says Bogucki, “I just wanted to go out there and throw strikes to kinda pick up after last weekend.”
Both teams came into Tuesday’s match-up as victims of weekend sweeps, with the Tar Heels putting together their longest losing streak of the season when they were swept by Notre Dame.
Even crazier, Bogucki had thrown just 10.1 innings this season prior to this game, but head coach Mike Fox and his staff decided to start the Pennsylvania native on the mound in favor of freshman left-hander Hunter Williams, a mid-week starter in each of the past seven weeks, due to Williams’ recent struggles–which include going just 2.2 innings on April 22nd at UNC-Wilmington in the first match-up between the teams this year.
He did not disappoint either, holding steady against the Wilmington lineup for five innings while allowing just two runs on three hits–striking out eight hitters in the process.
Teammates helped Bogucki’s cause when they scored two runs in the bottom of the second inning–one on a sacrifice fly by shortstop Logan Warmoth and the other by way of a Landon Lassiter RBI single–giving him some necessary breathing room against all of the scrappy bats in the Seahawk dugout.
Not until there were two outs in the top of the third did Wilmington pick up its first hit of the night against Bogucki, even though they came into the game batting .306 as a team (For some perspective no player on UNC has a batting average that high).
Aided by a highly effective slider, the sophomore also struck out six Seahawks over the first three frames–forcing the batter to swing for strike three each time.
However, he found a bit of trouble in the top of the fourth after he walked first baseman Corey Dick, because the next man he faced, designated hitter Joe Bertone, drilled a game-tying two-run homer which just barely stayed fair as it slipped over the fence in right-field.
But the Tar Heels’ hottest hitter as of late, junior center-fielder Skye Bolt, did his part to make sure his pitcher’s efforts wouldn’t be wasted.
Facing a 1-0 pitch from Seahawk reliever Jared Gesell, Bolt caught it with the sweet spot of his bat, sending the ball over the right-field wall for a solo home run that put his team back out in front.
“Any time you reclaim the lead after they tie it up, they had a little momentum, they had some base runners on…it’s good to get your team back on top,” says Bolt.
For the sixth inning Coach Fox made the move from Bogucki to lefty reliever Zach Rice, who presented a distinct matchup advantage against a Wilmington batting order stacked with seven left-handed hitters.
Rice got out of the frame only having to face three batters, but was pulled from the game in the seventh after allowing a lead-off single to Seahawk pinch-hitter Zach Canada.
The next man up out of the Tar Heel bullpen was senior Trevor Kelley, still the 2015 NCAA relief appearance leader, and also a Wilmington native.
Kelley got out of the inning by getting Kennard McDowell to ground into a double play, before striking out right-fielder Zach Shields two hitters later to keep UNC out in front.
Carolina was then able to extend the lead in their half of the seventh when Wilmington mishandled a potential double play ball in the field, allowing freshman designated hitter Brian Miller to come to the plate with the bases loaded. Miller then smacked the first pitch he saw over the heads of the infielders, bringing two more runs in for the home team.
With Kelley still cruising on the mound in relief, the Tar Heel bats decided to come out and put up another pair of runs in the eighth–just for good measure. Tyler Ramirez’s double brought home Logan Warmoth, with Ramirez later scoring on Landon Lassiter’s second RBI single of the night, all but ensuring a Carolina victory.
After tossing a scoreless ninth, Kelley was credited with a three-inning save, earning his third save of the year while his Tar Heels completed a 2-0 season sweep of his hometown school.
The win was UNC head coach Mike Fox’s 1300th of his career, truly a mind-boggling achievement.
Fox’s focus after the game, though, was on Bogucki, saying that not only was it the best he’s seen the sophomore pitch, his performance also could not have come at a better time for this team.
“We’ve seen him in practice, we’ve seen him in the fall, and we’ve told ourselves [the coaching staff] that ‘it’s in there, but when’s it gonna come out?’ “, says Fox, “And boy did it come out at the most opportune time for us, and the most critical time for us. He pitched well.”
The Diamond Heels will stay in Chapel Hill this weekend for their final conference series of the regular season, as they are set to host the Virginia Cavaliers for a three game set which will run from Thursday through Saturday, instead of the usual Friday through Sunday schedule. All of those games will still be broadcast live on WCHL’s airwaves.
- UNC is now 56-13 all-time against UNCW, including a 19-4 record under Mike Fox.
- Skye Bolt’s home run in the fifth was his fourth in the Tar Heels’ last five games.
- The three hits allowed by Bogucki were a career best for him in games where he got the start. Twice last season Bogucki started games and surrendered four hits.
- Kelley Tracker: Trevor Kelley has now appeared in 36 of UNC’s 51 games to lead the NCAA in that category.