Week after week, UNC junior right-hander JB Bukauskas is proving why MLB scouts feel he should be one of the first players chosen in this June’s draft.
His latest trick was to strike out a career-high 14 hitters on Friday, as the Tar Heels hung on for a 6-5 victory over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in Atlanta.
Closer Josh Hiatt pitched himself out of a tricky jam in the ninth inning, which allowed a monstrous solo home run from shortstop Logan Warmoth to provide the final difference for UNC (14-4, 3-1 ACC) in what was a back and forth affair all night long .
In total, there were five home runs hit on the night.
Tyler Lynn and Kyle Datres each added solo shots for UNC in the fourth inning to break what had been a 2-2 tie.
The Yellow Jackets (11-5, 1-3 ACC) then found a chink in Bukauskas’ armor in the sixth, as Joey Bart and Trevor Craport put together back-to-back homers that evened things up yet again.
Bukauskas stayed strong on the mound following that minor blip on the radar, however, striking out two more batters in his seventh, and final, inning of the evening.
He was replaced by Hiatt–the freshman bullpen sensation–at the beginning of the eighth inning. After cruising through his initial frame without troubles, Georgia Tech nearly stole the game from the rookie in the bottom of the ninth.
After putting two men on base with no outs, the Tar Heels benefited from a fantastic throw by catcher Cody Roberts–who nailed a runner at third base on an attempted double steal.
Hiatt ultimately picked up a couple of strikeouts to seal up his sixth save of the season, but not until Georgia Tech was able to cut the UNC lead in half with an RBI single from Keenan Innis.
It was a hard-earned win for the Tar Heels, who were playing in their first road game of the season after starting the year with 17 straight games at home.
Bukauskas continued to set the tone for UNC with another dazzling pitching performance, while the X-factor for this team–its offense–stepped up when it mattered most to take the series opener.
The Tar Heels and Yellow Jackets will begin the second game of their three-game series on Saturday at 1 p.m.
- With his 14 strikeouts, Bukauskas now has the second-most by a Tar Heel this season. Freshman Luca Dalatri struck out 15 against Radford earlier in the year.
- Brian Miller, Logan Warmoth, Cody Roberts and Kyle Datres combined for nine of UNC’s 11 hits in the game.