The Diamond Heels are in the midst of a six-day exam break. But the Carolina baseball team will be back in action next Tuesday for a critical stretch of games in an unfamiliar position: fighting for the postseason.
***Listen to the story***
It was another anemic offensive display for the Carolina bats Tuesday against East Carolina. The Tar Heels had hoped they’d hit their stride after a three-game ACC sweep of the Hokies of Virginia Tech.
After a rough shutout, Head Coach Mike Fox’s bunch may be thankful for a hiatus from the diamond, especially since Carolina’s most reliable hitter, Michael Russell, was forced to leave Tuesday’s contest with a sore back.
But all hope has not been lost for this year’s crop of Tar Heels. The pitching staff is the strength of this year’s team. In fact, star reliever Reilly Hovis just earned ACC Co-Pitcher of the Week honors alongside N.C.State’s Carlos Rodon.
Assistant coach and former player Mark Fleury says he’s been impressed by Hovis’ performance and expects more high-level innings to come.
“I’m glad he finally got recognized. I know he’s not going to stop. He wants to get it every week. I hope he does. He deserves it. He’s going to keep pitching well and keep pounding the strike zone,” Coach Fleury says.
Coach Fleury was on the edge of his seat for the Virginia Tech series. The Tar Heels needed to defend their home turf desperately. They did just that. Coach Fleury says UNC’s first ACC sweep of the season was a confidence booster.
“I was on the edge of my seat every game – nervous. It was exciting. It was good for us to get our first ACC sweep,” Coach Fleury says.
Junior pitcher Benton Moss says he feels things are turning around heading into the most important time of the year.
“I think we’re really starting to get there. I’m hoping that come ACC Tournament and NCAA Tournament time, that we’re going to be clicking on all cylinders,” Moss says.
If the Tar Heels do find another level on offense, it would appear they could still do some damage in postseason play. As Coach Fleury notes, Carolina has been snake bit on more than a few occasions this season.
“We’ve had a lot of close ball games. We’ve been on the bad side of a couple of them this year. But our guys know that not until that 27th out is made, the game goes final,” Coach Fleury says.
Coach Fox is urging his veteran players like Skye Bolt and Parks Jordan to step up in the remaining slate of games.
A break away from the competitive grind could provide a fresh perspective for this youthful bunch. And if some of those one-run defeats start to turn the other way, 2014 may not be a lost cause, by lofty Carolina baseball standards, after all.