ACC Baseball Tournament: Tar Heels Pick Up Big Win Over Clemson

Feeling the unfamiliar pressure of the NCAA Tournament bubble, the UNC baseball team rebounded from back-to-back losses to defeat the Clemson Tigers by a score of 6-3 on Friday at the ACC Tournament in Durham.

Both teams finish with records of 1-2 in ACC pool play and are eliminated from conference championship contention.

The Tar Heels are now 34-24 for the season, finishing league play at 15-18. Clemson also ends the year on the bubble–at 32-27 overall and 17-16 in the ACC.

Freshman flamethrower JB Bukauskas (5-3)–like his team–bounced back from a couple of rough starts on the mound in his previous two outings. For the game he gave up five hits in 5.2 innings of two-run ball, striking out seven hitters without walking anyone on his way to the win.

“The last couple times out I haven’t been very sharp, just felt like I didn’t have anything. And I felt a little bit like that in the bullpen today [before the game] until I got out on the mound. It just kinda started to click.” Bukauskas said.

Skye Bolt (20) broke the game wide open with a three-run homer in the third inning. (Sara D. Davis, TheACC.com)

Skye Bolt (20) broke the game wide open with a three-run homer in the third inning. (Sara D. Davis, TheACC.com)

“I felt like I had my fastball more than I did [in recent starts], and the slider just started snapping off better,” he added. “Once I had that, once I felt confident with it I just started throwing it more. And it ended up with a good result.”

In the bottom of the third inning Skye Bolt blasted a three-run homer against Clemson senior right-hander Jake Long (2-1) to break a scoreless tie. From there the Tar Heels never looked back–although they managed all six of their runs on just five hits, taking advantage of eight walks and four errors by the Tiger defense.

“It was a big swing of the bat,” Bolt said. “[We] go ahead 3-0 and JB’s throwing the way he was. It’s important for our guys, it’s important for the team. It’s a good feeling. You wanna be ahead. You wanna have your starting pitcher up there with confidence having a little bit of leeway.”

“And that’s what I was able to provide,” Bolt continued.

UNC found some more offense in the fourth with an RBI single from left fielder Adam Pate and a bases loaded walk drawn by Bolt, who finished one for three at the plate with four RBIs.

Left fielder Reed Rohlman had three hits and second baseman Tyler Krieger had a pair, along with an RBI, to lead the Clemson offense. Krieger drove in the Tigers’ first run with a hard-hit single off Bukauskas in the sixth before coming in to score the second one himself later in the inning after a wild pitch by senior reliever Trevor Kelley.

Neither team picked up a hit until UNC right fielder Tyler Ramirez legged out an infield single in the bottom of the third after Pate previously reached base on a throwing error from Clemson shortstop Eli White–setting up Bolt with two men on base.

Bolt then turned on a 3-2 pitch from Long, sending it deep into the right field bleachers for the homer that gave Bukauskas plenty of breathing room–and that served as the difference in the game.

JB Bukauskas was back to normal after struggling in recent starts. (Sara D. Davis/ TheACC.com)

Clemson put up two runs in the sixth, but they immediately gave one of them right back. White made his second error at shortstop when he lost a pop-up by Bolt in the sun, which allowed Tyler Ramirez to come home and score UNC’s sixth run of the afternoon.

From there, Kelley worked the next three innings to close up shop– despite Clemson creeping to within three on a single by third baseman Weston Wilson.

After the game Bolt said he was confident that the Tar Heels would get into the NCAA Tournament, but UNC head coach Mike Fox still has some reservations about whether his team will make the final cut.

“I think if we [had went] 0-3 [in pool play], there’s a reason to leave us out,” Fox said. “It was a big win for us. Is it enough? I don’t know. I certainly hope so because I’ve enjoyed coaching this team. They compete, and I want my seniors–and obviously these other guys–to experience it.”

Up Next:

The Tar Heels now find their fate in the hands of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. The 64-team NCAA Tournament field will be announced at noon on Monday–and shown live on ESPNU.

Game Notes:

  • UNC announced via Twitter on Friday that junior left fielder Landon Lassiter has been suspended indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the team. He did not play against Clemson.
  • Skye Bolt’s home run was his 10th of the season and 20th of his career at Carolina.
  • After going 2-4 on Friday, Tyler Ramirez has reached base in 28 straight games for the Tar Heels.

FINAL BOX SCORE

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/acc-baseball-tournament-tar-heels-pick-up-big-win-over-clemson/

Ramirez Carries Tar Heels to Much Needed Win at Clemson

A Herculean offensive effort from right-fielder Tyler Ramirez, who homered and drove in five runs altogether, carried the UNC baseball team to an 8-7 come from behind road victory over the Clemson Tigers on Sunday afternoon.

Avoiding the sweep, Carolina sees its record rise to 18-13 with a 7-8 mark in the ACC, while the Tigers fall to 16-15 and sport an identical 7-8 record in league play.

The last thing the Tar Heels needed on Sunday after dropping the first two games of the series was to find themselves in a hole after the first couple innings.

Benton Moss picked up the win, despite not having his best stuff. (UNC Athletics)

Benton Moss picked up the win, despite not having his best stuff. (UNC Athletics)

Of course, that’s exactly where they would end up, when Clemson catcher Chris Okey belted a three-run homer in the bottom of the first on a hanging slider from UNC senior starting pitcher Benton Moss (5-0), following a pair of walks.

Moss, who came into the game 4-0 with a 1.95 ERA, surrendered an RBI double in the next inning to Tigers’ center-fielder Tyler Slaton, which put Clemson ahead by four.

Carrying a “never say die” attitude, the Tar Heel offense decided to come to work in the top of the third, beginning the frame with three straight singles to load the bases for Skye Bolt. Bolt grounded into a fielder’s choice driving in just one run, but Carolina scraped across two more thanks to a wild pitch from Clemson’s Brody Koerner (3-4), and Tyler Ramirez’s first RBI hit of the day, to bring themselves back to within one.

It didn’t take long for them to tie the game either, as Korey Dunbar grounded out in the fourth, allowing first baseman Joe Dudek to cross the plate safely.

Joe Dudek scored on Korey Dunbar's groundout in the fourth. (UNC Athletics)

Joe Dudek scored on Korey Dunbar’s groundout in the fourth. (UNC Athletics)

With Moss settling down to pitch four consecutive scoreless innings, after looking shaky at the start, UNC showed that they might be in business.

Making sure that everyone knew that fact was Ramirez, the sophomore right-fielder out of Suffolk, Virginia. Already with one RBI in the game, Ramirez singled in the fifth inning to score Bolt for the second time, with this one handing the Tar Heels the lead.

Then in the seventh inning, with the score still separated by just one run and two men on base, Ramirez sent a 2-2 pitch from Clemson reliever Aaron Schnell over the wall for a three-run homer, and just like that Carolina was the team ahead by four.

In the least shocking development of the afternoon, the UNC bullpen found a way to make things interesting.

After pitching coach Scott Forbes pulled Benton Moss in the seventh inning, freshman reliever Jason Morgan inherited runners on second and third, and saw shortstop Eli White step in to the box. What followed was a two-run double, which cut the lead in half, before Morgan could retire the next three batters to get out of the jam.

More of the same continued into the eighth when Morgan allowed a lead-off single to Reed Rohlman. Out of the pen came senior Trevor Kelley for his NCAA leading 22nd relief appearance, even after throwing over 50 pitches in Saturday’s loss.

Holding on for the save was Trent Thornton, after another shaky outing by the Carolina bullpen. (UNC Athletics)

Holding on for the save was Trent Thornton, after another shaky outing by the Carolina bullpen. (UNC Athletics)

Fatigue showed itself clearly, as Kelley would walk the only two batters he faced. Next up was freshman lefty Nick Raquet, who allowed a run by immediately throwing a wild pitch, forcing the coaches to give Trent Thornton another shot to seal the deal, coming on with the bases loaded and no outs, after taking the loss last night.

Miraculously, Thornton escaped with the lead intact, striking out the first man he saw, and then inducing an inning-ending double play to bring the game to the ninth.

He would then go on to pitch a scoreless final inning, picking up his team-leading fifth save for his efforts.

Up Next:

UNC will begin a seven-game home-stand at Boshamer Stadium on Tuesday, as they welcome Coastal Carolina to Chapel Hill. That game is scheduled to begin at 6 P.M., and is a rematch of March 10, when the Tar Heels traveled to Coastal and came out with a 13-2 loss at the hands of the Chanticleers.

Game Notes:

  • Final statistics for Moss had the senior working six innings, and tying a career high with six earned runs, while giving up eight hits and striking out just three. His ERA went up to 3.21, but he was still credited with the win.
  • Ramirez moves into the UNC lead for RBI (25), and ties Skye Bolt for the team lead in home runs (four).
  • Capitalizing on opportunities, the Tar Heels hit 4-10 with runners in scoring position (.400).

FINAL BOX SCORE

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/ramirez-carries-tar-heels-to-much-needed-win-at-clemson/

Tar Heels Snatch Defeat From the Jaws of Victory

Another Saturday, another tragic 11 inning loss for the UNC baseball team.

The Clemson Tigers used a number of miscues by the Tar Heels to score three runs in the bottom of the 11th inning, climbing back from a two-run deficit on their way to a 5-4 victory, clinching the weekend series in the process.

Winning their second straight game, the Tigers improve to 16-14 overall, and 7-7 in the ACC. UNC drops its second straight weekend series, and falls to 6-8 in the league and 17-13 overall.

In a game eerily similar to the game between UNC and Miami last Saturday afternoon, a pitching duel involving Carolina’s JB Bukauskas, this time against Clemson’s Zack Erwin, dominated the early part of the game, before late fireworks took over the show.

Clemson lefty Zack Erwin pitched an incredible nine innings on 117 pitches. (Independentmail.com)

Clemson lefty Zack Erwin pitched an incredible nine innings on 117 pitches. (Independentmail.com)

A lead-off single by speedy designated hitter Adam Pate to begin the game initially appeared as if it would kick-start a big Tar Heel rally, as a couple of errors by the Clemson infield allowed Pate to eventually come all the way around and score, and made it seem like the Tigers were a little bit rusty coming off of their series opening win on Friday.

After Pate scored, there were runners on first and second with one out, for catcher Korey Dunbar, the hottest hitter in the Carolina lineup as of late. However, Erwin recovered quickly, getting Dunbar to ground into an inning-ending double play, and squashing any hope the Tar Heels had of building an early cushion.

Despite getting just one run out of the early rally, the way Bukauskas was pitching for UNC, one easily could have been plenty.

Through three frames, the freshman had faced the minimum of nine batters, allowing a lone single to Clemson left-fielder Reed Rohlman, but then getting him off the bases immediately by forcing Chris Okey to hit into a double play.

Clawing back in the fourth, though, the Tigers got a lead-off double in the bottom of the fourth from Tyler Slaton, who came home to score two batters later on another double by another guy named Tyler, designated hitter Tyler Krieger. That hit tied the game, and earned the home team a chance to tack on more.

Back to the plate came Rohlman, Bukauskas’ kryptonite all night long. And facing a 1-1 count, the redshirt freshman singled for his second of three hits on the night, giving Clemson the lead as Krieger rounded third and crossed the plate for the second run of the inning.

Freshman flamethrower JB Bukauskas kept up his impressive performance in ACC play. (UNC Athletics)

Freshman flamethrower JB Bukauskas kept up his impressive performance in ACC play. (UNC Athletics)

From then on though, until the extra innings, the two starting pitchers offered up a clinic to all of the fans lucky enough to be watching.

Erwin allowed the Tar Heels to even the affair in the eighth, on a sacrifice fly by Landon Lassiter which followed three singles, but was sensational all night long, working a full nine innings and striking out 11 hitters, while also becoming the second Clemson pitcher in as many nights to throw at least 117 pitches.

Not wanting to be outdone, Carolina’s freshman phenom delivered 8.1 incredible innings of his own, striking out seven, and giving up just five hits and two runs. Bukauskas also nearly matched Erwin’s pitch total, tossing 116 for the night, before being relieved by bullpen stalwart Trevor Kelley, who finished the bottom of the ninth to push the game into extra innings.

Clemson escaped the top of the 10th unscathed, when reliever Taylor Vetzel struck out UNC’s Joe Dudek with two outs, and runners on second and third, to get out of the jam.

Shortstop Logan Warmoth beat out what looked to be a sure double play ball in the 11th, allowing the two runs to score. (UNC Athletics)

Shortstop Logan Warmoth beat out what looked to be a sure double play ball in the 11th, allowing two runs to score. (UNC Athletics)

Korey Dunbar reached base on a throwing error against reliever Pat Krall (1-1) to begin the 11th, before Adrian Chacon singled, and Eli Sutherland was hit by a pitch, loading the bags with one out for their freshman shortstop, who earned what could have been the most meaningful fielders’ choice of his young career, as he beat out the throw to first, which allowed Dunbar and Chacon to score, snapping the tie and putting UNC ahead by two.

Bullpen woes ultimately would cost the Tar Heels yet again, though, after the embattled Trent Thornton (1-3) inherited two base-runners from Kelley (courtesy of two walks) with one out in the bottom of the final frame. Two more walks and a wild pitch later, the game was within one run, before a pair of miscues in the field, an errant throw to first base by Logan Warmoth at shortstop, allowed the tying, and winning runs to score.

Up Next:

Sunday’s series finale is scheduled to begin at 1 P.M., with the match-up on the mound pitting the Tar Heels’ hard-throwing senior, Benton Moss (4-0, 1.95 ERA) , against the Tigers’ Brody Koerner (3-3, 6.06 ERA).

Game Notes:

  • Clemson recorded four double plays on defense, stomping out quite a few Carolina opportunities.
  • UNC senior reliever Trevor Kelley has now appeared in 21 of the Tar Heels’ 30 games, a mark that leads the NCAA.
  • Bukauskas lowered his ERA to 2.66 on the year.
  • In the hit column, the Tar Heels had an 11-5 edge. Skye Bolt led the charge, finishing 3-6.

FINAL BOX SCORE

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/tar-heels-snatch-defeat-from-the-jaws-of-victory/

Tigers Come Uncaged Early, Shut Down Tar Heels Late

Superb all season long on the mound for the Tigers, Matthew Crownover continued his dominance on Friday, going seven innings on 118 pitches, while leading Clemson to a 5-2 victory over the Tar Heel baseball team on Friday night at Clemson’s Doug Kingsmore Stadium.

The teams now share equal 6-7 records within ACC competition. Clemson brings its overall record above .500, at 15-14, and the Tar Heels’ mark falls to 17-12.

When UNC head coach Mike Fox talked this past week about the Tigers, the first thing that popped into his mind was their left-handed ace, who entered the game with a 1.53 ERA. Fox extended a scholarship to Crownover, a Georgia native, while he was in high school, but in the end the lefty would end up bringing his services to head coach Jack Leggett’s Clemson squad, leaving Fox disappointed in the process.

Zac Gallen settled down eventually, but allowed five runs in the first three innings. (UNC Athletics)

Zac Gallen settled down eventually, but allowed five runs in the first three innings. (UNC Athletics)

It was clear why on Friday, as Crownover (5-1) cut through the Tar Heel lineup with ease all night long, giving up just seven hits in seven innings, and two runs, which were each given up in the seventh after his pitch count had soared above the century mark. He also struck out eight. Once he retired the first three UNC hitters in the top of the first, he also got some offensive support right away.

A pair of RBI doubles by the Tigers’ Tyler Krieger and Chris Okey off Carolina starting pitcher Zac Gallen (1-2) in the home half of the first gave Clemson a lead it would never relinquish.

Another double in the third, this one with two outs by freshman second baseman Chase Pinder, brought two more runs in for the team in orange, and extended their lead to five. To make matters worse, UNC center-fielder Skye Bolt, arguably the team’s top fielder, previously dropped a fly-ball before there were any outs in the frame, allowing Steven Duggar to score the game’s third run.

However, Gallen would eventually settle down, going the next 3.2 innings without allowing another run, finishing the day having surrendered eight hits with five runs allowed (three earned), and five strikeouts on 99 pitches.

Offensively, the Tar Heels received just two hits in the first five innings, a double by catcher Korey Dunbar in the second, and Landon Lassiter’s single in the fourth, before finally putting a run together in the seventh.

The Tar Heels were unable to rally late. (UNC Athletics)

The Tar Heels were unable to rally late. (UNC Athletics)

Eli Sutherland, the junior college transfer now playing second base for UNC, kicked things off with a one-out double, and then scoring on an RBI single by designated hitter Adam Pate. Lassiter, who picked up his second hit in the sixth inning, singled in the seventh for his third hit, scoring Adrian Chacon for Carolina’s second tally.

But Clemson reliever Taylor Vetzel, a redshirt sophomore, held strong in the final two innings to pick up his first save of the year, making sure Crownover’s performance would not go to waste. He gave up a walk to the scorching hot Lassiter in the eighth, but came out unscathed otherwise, finishing the eighth, and then throwing a perfect ninth to put an end to any comeback hopes Carolina was clinging on to.

Up Next:

Tomorrow the teams will play the second game of their ACC series, with first pitch scheduled for 6:30 P.M. JB Bukauskas (3-1, 2.77 ERA) will take the mound for Coach Mike Fox’s Tar Heels opposite another Clemson lefty, Zack Erwin (2-3, 3.05 ERA).

Game Notes:

  • Landon Lassiter was the clear MVP for UNC, going 3-3 with a walk and an RBI
  • Crownover’s ERA was lowered to 1.33, as neither run he allowed was earned.
  • For the game, Clemson hit 4-12 (.333) with two outs.
http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/tigers-come-uncaged-early-shut-down-tar-heels-late/

UNC Baseball Finding Help In Unlikely Places

With recent injuries testing its infield depth, the 17-11 UNC baseball team heads to Clemson this weekend for a three-game ACC series against the Tigers in search of some crucial conference wins.

Clemson currently sits right at .500 with a 14-14 record, but only trails the Tar Heels in ACC play by one game, sporting a 5-7 league mark, while Carolina is 6-6.

Mix-and-match infields have become the norm for head coach Mike Fox in 2015, as injuries to opening day starters Wood Myers and Adrian Chacon have forced the Tar Heels to move some guys around, and give bigger roles to others.

Joe Dudek has been a key contributor since being re-inserted to the starting line-up. (UNC Athletics)

Joe Dudek has been a key contributor since being re-inserted to the starting line-up. (UNC Athletics)

Myers started the first 14 games of the year at shortstop before fracturing his left fibula on March 10 at Coastal Carolina, and was replaced by freshman Logan Warmoth, who began the year at third. Chacon split time over those same 14 games between first base and catcher, allowing Korey Dunbar to take some breaks from crouching behind the plate every game, while also providing a consistent bat in the middle of the lineup (hitting .319), before going out with hip and back injuries.

Junior college transfer Eli Sutherland has also gotten a chance in the starting nine recently, spending the last 11 outings as the Tar Heels’ second baseman.

However, Coach Fox is not making any excuses for his team.

“We wanna play well right now, so we’ve sort of addressed that a little bit. Let’s quit worrying about guys that are hurt, and when they’re gonna come back, cause we’ve gotta go play now,” Fox says.

“[Our] season can be determined right now if [we’re] not careful. So it will be nice to get all those guys back, but it doesn’t mean they’re gonna, all of a sudden, save our season.”

Sophomore first baseman Joe Dudek has started in just nine games this season, but given the opportunity in the last two (Sunday vs Miami and Tuesday at Elon), the New Jersey native has produced a home run and a pair of clutch doubles, not to mention the Tar Heels won each time.

He credits his mental approach with helping him to stay focused.

Zack Gahagan has shown great versatility, performing well at both first and third base. (UNC Athletics)

Zack Gahagan has shown great versatility, performing well at both first and third base. (UNC Athletics)

“Baseball’s a big mental game,” says Dudek, “So for me, it’s just staying ready and locked in the whole time, and whenever [my] number’s called, just being ready to go.”

The struggles of junior utility infielder Alex Raburn, who’s seen his average fall to .195 after starting in every one of UNC’s first 23 games, and spent time at both second and third, have led Coach Fox to move freshman Zack Gahagan across the diamond, from first base over to third, while inserting the power-hitting Dudek at first.

After coming out on the wrong end of a pair of heartbreakers last weekend at home against Miami, the Tar Heels have now won two in a row entering this month. Part of that success stems from Gahagan’s ability play both first and third, allowing the coaches more line-up flexibility.

The freshman says it’s the love of the game that matters most though, not where he plays in the field.

UNC will face a stiff test on Friday against Clemson lefty Matthew Crownover. (Clemson Athletics)

UNC will face a stiff test on Friday against Clemson lefty Matthew Crownover. (Clemson Athletics)

“I just like being out there, so anywhere I can be, it’s a good feeling to be out there. Wherever the coaches put me in the lineup, that’s where I’ll stick,” says Gahagan.

The expected starting pitcher for Clemson on Friday is junior left-hander Matthew Crownover, who has been lights out this season, on his way to a 4-1 record, while posting a 1.53 ERA. That fact has not been lost on Coach Fox, as he says that once upon a time, he tried to get Crownover to come wear Carolina blue.

“Clemson, we’ve historically played well down there. I hope that continues, but you never know. I know they’ve got a pretty good Friday night guy,” says Coach Fox, “We recruited the heck out of Crownover, so I know he’s been good.”

“It’s another week for us, and hopefully the month of April will be a good one for us,” adds Fox.

Game One of the series is set to begin Friday at 6:30 P.M. with UNC’s Zac Gallen (1-1, 3.48 ERA) facing off with the aforementioned Matt Crownover.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-baseball-finding-help-in-unlikely-places/

Rain Delays UNC Baseball Match-Up Against Clemson

CHAPEL HILL – It was a short night for the No. 1 Diamond Heels Sunday against Clemson at Boshamer Stadium.

Rains rolled through just before 8 p.m. in the second game between the Tigers and the Heels. Play is scheduled to resume 2:45 p.m. on Monday.

The Tar Heels held a 2-0 lead over the Tigers with two outs in the top of the third inning.

UNC registered its two runs in the second inning. Matt Roberts set-up a safety squeeze bunt to score Brian Holberton. And two batters later, Landon Lassiter sent a double inside third base to left field, scoring Mike Zolk from second base.

Sophomore Benton Moss was having an excellent night on the mound, striking out six batters through 2.2 innings.

The Heels took the first match-up on Saturday, beating Clemson 10-3. With that win UNC improved to 24-1 overall, and 8-1 in the ACC.

The third game of the series is also slated for Monday night at 6 p.m. 

http://chapelboro.com/sports/rain-delays-unc-baseball-match-up-against-clemson/

No. 1 UNC Baseball Hosts Clemson Beginning Saturday; Fireworks Saturday Night

CHAPEL HILL – The No. 1 UNC baseball team puts the best record in the conference on the line against Clemson for an Easter-weekend series beginning Saturday night.

The Tar Heels have only fallen once this season—a loss to then No. 29 Miami Hurricanes 4-1 at the Bosh. That 23-1 record is the best in school history through 24, and even if Carolina loses its next game will have the best record through 25.

On Thursday, Head Coach Mike Fox told Ron Stutts on the Morning News that pitching was the tip of the sword for UNC. The Diamond Heels hold a 1.70 team earned run average, which is second in the nation.

Behind the strong arms is a strong batting lineup. Carolina hold a .319 batting average heading into the weekend series, which is the ninth-best in the land.

Junior left-hander Kent Emanuel will once again take the mound to open the series for the Tar Heels on Saturday. Emanuel holds a 4-1 record with a 1.17 ERA through 46.1 innings; he’s thrown 35 strikeouts this season compared to just nine walks.

Following Saturday night’s contest, stick around for fireworks at Boshamer Stadium. This will be the first of four events this season. For more information, visit our website, Chapelboro.com.

First pitch is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. Saturday night. The series continues Sunday at 7:00 p.m. with Family Night where tickets are only $3. The series concludes on Monday at 6:00 p.m.

Game Notes

http://chapelboro.com/sports/no-1-unc-baseball-hosts-clemson-beginning-saturday-fireworks-saturday-night/