Offense Explodes to Power UNC Baseball Past Elon

For the second straight night, the No. 24 UNC baseball team came out swinging like some mad-men, scoring 10 runs in the first four innings on their way to an easy 14-2 victory over the Elon Phoenix on Wednesday night inside the walls of Boshamer Stadium.

The margin of victory is Carolina’s biggest of the season and the 14 runs scored are the most by the Tar Heels all season long.

With the dominant non-conference win, UNC pushes its record up to 31-16 overall, while the Phoenix have now dropped four of their past five games, and fall below the .500 mark–now at 23-24 so far in 2015.

One thing can be said for certain about this game; it was clear right from the get-go that the Tar Heel bats had no intentions of this being a competitive affair.

“Pretty much it [played] out the way I would have like to scripted it out,” says UNC head coach Mike Fox, “I know it was a long game, but we got guys on the mound we needed to, we got guys in the [batter’s] box we needed to, got [backup catcher] Ryder Ryan behind the plate which we needed to, so a lot of good things today.”

The Tar Heels had no problems moving runners and scoring runs on Wednesday. (UNC Athletics)

The Tar Heels had no problems moving runners and scoring runs on Wednesday. (UNC Athletics)

A pair of singles from Tyler Ramirez and Landon Lassiter off Elon lefty starter Jake Stalzer (2-6) kicked off the action in the bottom of the first inning, with Ramirez eventually scoring on catcher Korey Dunbar’s sacrifice fly to get things rolling.

Then in the second, Joe Dudek led-off with a double to left-center field, and then came around to score on an RBI bloop single from junior second baseman Eli Sutherland.

However, when Elon came to the plate in the top of the third, UNC freshman left-hander Hunter Williams lost his control–walking the bases loaded with two outs in the frame–prompting the coaches to make an early move to their bullpen “savior”, senior Trevor Kelley (5-1), who did what he does best by striking out right-fielder Ryan Cooper to escape the inning unscathed.

That would be the last time the outcome of the game was ever in doubt, because from then on it was smooth sailing for the Tar Heels, as they made sure the Phoenix never had a shot at coming back to life.

Elon’s bullpen responded to the missed opportunity by walking four men and hitting another, while allowing an enormous six-run inning in UNC’s half of the third.

Zack Gahagan capped off the six-run third inning by picking up two RBI with a double to left-center field. (UNC Athletics)

Zack Gahagan capped off the six-run third inning by picking up two RBI with a double to left-center field. (UNC Athletics)

The hit batter (Adam Pate) and two of the walks (to Joe Dudek and Alex Raburn) came with the bases loaded, accounting for three of those runs. Another one scored on a sacrifice fly by freshman shortstop Logan Warmoth, and the final two came on a double by fellow freshman Zack Gahagan.

Seemingly unsatisfied with the eight run lead, center-fielder Skye Bolt went ahead and extended the margin to double digits in the bottom of the fourth with a towering two-run homer to right-field off Elon’s Casey Jones–his sixth of the season.

“Hitting is contagious,” Bolt says, “When one guy gets going, then the rest follow. We’ve been looking for that spark [offensively], and it’s [been] provided here recently.”

Not until the top of the sixth did Elon scratch across a run, which they picked up when catcher Austin Leeney hit an RBI single off UNC lefty reliever Zach Rice.

Of course, the Tar Heels answered with three more tallies of their own in their half of the sixth, led by a two-run double from Joe Dudek, who led all hitters with three RBI in the game.

And although Elon scored again in the seventh, UNC kept up its torrid pace with an RBI triple in its next turn at the plate from little used freshman Brooks Kennedy–adding salt to an already deep Phoenix wound.

Mercy was finally shown in the eighth, when the Tar Heels failed to score for just the second time all night long, before sealing it up, and shutting it down in the ninth without allowing Elon anything to go home smiling about.

“That’s the only thing we’ve been missing is a little bit of, I guess, additional hitting,” says Skye Bolt about the recent offensive surge, “We’ve been pretty good with timely hits, and [in situations], but it’s always comforting for both your defense and your pitching to know that [their] bats are starting to swing it well.”

Up Next:

Awaiting the Tar Heels this weekend is their final ACC road series of the regular season, as they’ll travel to South Bend, Indiana to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, with the opener scheduled for Friday night at 7 p.m.

Game Notes:

  • Elon’s designated hitter, senior Casey Jones, took over on the mound in the bottom of the third once UNC’s lead had reached 5-0.
  • The Tar Heels’ previous biggest margins of victory this season came at home on March 24th in a 9-0 win against Appalachian State and again in last night’s 11-2 win against UNC-Asheville. This marks the first game they’ve won by double digits in 2015.
  • UNC has also won 10 games in a row against Elon, with the Phoenix last defeating the Tar Heels in 2010.
  • Ten different players recorded an RBI for Carolina in the game.


UNC Capitalizes On Early Elon Errors, Rolls to Victory

Three Elon errors in the top of the first inning gave the UNC baseball team the good fortune they’ve been seeking recently, as the Tar Heels made the most of the opportunity by scoring four runs in the frame without the benefit of a hit, on their way to a 10-5 road victory over the Phoenix on Tuesday.

Coach Mike Fox’s team improves its record to 17-11 overall with the non-conference victory, while Elon falls to 12-15 after dropping their third straight game.

Had the ball bounced just a little bit differently on a couple occasions this past weekend, its entirely possible that the UNC baseball team could be riding a four game winning streak, but that’s not what happened.

On Tuesday, though, it seemed like victory was handed to the Tar Heels on a silver platter, especially after the big first inning.


First baseman Joe Dudek stayed hot with a home run in the fourth inning, after hitting two doubles on Sunday. (UNC Athletics)

First baseman Joe Dudek stayed hot with a home run in the fourth inning, after hitting two doubles on Sunday. (UNC Athletics)

Ryan Cooper, the Phoenix center-fielder, drove in a run off UNC’s Hunter Williams (2-1) in the bottom of the first, but the team never seriously threatened at any point during the game.

Elon starting pitcher Mike Krill (1-1) threw 90 pitches in just four innings, walking six batters and throwing two wild pitches, while giving up five runs (three of them earned).

Seven UNC players had at least one RBI, including a fourth inning solo shot by sophomore first baseman Joe Dudek, to lead a balanced offensive attack.

Providing the bright spot of the night for Elon fans was catcher Austin Leeney, who matched Dudek with a solo shot of his own in the bottom of the fifth.

In the top of the sixth, the Tar Heels tacked on their second four-run inning of the night, thanks again to mistakes by Elon. Brian Miller and Skye Bolt each drew walks with the bases loaded off the Elon bullpen for the first two tallies of the frame, then Landon Lassiter hit a sacrifice fly, before finally, another wild pitch by the Phoenix allowed Miller to come home and score run number four.

Freshman Brian Miller continues to produce from the lead-off spot. (UNC Athletics)

Freshman Brian Miller continues to produce from the lead-off spot. (UNC Athletics)

Coach Fox’s decision to start freshman left-hander Hunter Williams for the second straight Tuesday paid off dearly. The big 6’3″ pitcher again threw six innings and allowed only two hits, matching his output from last week’s home game against Appalachian State. Williams surrendered a pair of runs in this one,as opposed to none last Tuesday, but nonetheless seems to have solidified his hold on the mid-week starting role for the Tar Heels.

Bullpen struggles continue to hover over UNC, however, as the Phoenix scored three runs over the last three innings against a combination of – Carolina relievers, with Trent Thornton pitching the final 2.1 innings to close it out.

Up Next:

It’s off to Clemson, South Carolina this weekend for the Tar Heels, as they travel to take on the Tigers in a three-game weekend series, with first pitch on Friday night set for 6:30 P.M.

Game Notes:

  • Despite reaching double digits in the run category, the Tar Heels hit just 1-13 with runners in scoring position (.077)
  • UNC lead-off man Brian Miller, along with center-fielder Skye Bolt, set the table all night long as the top two hitters in the Carolina batting order, combining for two RBI on five walk, despite neither man recording a hit.
  • Preseason first team All-American left-fielder Casey Jones went 0-3 with a strikeout and a walk for Elon.


Tar Heels Head to Elon Feeling Optimistic

A home series loss to Miami over the weekend, accompanied by a tumble outside the top 25 polls, have head coach Mike Fox and his UNC baseball team scrambling for wins. The good news is that the road back into the polls starts on Tuesday night, when the 16-11 Tar Heels travel to face the 12-14 Elon Phoenix.

Despite the team’s struggles, senior starting pitcher Benton Moss is quietly putting together the best statistical season of his decorated college career. Boasting a 4-0 record and a microscopic 1.95 ERA, with 38 strikeouts over 27.2 innings, Moss says he has full faith in this bunch moving forward, adding that once they start coming out on the right end of some close games, they’ll be in position to make some noise in the standings.

“Once we figure out how to win the 4-3 games, and we’re going to,” says Moss, about when the Tar Heels will make a push,”When you lose a game like that you learn from it, so we’re right there.”

Carolina lost to Miami twice this past weekend on games where the score was 4-3, and each time the Hurricanes rallied in the game’s final innings to snatch victory away from UNC.

Benton Moss has an incredible 1.95 ERA to pair with his 4-0 record. (UNC Athletics)

Benton Moss has an incredible 1.95 ERA to pair with his 4-0 record. (UNC Athletics)

Another man who looks primed to have a great impact on the Tar Heels’ present, and future, is freshman first baseman Zack Gahagan, who took over the team lead in RBI with a big game against Miami on Sunday. After sitting out his final year of high school ball due to injury, this level of production was completely unexpected coming into the year.

“He came in this summer off a torn ACL, he didn’t play at all (his final year) in high school, I mean he had not played in a long time, and he didn’t have a good fall, from a playing standpoint, but we didn’t expect him to,” says Coach Fox.

“The problem was he expected to. And we just kept telling him ‘you have not seen live pitching in a long, long time’, but he showed signs of being a good player.”

Gahagan is third on the team with a .289 average, along with the aforementioned team lead in RBI, with 22.

Elon’s lineup is highlighted by first team preseason All-American outfielder Casey Jones, who batted .418 last year, and holds a .337 average in 2015. With a hitter like Jones in the other dugout, Elon will present UNC with a stiff test, just as they always do, adds Coach Fox.

“As far as this week, we’re just trying to manage through today, but we always have a battle over at Elon,” says Fox.

First pitch is at 6:30 P.M and starting pitchers are still yet to be announced.

Tar Heel Bats Get Hot, Carolina Cruises Past Elon

The North Carolina baseball team got its offense rolling and handily beat Elon 12-6 Wednesday evening at Latham Park to improve to 29-19 on the year.

With the loss, the Phoenix fell to 26-22 on the season as the Tar Heel bats came alive in a five-run first inning in which Joe Dudek recorded his fourth home run of the year.

On the mound, Taylore Cherry notched his first win of the season with 5.2 innings of solid work for Carolina.

Parks Jordan led the offensive surge by driving in three runs on three hits. Skye Bolt and Landon Lassiter did not start and Michael Russell did not travel due to violations of team rules.

Star reliever Reilly Hovis got the final out of the game for the Tar Heels, who now set their sights on Florida State. The fourth-ranked Seminoles visit Chapel Hill for a three-game set starting Friday night at 7 p.m. in Carolina’s final home series of 2014.


Pair Of Midweek Tests To Challenge Diamond Heels Baseball Team

The Tar Heels are hitting the home stretch. Only two ACC series remain for Head Coach Mike Fox’s squad.

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And with perennial powerhouse Florida State and Heisman trophy winner Jameis Winston coming to town this weekend for a three-game set, Carolina will be hoping to get its game in order. A couple midweek confidence-boosting wins against the Phoenix and Camels would be just what the Tar Heels are looking for.

First up, will be a 6 p.m. first pitch in Chapel Hill with 21-15 Campbell. The bunch from Raleigh is coming off a series victory over Gardner Webb.

Carolina is likely to start freshman pitcher Zac Gallen. Gallen has suffered an up-and-down season thus far with a 4.78 ERA to his name.

UNC holds a 32-10 all-time record versus Campbell, including a 3-1 mark under Coach Fox. But the last time the two schools met, it was the Camels who claimed a 7-5 win in extra innings.

On Wednesday, the Tar Heels will make the short drive down I-40 to face the 26-21 Phoenix at 6:30 p.m. Elon is coming off a home series defeat at the hands of Davidson.

For this encounter, it’s likely Carolina will summon another young gun, Taylore Cherry, to the mound. Cherry boasts a solid 3.16 ERA on the year.

The Tar Heels have won seven in a row over the Phoenix, including a tight 5-4 escape in Chapel Hill back on April 16.

Banged up junior Michael Russell will be tossed back into the lineup.  He’ll be one to keep an eye on. UNC’s offensive catalyst will need to be healthy and playing at a high level once again if the Tar Heels desire to stay in the postseason picture.

DBAP Duel Postponed, Tar Heels Host Phoenix Wednesday

The Duel at the DBAP between the North Carolina baseball team and N.C. State was postponed due to heavy rains Tuesday night.

The 10,000 fans who purchased tickets have been told to hold on to their tickets for a possible rescheduled makeup game at a date still to be determined.

Next up for the 21-15 Tar Heels is a Wednesday meeting with 23-13 Elon at 6 pm in Boshamer Stadium.

Carolina leads the all-time series 31-9 against Elon and rides a six-game winning streak over the Phoenix into the midweek contest.

No. 1 UNC Baseball Hands Elon 15-3 Defeat On Its Home Field

ELON – The No. 1 UNC baseballteam didn’t have to travel far to keep its road record clean as the Tar Heels took down the Elon Phoenix 15-3 Tuesday night.

Carolina has beaten Elon 30 times in the 39 meetings. With the help of a 3-5 night from freshman Skye Bolt who hit his sixth homerun of the season and batted in three runners, as well as a strong pitching core of senior Chris Munnelly followed by sophomore Chris McCue, the Tar Heels took the early lead and piled the runs on late for the victory.

With the win, UNC improved to 30-2; Elon fell to 20-14. The Tar Heels return to the Hill Wednesday to host the Liberty Flames. This game was not originally on the schedule and serves as a makeup game for the missed game three of the Boston College series.

After a weekend series against Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Elon will meet again next Wednesday following a Tuesday night contest between UNC and Coastal Carolina.