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Bukauskas Silences the Eagles, Wins Series for UNC

The big question coming into Saturday morning wondered what kind of follow-up performance the Tar Heels would receive after Zac Gallen’s pitching stole the show the night before.

Answering that call was freshman sensation JB Bukauskas, who picked up right where Gallen left off on Friday, pitching seven shutout innings and striking out eight hitters to lead the No. 23 UNC baseball team to a 6-1 victory over the Boston College Eagles at Boshamer Stadium.

Winners of five straight, for the second time in April, the Tar Heels now sit at 28-15, and remain second in the ACC Coastal Division with a 12-10 league mark. Boston College falls to 22-20 in all competition with a 9-13 record inside the league.

“Any time you get two starts like we’ve had the last couple days, you’ve got a chance to win,” says UNC head coach Mike Fox.

“I thought JB was really, really good today. It might have been one of his better outings. He didn’t quite have his normal fastball, but his slider was good today.”

If one thing was clear on this day right from the start (and it wasn’t the skies), it was that the Boston College bats were going to be taking another sick day.

Offense has been tough to come by in this series, as the gloves have shined out in the field. (Photo Courtesy of Smith Hardy)

Offense has been tough to come by in this series, as the gloves have shined out in the field. (Photo Courtesy of Smith Hardy)

Despite walking the first man he faced, Bukauskas (4-1) settled into quite a groove afterwards–retiring the next ten batters in a row before finally conceding the first Eagle base-hit of the day, a single by Blake Butera with one out in the top of the fourth.

Showing extreme poise on the mound, the Ashburn, Virginia native issued another walk after Butera’s hit, but then promptly struck out the next two batters he saw to keep the game scoreless.

Normally Bukauskas gets hitters out with his electric 97 mile per hour fastball, but with the weather the way it was, he was able to show off an improved breaking ball.

“It was kind of annoying honestly,” says Bukauskas about the rain, “I felt like I couldn’t really throw my fastball like I normally like to. I couldn’t really get the [grip] on the ball, but I think it might have helped my slider a little. I threw a lot more of those today.”

Bukauskas continued plowing through the Eagle lineup from there, working a 1-2-3 fifth, before allowing Boston College to get its second and third hits of the game in the sixth and seventh.

As the rain began to come down steadier in the bottom of the fourth, the Tar Heel bats finally put their hard hats on and went to work.

Shortstop Logan Warmoth doubled with one out off Boston College starter John Gorman (4-3) to set up his freshman classmate, and roommate, third baseman Zack Gahagan, with a prime RBI opportunity– which Gahagan took full advantage of–slapping a single right back up the middle to send Warmoth across the plate for the first run of the game.

The Tar Heels ended up scoring runs in each of their last five plate appearances–including Gahagan’s RBI in the fourth.

Logan Warmoth has played fantastic shortstop for UNC in the series. (UNC Athletics)

Logan Warmoth has played fantastic shortstop for UNC in the series. (UNC Athletics)

Joe Dudek drove home a run in the bottom of the fifth, which was followed by a pair of big hits in the sixth from Skye Bolt and Landon Lassiter.

Bolt singled in Brian Miller and advanced to third when the BC right-fielder slipped on the wet grass, and Lassiter doubled home Bolt in the next-at bat.

Picking up his second hit of the day in the bottom of the seventh was Dudek, who ended up coming around to score on a sacrifice fly by Alex Raburn–giving the Tar Heels a commanding five run lead.

To keep the Carolina scoring streak alive, Korey Dunbar doubled down the left-field line in the Tar Heel half of the eighth for the final tally of the contest–although the Eagles were able to break through for an unearned run earlier in the frame to avoid a second straight shutout.

Senior Trevor Kelley relieved Bukauskas on the mound to begin the eighth inning, due to the freshman’s pitch count reaching 107, and held on for the final six outs of the game.

“We have been playing better,” says Coach Fox, “We’ve kinda settled in with the lineup a little bit, and we’ve got a chance, knock on wood, to have maybe our first 5-0 week of the season…which would be a nice way to finish off this last week of classes.”

Up Next:

The series finale is scheduled for Sunday at noon, with UNC sending senior Benton Moss (5-0, 3.32 ERA) to the mound. Boston College’s starting pitcher has yet to be announced. The game is scheduled to be shown on ESPN3 and broadcast live on WCHL.

Game Notes:

  • Boston College has recorded just eight hits so far in the series.
  • Like Gallen on Friday, Bukauskas surrendered just three hits to the Eagles.
  • Landon Lassiter and Joe Dudek led UNC offensively. Lassiter went 2-3 with an RBI, two doubles, and a walk, and Dudek went 2-4 with an RBI of his own.
  • A bulk of Carolina’s hitting came with two outs, as they went 5-13 (.385) in that situation on Saturday.

FINAL BOX SCORE

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/bukauskas-silences-the-eagles-wins-series-for-unc/

Gallen Pours Out Some More Boshamer Magic: Shuts Out BC

Zac Gallen did it again.

For the second time in his last three starts, Gallen tossed a complete game, and this time it was of the shutout variety, as the sophomore carried the No. 23 UNC baseball team to a 1-0 victory over the Boston College Eagles at Boshamer Stadium on Friday night.

UNC picks up its fourth consecutive victory, improving to 27-15 overall and 11-10 in the ACC, while ending the Eagles’ five game win streak. For the season, Boston College is 22-19, with a 9-12 record inside the conference.

Mike King matched Zac Gallen pitch for pitch all night long. (bcinterruption.com)

Mike King matched Zac Gallen pitch for pitch all night long. (bcinterruption.com)

Coming into the game, it was expected to be a fantastic pitcher’s duel between Gallen (3-3) and Boston College sophomore Mike King (1-3)–and neither of these guys decided to stray from the script.

Gallen threw a complete game in his last home start two weeks ago against NC State, while King came into Friday’s contest having thrown a complete game, one-hit, shutout last week against Georgia Tech. So it was no surprise to fans that each man came out strong.

“[Gallen’s] a strike thrower, so that always helps. So was King for them tonight. We thought it would be a quick game,” says UNC head coach Mike Fox, “Both pitchers throwing a lot of strikes and getting a lot of first pitch outs.”

The first nine batters of the game were each unsuccessful in their attempts to reach base, and through five innings the teams had combined for just four hits, as offense was tougher to find than the Lochness Monster in this one.

Carolina right-fielder Tyler Ramirez recorded the first hit of the game with a hard hit single off of King to lead-off the bottom of the second. After a walk to Joe Dudek and an infield single by Eli Sutherland, suddenly the Tar Heels found themselves in business–with the bases loaded and just one out.

In the next at-bat, King got freshman Zack Gahagan to strike out swinging, but followed that up by walking shortstop Logan Warmoth on four straight pitches to bring home Ramirez before he could escape the jam, giving the Tar Heels the first, and only, run of the game.

Meanwhile Zac Gallen’s home dominance continued, as he made quick work of the Eagle hitters all night long, finishing the game with just 115 pitches. In total, Gallen struck out eight Eagles, while amazingly only giving up three hits the entire game.

Tyler Ramirez accounted for the game's only run, scoring on a bases loaded walk in the bottom of the second. (Photo Courtesy of Smith Hardy)

Tyler Ramirez accounted for the game’s only run, scoring on a bases loaded walk in the bottom of the second. (Photo Courtesy of Smith Hardy)

“I wish we could play at home every game,” Gallen says, “It’s just a comfortability thing. Like they say, it’s tough to go on the road in the ACC. Your fans usually aren’t there, it’s gonna be majority their fans, and the mound’s a little bit different.”

“It’s good to come home.”

In fact, no runner even reached second base against UNC’s right-handed sophomore until the top of the sixth.

Designated hitter Scott Braren singled to begin the frame, and moved over on a sacrifice. Braren then got to third on a wild pitch, but was thrown out at home by Logan Warmoth trying to come home on a ground-ball hit by Jake Palomaki that never left the infield.

After that, Gallen locked down the shop–working perfect seventh and eighth innings, as his offense continued to struggle against Mike King, who worked all eight innings for the Eagles–meaning neither bullpen was needed at all in this game.

For the game, King allowed just five hits in his eight innings, striking out five Tar Heels as well.

“I was so glad Zac made it to the end, I know he was getting a little bit tired. His pitch count was still down, but he walked those two in the ninth and [we’re] thinking ‘Oh boy, we gotta try to let him finish’, so that was a nail-biter,” says Coach Fox.

When Gallen came back out to pitch the ninth, the New Jersey native was greeted by a chorus of cheers.

But then a one-out walk to Palomaki was followed by a base-hit from second baseman Blake Butera, causing some anxiety. After the second out, Michael Strem drew the second walk in the inning off Gallen to load the bases, bringing the home fans to their feet again.

This is just how close the play at home plate was in the top of the sixth with Logan Warmoth's throw barely making it home in time. (Photo Courtesy of Smith Hardy)

This is just how close the play at home plate was in the top of the sixth with Logan Warmoth’s throw barely making it home in time. (Photo Courtesy of Smith Hardy)

A diving stop at first base by Joe Dudek on the next play, a hard hit liner by Donovan Casey, preserved the shut-out and the victory, on what looked like it could have been a two-run base-hit, sending the Tar Heel faithful home happy.

To his credit, Gallen couldn’t help but give all the credit to his defense, which saw center-fielder Skye Bolt make an incredible diving catch in the fifth to go along with Warmoth’s throw home in the sixth–and of course the one that sealed it, Dudek’s game-saving stop.

“Once Skye [Bolt] made the catch, I thought I was in a video game. I was like ‘OK, that’s gonna be on SportsCenter, that should be Vine famous’,” Gallen says.

“And then Logan [Warmoth] makes that play, and then Joe [Dudek] makes that play and it’s like ‘Dude I owe you lunch for the rest of your life.”

Up Next:

Saturday’s second game of the series was originally scheduled to begin at 6 p.m., but due to persistent rain in the forecast first pitch has been moved up to 10:30 a.m. The pitching match-up in that one will pit UNC freshman JB Bukauskas (3-1, 3.88 ERA) against Boston College senior John Gorman (4-2, 5.13 ERA).

Game Notes:

  • When Joe Dudek drew the first Carolina walk off Mike King in the bottom of the second, it was the first walk issued by Boston College in its last four games.
  • This was Zac Gallen’s ninth start of the season, and fourth at Boshamer Stadium. In those four home starts, Gallen has allowed just one earned run in 31 innings pitched.
  • Coach Mike Fox is now 12-0 at home against Boston College
http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/gallen-pours-out-some-more-boshamer-magic-shuts-out-bc/

Gallen’s Fridays Key For Diamond Heels

When the No. 23 UNC baseball team opens its three-game ACC series with the Boston College Eagles Friday night at Boshamer Stadium, Zac Gallen will be returning to the mound on which he delivered the two finest performances of his young pitching career against his team’s two biggest rivals.

For the majority of the season, the sophomore from Gibbsboro, New Jersey has spear-headed the dominant UNC weekend rotation, helping the team reach its current 26-15 overall record and 10-10 conference mark.

Boston College comes into Chapel Hill this weekend not far behind the Tar Heels in the tight conference standings–at 9-11 in the ACC and 22-18 against all competition—which is why Gallen (2-3, 3.31 ERA) knows it’s important to get his team off to a good start by pitching well in the Friday series opener.

In the first ACC game of the year, Gallen struck out 12 Duke hitters while picking up the win. (UNC Athletics)

“It’s huge. I mean, when you lose that Friday [game] it’s like ‘man, [our] backs are against the wall’,” Gallen says, “So it’s good to put the pressure on early…especially with the position we’re in, in the ACC, we’re right in the thick of things.”

“Every game we play on Friday is a battle,” he adds.

A part of the starting rotation for 17 games in 2014 as a freshman, you would think penciling his name in this year as part of a competition among pitchers fighting for a starting role would have been just a formality, but with the addition of hard throwing freshmen JB Bukauskas and Hunter Williams, head coach Mike Fox decided to try something else early on in the year.

“Zac’s a good example,” says Coach Fox, “We started the season, and he wasn’t one of our weekend guys—he was all last year as a freshman. He didn’t pout. He wasn’t happy about it, but he didn’t pout and he pitched great out of the bullpen…and then for one reason or another we’re having to [start] him in our first ACC game.”

After making two appearances in relief against Seton Hall and UCLA, Gallen got his first start of the year in the season’s third week against Rhode Island due to the loss of closer Reilly Hovis–an injury that forced Coach Fox to shuffle junior Trent Thornton from the weekend rotation into his current bullpen role.

In that game, Gallen went six innings and struck out a then career-high nine hitters, despite being credited with the loss.

The stage was set then, for the sophomore to get a chance to pitch in the team’s aforementioned ACC opener against its cross-town rival, the Duke Blue Devils.

He did not disappoint either, this time earning a win, while going seven innings and picking up yet another career-high in strikeouts with 12—a number that has yet to be matched by any other Tar Heel this season, prompting Coach Fox to issue a strong statement afterwards.

Great pitch control is what sets Gallen apart from his peers in the Tar Heel dugout. (UNC Athletics)

Great pitch control is what sets Gallen apart from his peers in the Tar Heel dugout. (UNC Athletics)

“I’m hoping all the other pitchers just take a look at that,” Fox said about Gallen’s situation after he mowed down the Duke lineup, “Be prepared.”

The main difference between this year’s Zac Gallen and last year’s Zac Gallen, according to the man himself, is a shiny new toy he installed in his repertoire during the off-season.

“I picked up a cutter this summer. I just happened to be [playing] catch with a buddy and just kinda picked it up. I just felt a good angle on my ball,” Gallen says, adding that “I feel good staying in the lower half of the [strike] zone, which is helping out a lot.”

When he’s out on the mound pitching, Gallen gives off an aura of confidence without needing to say anything at all.

His one, singular, focus is on throwing strikes–something that never wavered throughout the tough times he faced, says junior Korey Dunbar, who has been the catcher behind the plate in each of Gallen’s starts.

“I think with him moving to the bullpen at the start the season, he kinda came out [in the starting rotation] with a chip on his shoulder. It’s shown and he’s done a really good job,” says Dunbar.

“He’s the type of guy that’s not gonna show a lot of emotion on the mound, he’s just in command of everything. That’s his huge thing is command.”

Keeping his fastball-cutter combination in the strike zone has been the key to success for Gallen since the year began.

To illustrate the type of control Gallen exhibits, the New Jersey native has started 25 games for Coach Fox since arriving in Chapel Hill, and has never walked more than three batters in a game.

Now think about this–UNC drew five walks in the first inning against Virginia Tech starter Jon Woodcock last Saturday, and drew another four against Campbell starter Heath Bowers in Tuesday’s first inning.

“He’s a strike thrower,” says Coach Fox on Gallen’s control, “He gets us into the sixth and seventh inning, which is what you want on Fridays. I think he’s pitched well. He’s really only had one bad outing.”

Against Pittsburgh on the road in early March, Gallen set career highs in walks (three) and runs allowed (eight), while only making it through 3.2 innings.

To this day, it remains Gallen’s only start of the season to not last five innings or longer.

Gallen's teammates congratulate him after his complete game vs. NC State. (UNC Athletics)

Gallen’s teammates congratulate him after his complete game vs. NC State. (UNC Athletics)

But a month later, in another rivalry start, against NC State in front of a sell-out home crowd and a national television audience, he provided yet another stroke of magic—going all nine innings to preserve a 2-1 Tar Heel victory, in a game that went right down to the wire.

Coach Fox couldn’t help but crack a smile after that game–one which the official team Twitter account declared “Gallentine’s Day“.

“It’s mind-boggling to me that we had him pitching in relief the first [two] weekends of the season. He wasn’t even one of our first three starters,” Fox said with a chuckle, “We laugh about that now.”

Despite picking up a loss last weekend at Virginia Tech, Gallen was solid for the first five innings, allowing just one run during that time, before eventually giving up four in the sixth to earn his spot on the bench.

As the season progresses into its final stages, and more importantly tournament time, Coach Fox will need his starting rotation to continue carrying the bulk of the load in order to have a chance to make a serious run at his seventh College World Series appearance.

And of course, as the Friday man, that all begins with Zac Gallen.

Boston College has won five games in a row and will present the UNC right-hander with a stiff test in the series opener. The Eagles will likely send 6’3” sophomore Mike King to the mound to face-off with Gallen—which should make for an interesting match-up, as King threw a complete game of his own last Friday against No. 24 Georgia Tech, shutting the Yellow Jackets out en route to tossing a one-hitter.

First pitch for Friday’s pitching showdown at Boshamer Stadium is set for 6:30 p.m., with all three games in the series set to be shown on ESPN3 and broadcast live on 97.9 FM, WCHL.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/gallen-fridays-key-diamond-heels-stretch/

ACC Tournament Season In Full Swing

It’s the spring ACC Tournament season. And many UNC programs have high hopes on conference title trophies and banners.

The No. 2 UNC women’s lacrosse team got the postseason off to a flying start Thursday with an 18-12 victory over Virginia Tech at Klockner Stadium in league quarterfinal action.

The top-seeded Tar Heels held a tenuous 8-7 lead at halftime but scored 10 goals on 14 second-half shots to pull away after the break.

UNC won its sixth game in a row and improved to 7-0 in the ACC quarterfinals all-time while maintaining their perfect mark against Virginia Tech. The Tar Heels have advanced to Friday’s 1 p.m. semifinal against Notre Dame.

The No. 2 UNC men’s lacrosse team gets its ACC Tournament campaign underway Friday night at 8 p.m. at PPL Park in Pennsylvania. Carolina will face No. 4 Syracuse in a rematch of UNC’s thrilling regular season win.

UNC head coach Joe Breschi’s Tar Heels will be searching for their 13th ACC title.

The No. 1 UNC women’s tennis team, meanwhile, is looking to stay undefeated as its get its ACC Tourney matches started down the road at the Cary Tennis Park Friday afternoon.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/acc-tournament-season-in-full-swing/

12th Inning Balk Hands #23 UNC Baseball Win Over #22 UNC-Wilmington

Trent Thornton struck out pinch-hitter Joe Bertone in the bottom of the 12th inning to close out a 6-5 road win for the #23 UNC baseball team over its top 25 opponent, the #22 UNC-Wilmington Seahawks–with Carolina right-fielder Tyler Ramirez scoring on a balk earlier in the frame to break the tie.

Suddenly the surging Tar Heels find themselves with a solid 26-15 record, as they hand the red-hot Seahawks just their ninth loss of the season, putting them at 28-9 overall.

Thornton (3-4) pitched the final 2.2 innings, all in extras, without allowing Wilmington to record a hit, while UNC-W reliever Justin Crump (0-1) ruined a fantastic bullpen effort by his teammates with his late, game-changing balk coming at the end of a night that looked like it would turn into a slug-fest.

Coming off a strong birthday performance the night before, UNC catcher Korey Dunbar got the ball rolling with a two-out, two-run single off Wilmington starting pitcher Evan Phillips in the top of the first–giving freshman left-hander Hunter Williams a two-run cushion before he had to throw his first pitch.

Brian Miller reached base four times against Wilmington, scoring twice. (UNC Athletics)

Brian Miller reached base four times against Wilmington, scoring twice. (UNC Athletics)

The Seahawks manufactured one run in the bottom of the first, but it looked like that may not be enough with the way Carolina came out swinging the bats.

Skye Bolt’s single in the top of the second scored freshman Zack Gahagan, and was followed by a sacrifice fly off the bat of Landon Lassiter, making it appear as if the Tar Heels were poised to break things open.

Switching pitchers didn’t look like it did anything for UNC-W in the next inning, as reliever Austin Magestro allowed Carolina second baseman Eli Sutherland, who came in to the game batting .197, to double home Dunbar and give the team in light blue its fifth run of the game.

Despite looking unhittable over his last four starts on the mound for the Tar Heels, Hunter Williams couldn’t hold onto the big lead against the toughest lineup he’s faced this year. Wilmington scored three runs in the bottom of the third to close the gap to one–ending Williams’ day after just 2.2 innings, with the big man striking out three, walking three, and being credited with earned runs for all four of the Seahawks’ tallies.

Catcher Korey Dunbar, who had three RBI last night on his birthday, added two more on Wednesday. (UNC Athletics)

Catcher Korey Dunbar, who had three RBI last night on his birthday, added two more on Wednesday. (UNC Athletics)

And in the very next inning, UNC-W catcher Gavin Stupienski got the better of Carolina’s top reliever, senior Trevor Kelley, for a game-tying RBI single to make it a whole new ball-game in the blink of an eye.

From then on, though, the bullpens for both sides settled down immensely.

UNC’s relief duo consisting of freshman Hansen Butler and sophomore lefty Zach Rice surrendered just four hits combined and held the Seahawks scoreless over the next 4.1 innings, while the Tar Heel offense also fell flat–getting just two hits and no runs over the final six regulation frames, ensuring the fans in Wilmington would see some extra baseball.

As both teams continued to put up zeros in the score column, drama ensued in the top of the 11th, when Skye Bolt was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double–ultimately resulting in some arguing, and the ejection of coach Mike Fox.

Despite not scoring in the 11th, the Tar Heels were granted another opportunity in the 12th–resulting in the game winning balk. They were put in the position thanks to the fantastic effort in relief from Thornton, who came on with one out in the tenth, and did not allow a hit the rest of the way, striking out three Seahawks on his way to the victory.

Up Next:

The Diamond Heels return home this weekend as ACC play winds down in 2015, with the Boston College Eagles visiting Boshamer Stadium for a three game series beginning on Friday at 6:30 p.m.

Game Notes:

  • Freshman designated hitter Brian Miller, the lead-off man against right handed starting pitchers, led the Tar Heel offense on Wednesday, going 3-5 with a walk, scoring twice.
  • Hunter Williams had allowed just two runs in his last 24 innings pitched for UNC. He allowed four in just 2.2 innings in this game.
  • Carolina head coach Mike Fox has been ejected in two of the last three games, and is now 18-4 all-time against the Seahawks.
  • Wilmington led off five different innings with base-hits.
http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/12th-inning-balk-hands-23-unc-baseball-win-over-22-unc-wilmington/

Birthday Boy Dunbar Leads Tar Heels Past Camels on Bacon Night

Bacon wasn’t the only thing sizzling on Tuesday night at Boshamer Stadium.

Junior catcher Korey Dunbar homered, racked up three RBI, and scored twice himself–on his birthday–to lead the #23 UNC baseball team to a 8-3 win over the tough Campbell Fightin’ Camels as the Carolina marketing department drew fans out to the field with promises of “special bacon related concession items”.

“I smelled bacon when I was throwing BP, and that’s not what you want to smell when you’re throwing batting practice, so I might not have a piece of bacon for another couple months,” UNC head baseball coach Mike Fox says with a smile.

The Tar Heels improve to 25-15 with their second win in a row, while sending the Camels to their sixth consecutive loss, dropping the visitors to 25-16 on the year, proving that the bacon was not a distraction once the first pitch was thrown.

Tyler Ramirez also homered, and went 3-5 with an RBI, to help a Tar Heel team that had to rally from behind two separate times before finally distancing themselves in the final innings.

Campbell actually took the lead right out of the gate, as they legged out three infield hits against Carolina starter Benton Moss in the top of the first inning–capped off by first baseman Kyle Leady’s RBI single, which scored Cedric Mullins, who stole third base beforehand to set up the run.

Benton Moss was a bit rusty to begin the game. (UNC Athletics)

Benton Moss was a bit rusty to begin the game. (UNC Athletics)

That lead did not last very long, however, due to Camels’ starting pitcher Heath Bowers (6-4) struggling to find the strike zone.

Four walks and a balk by Bowers in the Tar Heels’ first turn at the plate was all it took to get home team on the right side of the scoreboard. Catcher Korey Dunbar crossed home on Bowers’ balk to tie it up, before Skye Bolt drew a bases loaded walk to put UNC ahead, despite getting just one hit (a single from Tyler Ramirez).

The Camels tied the game in the top of the third on a successful steal of home plate by catcher Steven Leonard, which happened because Moss had runners on first and third base, and Cedric Mullins took off for second base, prompting Korey Dunbar to throw across the diamond. After the throw was made, Leonard then bolted home to tie it up.

While the Carolina offense continued to have problems at the plate early on, the Camels kept finding ways to get hits at key moments. A double down the left-field line by right-fielder Cole Hallum with two outs in the fifth brought Cedric Mullins home, to put control of the game back in the visitor’s dugout.

Hallum was also the last batter that Benton Moss would face for the night, as Coach Fox made the move to the one other senior on his roster, reliever Trevor Kelley (4-1). For the night Moss would finish at 4.2 innings, striking out just two batters, while surrendering eight hits and three runs (two earned) on 78 pitches.

Again, though, the Camels could not hold onto the lead against a determined Tar Heel bunch–with the boys in light blue striking for four tallies in their half of the fifth, showing off the ability they have to rally from behind.

Joe Dudek was one of four Tar Heels to hit a double in the bottom of the fifth. (UNC Athletics)

Joe Dudek was one of four Tar Heels to hit a double in the bottom of the fifth. (UNC Athletics)

A lead-off double from Landon Lassiter, followed by Tyler Ramirez’s second base-hit of the night, chased Heath Bowers back to the dugout, and put the game in the hands of the Camel bullpen.

Senior reliever Coley Thompkins was supposed to be the solution for Campbell, but instead he allowed three consecutive RBI doubles to Korey Dunbar, Joe Dudek, and Skye Bolt to let the Tar Heels take a three run lead (Dunbar’s hit drove home both Lassiter and Ramirez).

“It was good to see us have a big inning, we needed it.” says Coach Fox, “We haven’t had an inning like that in a while. [Pitching] Coach [Scott] Forbes said ‘Do you wanna play for the big inning?’, and I was like ‘A big inning for us recently has been two runs’, so it was nice to see us have a big one.”

The birthday boy, Dunbar, struck again in the next frame, drilling a pitch from Campbell’s Bobby Thorson over the fence in right center-field to give Trevor Kelley an even bigger cushion to work with.

In case that wasn’t enough, the Tar Heels got another homer in the bottom of the eighth, this one from Tyler Ramirez, to twist the dagger in Campbell’s victory hopes.

All that was needed at that point was a clean ninth inning from Kelley, who came through, closing the game out with 4.1 scoreless innings after taking over for Moss.

“It’s cool, I mean it’s cool any day, it just happened to be on my birthday I guess,” says the soft-spoken Dunbar about his big night, adding that “I can’t take all the credit. Trevor [Kelley] goes out and Benton Moss, and they throw great innings for us, and then we got contributions from [Tyler Ramirez], and a whole bunch of other guys hit the ball well. It was a team effort.”

Up Next:

The Tar Heels will travel down to Wilmington on Wednesday for a top 25 match-up with the #22 UNCW Seahawks, who held a 28-8 record entering the week. On the mound for Carolina will be freshman lefty Hunter Williams (4-1, 1.14 ERA), who will take on Wilmington junior Evan Phillips (1-1, 5.96 ERA).

Game Notes:

  •  UNC has drawn nine walks in the first inning over its last two games (five on Saturday at VT, four in this game).
  • Carolina reliever Trevor Kelley maintains the NCAA lead in relief appearances, making his 29th tonight (out of 40 games).
  • In the big four run fifth inning, the Tar Heels batted all the way through the lineup.
  • Benton Moss made the mid-week start due to his scheduled Sunday start at Virginia Tech being washed out by rain this past weekend.
http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/birthday-boy-dunbar-leads-tar-heels-past-camels-on-bacon-night/

Courage & Conditioning Empower Kern’s UNC Boxing Journey

Michelle Kern is good with gloves. She stepped into the boxing ring at UNC for the first time ever as a freshman. Now graduating in May, she’ll be leaving Chapel Hill a two-time national champion.

***Listen to the story***

“The first time, I was kind of stunned a little bit. I was like ‘Whoa! I got punched.’ That’s never happened to me before – somebody punching me in the head. At first I was stunned, but after that it didn’t faze me,” Kern says.

Michelle Kern (Daily Tar Heel)

Michelle Kern (Daily Tar Heel)

Kern sports a 10-1 career boxing record. Fiercely competitive and not lacking in drive, the UNC senior says she’d rather hit than be hit.

UNC boxing head coach Josh Sokal recalls the first time he put Michelle in the ring.

“Michelle was due to box somebody she didn’t know – another woman around her weight but much more experienced. I was a little concerned and spoke to the other woman and her coach. I said, ‘Michelle’s new and never done any open sparring before so take it nice and easy,’ Coach Sokal says. “I got kind of embarrassed because Michelle kind of beat this poor girl. I had to explain why I brought a ringer out there.”

Void of all fear and armed with bountiful courage, Michelle continued to improve her craft on campus.

Perhaps she took after her coach in that regard. Coach Sokal says when the club president approached him around 2007, he feared the worst. After all, he wasn’t even supposed to technically be there.

“I heard UNC had a club. I figured I’d jump in there and get some extra work in. I showed up and after a couple practices, the club president approached me. I thought he was going to kick me out for not being a student, but he told me they needed a coach. That kind of got the ball rolling. I took over the following season,” Coach Sokal says.

In 2002, Paul Kropp, a UNC chemistry professor, began teaching students the basics of boxing with informal workouts held weekly on the racquetball courts.

Kern poses with the belt (Theknot.com)

Kern poses with the belt (Theknot.com)

Then in the fall of 2004, a student working out with Professor Kropp, registered the group as an official student organization. But soon, students wanted more – they were interested in boxing competitively and in turn, transformed the low-key workouts into a nationally-competing team.

The rest, as they say, is history. Coach Sokal and Kern are now leading UNC boxing to uncharted territory. With around 150 dues-paying members, the sport is thriving in Chapel Hill, however under-the-radar it may be.

Coach Sokal says the grueling practices, made of up demanding conditioning, are not for the faint-hearted.

“We do a lot of interval runs, mitt-work, shadow boxing, push-ups, sit-ups, frog jumps – you name it, we do it. All that fun stuff. That’s twice a week. The folks on the competition team do some strength training and other runs on their own,” Coach Sokal says.

Michelle, who identifies conditioning as her greatest asset in the sport, has enjoyed every minute of her time on the competition team.

She says a lot of that has to do with Coach Sokal’s dedication to the club – without pay.

Kern with players and coaches (Twitter.com)

Kern with players and coaches (Twitter.com)

“He puts in a lot of work, if not more than us, to make sure we’re doing the best we can and that we’re able to push ourselves. He’s providing all the resources we need to be able to do that. I can speak enough about how lucky we are to have him,” Kern says.

Kern says she’s not sure exactly what she’ll be doing a few months from now job-wise, but knows in her spare time, boxing will stay a part of her life.

“UNC boxing, over the last three years, has become a really important part of my life. It’s given me such a unique experience that most people can’t relate to. I’ve put in so much work and met so many great people,” Kern says.

Yes, Michelle will be leaving the Eddie Smith Field House for good soon, but Coach Sokal and company will keep the beat rolling this summer with workouts each week and a continual commitment to the three pillars of UNC boxing: Coachability. Courage. Conditioning.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/courage-conditioning-empower-kerns-unc-boxing-journey/

The Rammys: Top Tar Heels Honored, Spiffy Uniforms Unveiled

The best and brightest in Carolina athletics were recognized Monday night inside Carmichael Arena. Once again, the blue carpet was rolled out for The Rammys and this time, new uniforms came with it.

It was a star-studded evening full of memories, highlights and laughs.

***Listen to the story***

The new-look Rammy trophy designed by former UNC gymnast Zoya Johnson (UNC Athletics)

The new-look Rammy trophy designed by former UNC gymnast Zoya Johnson (UNC Athletics)

UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham took to the Alexander Julian argyle-themed stage to highlight the community, athletic and academic achievements of the last year.

Kennedy Meeks in action (Nick Vitali)

Kennedy Meeks in action (Nick Vitali)

Jones Angell, the Voice of the Tar Heels, quipped a few jokes in his emcee duties and sophomore men’s basketball forward Kennedy Meeks brought the house down with his rendition of ‘I Will Always Love You’.

The famous Chapel Hill IP3 pizza was delivered to the hungry audience and the UNC coaches got their groove on to the popular song ‘Shake It Off.’

But through it all, the glittering gold Rammy trophies were the most coveted prize for the hundreds of Tar Heel student-athletes in attendance.

Male Breakthrough Athlete went to UNC football walk-on Mack Hollins, who came out of nowhere to electrify the Kenan Stadium crowd last fall.

Mack Hollins burst on the scene in 2014 (Chatsports.com)

Mack Hollins burst on the scene in 2014 (Chatsports.com)

His female counterpart was star volleyballer Ece Taner, who grabbed the gold for her outstanding contributions to Joe Sagula’s ACC championship-winning team.

The awards for ACC Scholar Athletes went to field hockey’s Loren Shealy and senior baseball pitcher Benton Moss.

Benton Moss (UNC Athletics)

Benton Moss (UNC Athletics)

Freshman hoopster Justin Jackson took home the Rammy for Outstanding Newcomer, while teammate Marcus Paige earned Best Play honors for his thrilling buzzer beater against Louisville.

Best Upset went to the men’s lacrosse squad. Coach Joe Breschi’s bunch is currently ranked in the top five in the nation.

The night’s biggest winners, however, were tennis phenoms Jamie Loeb and Brayden Schnur. Each took down the top prize as Most Outstanding Athletes.

2015 UNC Football uniforms (UNC Athletics)

2015 UNC Football uniforms (UNC Athletics)

But the biggest news of the night may have been the unveiling of the new #OurBlue Nike uniforms. In an effort to rebrand and add consistency to the uniforms of all 28 sports, UNC teamed with Nike to release the new gear.

“We are excited to once again partner with Nike, one of the most recognizable brands in the world, to help us refresh and refine our marks and logos,” AD Bubba Cunningham says. “The changes are subtle, but they celebrate our history and create consistency as we further seek to distinguish our brand.  This is our blue and we’re proud of it.”

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/the-rammys-top-tar-heels-honored-spiffy-uniforms-unveiled/

Diamond Heels Face Campbell Test

After a surprise series split with Virginia Tech this past weekend, the #23 Diamond Heels return home to Boshamer Stadium with a 24-15 record, which will be put on the line Tuesday for an in-state showdown with the 25-15 Campbell Fightin’ Camels.

Uncharacteristic struggles by UNC starting pitchers Zac Gallen and JB Bukauskas in Blacksburg almost cost Carolina a pair of crucial ACC wins against the Hokies, however the offense fought back for a tight victory on Saturday to position the Tar Heels in sole possession of second place in the ACC’s Coastal Division–also ensuring that head coach Mike Fox would not lose a series to Virginia Tech for the first time in his illustrious career.

Gallen, who threw a complete game the week before at home against NC State, allowed six runs in six innings against the Hokies on Friday, while Bukauskas, a freshman, hadn’t had a start go less than 4.2 innings in his entire career before Saturday, when he lasted just two innings and gave up seven runs.

Cole Hallum could present the Tar Heels with some unique challenges on Tuesday night. (GoCamels.com)

Cole Hallum could present the Tar Heels with some unique challenges Tuesday night. (GoCamels.com)

During recent mid-week games, though, the Carolina starting pitching has been lights out behind the left arm of freshman Hunter Williams. Over his last four starts, all during the middle of the week, Williams has thrown 24 innings, allowing just two runs and 10 hits combined.

If Williams is on the mound Tuesday night against the Camels, he’ll take on a team that has had great success throughout the season, but also one that is mired in the midst of a five game losing streak.

Campbell split two games with Virginia Tech back in February, and can also claim a road victory at Duke on March 31st, showing they’re capable of defeating ACC competition.

The main threat to the Tar Heels is the Camels’ junior outfielder Cole Hallum, who has 10 home runs and 34 RBI this year, while also picking up seven saves as the team’s closer. This high level of play earned Hallum National Player of the Week honors earlier in the year for his performance during the week of March 16.

First pitch is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday. The starting pitchers have yet to be announced.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/diamond-heels-tested-tough-campbell-squad/

Tar Heels Round Out Exciting Regular Season

A busy Tar Heel sports weekend secured a couple exhilarating ACC titles, produced heartbreak on the lacrosse field and saw history made on the Chestnut Hill tennis courts.

***Listen to the story***

Indeed, it was a wild few days for Carolina athletics starting with one for the record books Friday at Boston College.

Brian Kalbas has all the pieces to contend for a national championship (UNC Athletics)

Brian Kalbas has all the pieces to contend for a national championship (UNC Athletics)

The No. 1 Tar Heel women’s tennis team put the finishing touches on an undefeated regular season by beating the Eagles, 5-2, and in the process, became the first ACC school in history to make it through the treacherous league slate unscathed.

Despite Jamie Loeb’s shocking three-set upset at No. 1 singles, Carolina showed off its depth by fighting past the pesky Eagles with commanding victories at No. 2, 3, 4 and 5 singles.

UNC head coach Brian Kalbas says the Tar Heels have been on a mission this season.

“This is the kind of team I don’t think would benefit from a loss going into the postseason. I really think this team benefits from winning and getting that motivation that we could do something special,” Coach Kalbas says.

UNC will now turn its attention to Cary Tennis Center for the start of the ACC Tournament this weekend. The Tar Heels will be the No. 1 seed and heavy favorites to take the title for the fifth time in seven years.

But the sweetness of victory is often born out of the bitterness of defeat. The Carolina men’s lacrosse team suffered the latter Saturday afternoon.

The Tar Heels surrendered three goals in the final 1:15 of the contest to fall short in heartbreaking fashion.

What’s worse, the 15-14 defeat to No. 1 Notre Dame in South Bend handed the ACC regular season championship to the Fighting Irish.

The second-ranked Tar Heels have some time to regroup before meeting Syracuse Friday in the ACC Tournament semifinals at PPL Park at 8 p.m. in Chester, PA.

Their female counterparts, however, were not to be denied the title of champions.

Sammy Jo Tracy gets all fired up (UNC Athletics)

Sammy Jo Tracy gets all fired up (UNC Athletics)

Friday night at Duke’s Koskinen Stadium, the No. 2 UNC women’s lacrosse team downed its hated rival, 12-6, to claim the ACC regular season title for the sixth time and improve to 13-2 overall, 6-1 in league action.

Sammy Jo Tracy wasn’t the only Tar Heel to record a hat trick against the Blue Devils. Aly Messinger joined her teammate in that accomplishment.

Caylee Waters started the game in goal for Carolina and picked up the win thanks to three saves and only giving up four scores.

Head coach Jenny Levy’s Tar Heels open up their ACC Tournament campaign Thursday as the top seeds.

With the regular season now in the books for most spring teams in Chapel Hill, the excitement and promise of the postseason awaits – where dreams become reality.

And these successful Tar Heel players and coaches will be dreaming of hardware – ACC and national championship trophies.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/tar-heels-round-out-regular-season-with-excitement/