Tar Heel Football Coming Alive This Spring

Spring has finally sprung in Chapel Hill and with it; the Tar Heel football team has kicked its practices into overdrive at Navy Field. Armed with a bevy of talent returning to campus this fall, UNC head coach Larry Fedora has his sights set on an ACC title.

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It’s a mix of youth and veteran leadership that will suit up in Kenan Stadium. Following a subpar season that left the locker room disjointed and frustrated, 2015 could prove to be a pivotal year in the tenure of Coach Fedora.

Marquise Williams and Ryan Switzer share a call with the coaching staff. (Elliott Rubin)

Marquise Williams and Ryan Switzer share a call with the coaching staff. (Elliott Rubin)

But for now, tucked away from the eyes of Tar Heel Nation and nestled in between Carmichael Arena and Boshamer Stadium, the Carolina coaches and players are busy working on the fundamentals.

“Right now in all four units it’s about mastering the fundamentals that you need to be able to play in all four phases,” Coach Fedora says.

There are more smiling faces coming from the defense these days. Former defensive coordinator Vic Koenning’s schemes were famous for their complexity, but with Gene Chizik now at the helm, things are much simpler.

“There’s a lot less right now, that’s for sure. Gene and those guys have decided how they’re going to install things. They’re working really hard on the base and the fundamentals on what it takes to play in that base defense. They’ve been spoon feeding them as they’ve gone. It’s been good for our guys because they’ve been learning something new each day,” Coach Fedora says.

unc football

The Tar Heels are working hard this spring for game day moments (UNC Athletics)

Last year, an inexperienced offensive line spelled trouble for protecting quarterback Marquise Williams in the backfield. More often that not, Williams found himself scrambling for his life against the higher-caliber opponents.

But Coach Fedora says he’s much more comfortable with the big guys up front heading into 2016.

“We’ve got some depth there now. We’ve got guys like John Heck, Landon [Turner] and [Lucas] Crowley. Those guys got a lot of reps all last year. They’re very comfortable out there. You’re seeing them get better and better each day,” Coach Fedora says.

One of the biggest question marks for the Tar Heels comes in the special teams department. Last season, Coach Fedora lost all confidence in his field goal unit and was all too often forced to go for it on fourth down in situations every team would like to have a reliable kicker to nail it through the uprights.

So how are the kickers looking right now?

“It’s a lot of drill work right now. We aren’t doing much scheme work at all in our special teams units. We still have a long way to do with our punters. I think we’ve made some strides with our kickers, but we still have a way to go,” Coach Fedora says.

Mitch Trubisky continues to work on his game (UNC Athletics)

Mitch Trubisky continues to work on his game (UNC Athletics)

With Williams still recovering from his hip injury, redshirt sophomore Mitch Trubisky has been getting plenty of reps behind center. The former Mr. Football of Ohio played some meaningful minutes in 2014, but Coach Fedora says he’s seeing a ton of growth this spring.

“Mitch is getting all of the reps with the ones [starters]. Every rep he gets, he’s growing and becoming a better quarterback,” Coach Fedora says.

There’s enough skill on the UNC roster to contend in an ACC Coastal division that remains up for grabs.

But glaring weaknesses on the defense and the kicking game will need to show marked improvement for the Tar Heels to take the next step and get to their first ACC Championship game in Charlotte this December.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/tar-heel-football-coming-alive-this-spring/

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.

FINAL BOX SCORE

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-capitalizes-on-early-elon-errors-rolls-to-victory/

Roy Williams Adding “Fuel” To 2016 Final Four Push

The North Carolina men’s basketball team couldn’t progress past the Sweet Sixteen in an up-and-down season that ultimately ended short of its hopeful final destination – Indianapolis for the Final Four. But with nearly every key player likely to return for next season, optimism reigns here in Chapel Hill.

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It’s both the tragedy and the thrill of March Madness. The single elimination format leaves no room for error. The realization that accompanies the finality of the end of a journey and with it, the pursuit of a national championship, can be hard to come to grips with – even for Roy Williams.

Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige should be returning for another shot in 2016

Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige should be returning for another shot in 2016

“The most difficult time as a coach is what to say to the kids after the last game when you lose. I feel so inadequate because there’s nothing I can say that will erase what just happened. There’s nothing I can say to make it go away. It’s not like golf – you don’t get a mulligan or anything like that,” Coach Williams says.

There’s an ultra-fine line between winning and losing – the Tar Heels know that all too well.

For the majority of their postseason contest with Notre Dame in the ACC championship game and their Sweet Sixteen showdown with Wisconsin, the Tar Heels seemingly were in control. But the rug was pulled out from under them with ruthless intention in the waning moments.

“The last three weeks, we played pretty good basketball. We didn’t play as well as we wanted to play by any means, but we played pretty good basketball. In the Notre Dame game, you take away three minutes, we win the ACC Tournament. In the Wisconsin game, you take away three minutes, we win that game,” Coach Williams says.

The sting of defeat can motivate. Coach Williams says he hopes Carolina can parlay the disappointment into a determined effort in summer workouts.

“I hope it hurts our guys as much as it does me. If it does that, we’ll work our butts off this summer, I can tell you that,” Coach Williams says.

The 2014-2015 Tar Heels finished their campaign with a 26-12 record that included an 8-3 mark on neutral courts.

But for UNC’s lofty standards, that’s nothing special. But that hasn’t dulled Coach Williams’ close-knit relationship with his players.

“I did enjoy this team. We didn’t have any knuckleheads. There was always one being a knucklehead, but it wasn’t a team full of knuckleheads. I enjoyed being with them. They’re really good kids. I have two grandsons. Everybody on my team I could say, ‘Watch these two little boys; I’ll be back in two hours.’ I would feel really comfortable,” Coach Williams says.

Coach Williams will begin his end-of-year one-on-one meetings with his players Wednesday. He’s crossing his fingers for no surprises.

Carolina will hope to celebrate more often next year (UNC Athletics)

Carolina will hope to be celebrating more often next year (UNC Athletics)

For the first time ever under Coach Williams, the coaching staff reviewed the game film with the entire team, of an NCAA Tournament loss.

That film session had a distinct purpose.

“I’m going to try to use that as fuel and make them hungrier to work even harder this summer – to show them one play here or a second play here, and we could be going to Indianapolis,” Coach Williams says.

With that extra “fuel” and yes, barring any unforeseen departures a la James Michael McAdoo in 2014, the Tar Heels should be locked and loaded for a legitimate run at the ACC title and a trip to Houston for the Final Four in 2016.

 

End-of-season notes from Steve Kirschner, UNC Athletics

• CAROLINA’s season ends at 26-12 overall and 8-3 on neutral courts.
 
• CAROLINA is 112-44 in 156 NCAA Tournament games. The 112 wins are second most all-time behind Kentucky.
 
• CAROLINA lost for the first time in the Sweet 16 since 1992. UNC had won its previous 11 Sweet 16 games since losing to Ohio State. Traevon Jackson scored four points tonight for the Badgers; in 1992, his father, Jim, had 18 points for the Buckeyes in Ohio State’s Sweet 16 win over UNC in Lexington, Ky.
 
• CAROLINA played 22 of its 37 games this season against NCAA Tournament teams and went 11-11 in those 22 games.
 
• CAROLINA is 25-7 in regional semifinal games.
 
• CAROLINA is 4-2 in NCAA Tournament history as a #4 seed.
 
• CAROLINA is 11-6 in West Regional games. The Tar Heels have reached the Final Four once in six appearances in the West Regional (1981).
 
• CAROLINA is 13-8 in California, including 2-3 in NCAA Tournament games and 5-6 in Los Angeles.
 
• CAROLINA is 7-5 in the NCAA Tournament against #1 seeds.
 
• CAROLINA is 2-1 against Wisconsin, including 1-1 in the NCAA Tournament (beat the Badgers in the 2005 East final in Syracuse).
 
• CAROLINA is 13-6 against Big Ten teams in the NCAA Tournament. The loss to Wisconsin snapped a five-game win streak for UNC against Big Ten teams in the NCAA Tournament.
 
• ROY WILLIAMS is 750-202 in 27 seasons as a head coach and 332-101 in 12 seasons at North Carolina. His winning percentage of .788 is the sixth highest in college basketball history and first among active coaches with at least 20 years experience.
 
• ROY WILLIAMS is 31-9 (.775) in 25 NCAA Tournament appearances. He is tied for sixth in appearances, third in games (88) and tied with Dean Smith for second in wins (65).
 
• ROY WILLIAMS is 11-5 in Sweet 16 games, including 6-1 at UNC.
 
• CAROLINA lost for the fifth time this year when leading at the half. The Tar Heels led the Badgers, 33-31, at halftime, and Wisconsin overcame a seven-point deficit in the second half to win. UNC went 22-5 this year when leading at intermission. The losses came to Butler, at Louisville, Virginia, at home to Duke and Wisconsin.
 
• CAROLINA shot 50 percent from the floor in the first half, but only 42.9 percent in the second half. That was the first time in the last 10 games UNC failed to shoot 50 percent in the second half.
 
• CAROLINA shot 50 percent or better in eight of its last 11 halves dating back to the second half of the ACC quarterfinal win over Louisville.
 
• CAROLINA lost for just the second time this year in a game in which it made more three-point field goals than the opponents. UNC was 8 for 13 from three-point range, while Wisconsin was 7 for 21. The only other loss when UNC made more threes was against Iowa (UNC made four and the Hawkeyes made three on 12/3/14).
 
• WISCONSIN out-rebounded the Tar Heels by seven (35-28). That was the largest rebounding deficit since Iowa out-rebounded UNC, 42-26, on 12/3. Carolina was 23-7 this year when it had more rebounds and 2-4 when the opponents had more rebounds.
 
• CAROLINA committed only four turnovers and the Badgers committed five. By comparison, the Tar Heels and Arkansas combined for 37 in UNC’s previous game.
 
• The nine turnovers matched the fewest in a UNC game this season. UNC and Pitt also combined for nine on 2/14.
 
• CAROLINA’s four turnovers matched the fewest by UNC in Roy Williams’ 12 seasons as head coach (at Pitt, 2/14/15).
 
• CAROLINA’s four turnovers were the second-fewest in UNC’s 156 NCAA Tournament games. The only game UNC committed fewer was in the 1997 first round against Fairfield when the Tar Heels made a school-record two turnovers.
 
• CAROLINA’s four turnovers were the fewest in UNC’s 44 losses in NCAA Tournament history. The previous low for turnovers in a loss was seven against San Francisco in 1978.
 
• WISCONSIN’s five turnovers equal the fewest by an opponent in UNC’s 156-game NCAA Tournament history. Michigan State (1998 regional semifinal) and Auburn (1985 regional semifinal) also committed five.
 
• CAROLINA shot 61.5 percent from three-point range (making 8 of 13). That is the highest three-point percentage by UNC in an NCAA Tournament loss in school history. The previous best in a loss was .438 vs. Michigan (5 of 11) in the 1989 regional semifinal.
 
• MARCUS PAIGE made three three-point field goals. He finished the season with 94 3FGs, second-most in UNC single-season history, one behind Shammond Williams’s 95 in 1996-97.
 
• PAIGE has made 225 career three-pointers and is third in UNC history behind Shammond Williams (233) and Wayne Ellington (229). Only Ellington made more in three seasons.
 
• PAIGE has attempted 590 three-pointers in his career. That is more than any other Tar Heel. Shammond Williams was the previous record-holder with 578.
 
• PAIGE is 275 for 318 from the free throw line in his career. His percentage of .865 is the highest in Carolina history and the sixth-best in ACC history. Shammond Williams is second in UNC history at .849.
 
• PAIGE went 96 for 111 from the free throw line this season, a percentage of .865 that is the seventh-best single-season mark in UNC history for players with at least 75 makes (he shot the third-best percentage, .877, last year). He is the only Tar Heel in history to post two of the top 10 best seasons in free throw percentages.
 
• PAIGE scored 12 points against Wisconsin, the 30th time this season he scored in double figures. He made three 3FGs, the 41st time in 107 games he has done that.
 
• JUSTIN JACKSON shared team-scoring honors vs. the Badgers with 15 points. It was the 22nd time this year he scored in double figures, including 11 of the last 12 games.
 
• JACKSON led UNC in scoring for the sixth time this season – three of those six games came in the postseason (22 vs. Virginia in the ACC semifinals, 14 vs. Harvard in the NCAA Tournament and 15 vs. Wisconsin). He averaged 15.0 points in UNC’s three NCAA Tournament games and shot 17 for 32 from the floor (.531).
 
• JACKSON went three for three vs. Wisconsin from three-point range. That was the second time this season  – and second time in the last five games – that he made at least three from beyond the arc. He made a season-high four vs. Virginia on 3/13.
 
• JACKSON made two three-pointers three times in UNC’s first 27 games and at least two 3FGs in six of the last 11 contests.
 
• BRICE JOHNSON also shared UNC scoring honors with 15 points on 7 of 9 field goal attempts. It was his 26th game this year scoring in double figures. He scored more points vs. Wisconsin (15) than he did in the previous two NCAA games combined (seven vs. both Harvard and Arkansas).
 
• NATE BRITT went 2 for 2 from the free throw line. He finished the season 60 for 68 from the line (.882).  That is the second-highest single-season free throw percentage in UNC history for players with at least 60 made free throws. (Shammond Williams shot .911 in 1997-98, 133 for 146).
 
• BRITT is 114 for 136 in his career, a percentage of .838 that is sixth best in UNC history for players with at least 100 made free throws.
 
• J.P. TOKOTO was one of four Tar Heels with a team-high three assists. It was the 20th time this year Tokoto led outright or shared team honors in assists.
 
• ISAIAH HICKS led UNC with six rebounds. It was the first time in his career Hicks led the Tar Heels in rebounds.
 
• JOEL BERRY II had nine points, three assists and no turnovers in 19 minutes. It was his second-highest scoring game of the season (15 at Georgia Tech).
 
• WISCONSIN went 20 for 23 from the free throw line, while the Tar Heels made 12 of 18 from the line. That was the 10th time in the last 13 games the opponents attempted more free throws than UNC. The opponents attempted 68 more free throws than UNC over those 13 games and made 49 more from the line.
 
• WISCONSIN shot 87.0 percent from the free throw line. The Badgers were the fifth consecutive opponents in the postseason to shoot 80 percent or better from the free throw line (.800 by Virginia, .875 by Notre Dame, .900 by Harvard, .815 by Arkansas and .870 by Arkansas). Those five opponents combined to make 104 of 122 from the line for 85.2 percent.
 
• CAROLINA finished the season attempting 814 free throws; the opponents attempted 843. This is just the third time UNC has attempted fewer free throws than the opponents (also in 1953-54 and 2001-02). The 843 free throw attempts are the most by the opponents since 1972 (853).

 

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/roy-williams-adding-fuel-to-2016-final-four-push/

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.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/tar-heels-head-to-elon-feeling-optimistic/

UNC Refuses to Let Hurricanes Sweep Through Chapel Hill

If the UNC baseball team learned anything from its two heartbreaking losses to Miami on Friday and Saturday, it was that no lead can ever be called “safe” against top competition.

Unless that lead is stretched to eight runs, which is where the #22 Tar Heels had it at one point in the series finale Sunday, using a dominant offensive output to defeat the #21 Hurricanes by a score of 10-3 inside the friendly walls of Boshamer Stadium.

By avoiding the sweep, Carolina raises its record to 16-11 overall and reaches the .500 mark in the ACC, at 6-6. Miami remains in sole possession of first place in the ACC Coastal Division, but drops to 8-4 in league play (20-9 overall).

The scene in Sunday’s first inning seemed to be going the same as it went the day before–sunlight pouring down from the sky, UNC’s starting pitcher cruising, and the bases loaded for the Tar Heel batters with just a single out.

Senior Benton Moss continued the dominant run by Carolina’s starting pitching. (UNC Athletics)

This time, though, the boys in light blue would find a way to put some runs on the board.

“We were so close the last couple games,” Coach Fox says, “But we got off to a good start today, loaded the bases again in the first inning, and finally got more than one run, so that was huge for us. And having Benton on the mound, that was what we needed.”

A sacrifice fly from freshman Zack Gahagan and an RBI single from Tyler Ramirez, off Miami starter Enrique Sosa (3-3), put the Tar Heels ahead by two after a first inning where they banged out five hits.

After a perfect second inning on the mound from Benton Moss (4-0), the Carolina bats went right back to work in their half of the frame, tacking on two more runs in the same fashion. Juniors Skye Bolt and Landon Lassiter each had an RBI to give their head coach the type of lead he said the team should have built yesterday, when they had the same opportunity.

A throwing error by UNC shortstop Logan Warmoth allowed Miami’s Willie Abreu to reach first as the lead-off man in the third, giving the visiting team their first base-runner of the game. The play appeared to be costly, with the Hurricanes able to scrape across a pair of unearned runs against Moss to cut the lead in half.

However, the Tar Heel bats were not ready to cool down just yet.

First baseman Joe Dudek hit a sharp liner right down the third-base line to drive in two runs with two outs in the bottom of the third–ending the day on the mound for Enrique Sosa, and kicking off what would eventually turn into a huge five-run inning. Miami reliever Derik Beauprez came in and walked three batters in a row, including one to Landon Lassiter with the bases loaded, which set up Zack Gahagan, who drilled a two-run single to right-field, giving him his second and third RBI of the day.

“Joey Dudek and the big inning, with two outs, 1-2 [count], gets a double and starts that five run inning, I think that sealed the deal right there,” Benton Moss says about the game-changing moment.

The Tar Heel defense has been much improved since Eli Sutherland took over at second base. (UNC Athletics)

The Tar Heel defense has been much improved since Eli Sutherland took over at second base. (UNC Athletics)

Gahagan would later increase his RBI total to four with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fifth, bringing UNC’s score into double digits.

“We were just locked in,” says Gahagan about the difference between today’s game and the previous two losses, with the freshman adding that “We really had a good amount of focus this weekend, but just couldn’t get some balls to fall early on in the series, but today obviously we locked in and got those runs in.”

Leaving the game after allowing a single to begin the Hurricane half of the seventh, Moss was done with another fantastic outing in this just his second start back from injury. All throughout, Moss never let the Hurricanes get comfortable at the plate. The senior from Enfield, North Carolina worked six strong innings, surrendering just one earned run on six hits, and also struck out four on 96 pitches.

Miami was able to scratch across another run against a combination of three Tar Heel relievers in the seventh–with a sacrifice fly by yesterday’s hero, Zack Collins, but ultimately the early Carolina surge would prove to be too much for the Hurricanes to come back from, as they couldn’t muster anything else the rest of the way.

One of only two seniors on UNC’s roster, Moss says he’s not discouraged by losing the series, pointing to the talent level on the team as a big reason why he feels this is a squad to be reckoned with in the coming weeks.

“We’ve got so much talent in the locker room, and I’m not afraid to say it,” says Moss, “I think we’ve had a chance to win every single series that we’ve played, and that’s no BS. I think that’s the truth. We’ve got all the guys in there, they just know they’re one swing of the bat away, or one error, or one pitch away, they’re right there.”

Up Next:

A week on the road awaits the Tar Heels, as they’ll travel to face Elon on Tuesday at 6:30 P.M., before heading to Clemson for their ACC weekend series.

Game Notes:

  • Benton Moss now has 290 strikeouts for his career, moving him into fourth on the UNC all-time list.
  • All five runs scored by UNC in the third inning came with two outs on the board.
  • Miami third baseman David Thompson extended his hitting streak to 18 games with his single in the seventh inning off reliever Trevor Kelley.
  • All-time, Miami leads the series with North Carolina with a 34-26-1 record against the Tar Heels after this weekend.

FINAL BOX SCORE

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-refuses-to-let-hurricanes-sweep-through-chapel-hill/

UNC Drops Extra Inning Heartbreaker to Miami

The ball is likely still stuck in orbit somewhere, floating, and maybe looking for a new home, after the hurt that had just been put on it.

Miami designated hitter Zack Collins hit an absolute moonshot in the 11th inning off UNC reliever Spencer Trayner to lift his #21 Hurricanes to a 4-3 victory, and the series win, over the #22 Tar Heels at Boshamer Stadium, in yet another gut-wrenching back-and-forth affair.

“It felt honestly like it was a close fight,” UNC starter JB Bukauskas says on the finish that saw each team trade runs in the ninth and tenth innings, “It just felt like it could go either way at any point. There’s no real emotion you could put on it, it was honestly just a hard fought game. And it was up and down, and up and down, but we were never giving up, not even in the last inning when we went down.”

Head Coach Mike Fox and his Carolina team fall to 15-11 overall, with a losing 5-6 record in the ACC, while Miami improves their Coastal Division leading conference mark to 8-3, with a 20-8 record in all games played.

On a chilly, but very sunny Saturday, the Tar Heels sent their super-freshman, Bukauskas, to the mound to face-off with the Hurricanes’ preseason All-American–redshirt junior Andy Suarez.

After a 1-2-3 top of the first inning for Bukauskas, the Carolina offense appeared as if they were ready to pounce on the right-hander early, loading the bases with just one out in their half of the first. Suarez wiggled out of the jam though, by striking out right-fielder Tyler Ramirez, and then getting Korey Dunbar to ground into a fielder’s choice.

Tyler Ramirez got down and dirty on Saturday, making a number of huge hustle plays. (UNC Athletics)

Tyler Ramirez got down and dirty on Saturday, making a number of huge hustle plays. (UNC Athletics)

As Bukauskas continued to mow through the Miami line-up in the second inning, UNC found themselves in a position to possibly break the game wide open.

Hits kept coming for the Tar Heels in their turn at-bat in the second, leading to another chance to tack on a few runs with the bases loaded and only one out. Center-fielder Skye Bolt drew a walk to score the first run of the game, but Suarez managed to escape yet again when he got freshman Logan Warmoth to ground into an inning-ending double play.

“That’s probably where we lost the game. I mean, really,” says Coach Fox, “Cause we’ve got a chance right out of the gate to extend the lead, and we got [Suarez] in trouble and he wasn’t very good today. He didn’t have his good command like he normally does, and we didn’t make him pay. That kept them in the game, while JB’s lights out again for us, just like he’s been in every conference start.”

Struggling with command through his first three innings, Suarez was pulled from the game by Miami Head Coach Jim Morris before the fourth, replaced by senior reliever Daniel Briggi after throwing just 60 pitches and allowing one run on four hits–but he also walked four Tar Heels as well.

Briggi handled the Tar Heels with ease over the next three innings, allowing no runs and just two hits during his stint on the mound.

Still 1-0 in favor of UNC at the beginning of the fifth, Bukauskas continued to show that he was in complete control. The Hurricanes were sat down in order again, still looking for a run and with only one hit to show for their efforts.

Miami finally got their elusive second hit in the top of the seventh off the bat of star third baseman David Thompson, who singled and then advanced to second base on a balk by Bukauskas. Next came a walk to Zack Collins and a sacrifice bunt to give the Hurricanes runners on second and third with one out–their first real offensive threat of the game.

Designated hitter Garrett Kennedy tied the game with a sacrifice fly in the seventh. (UNC Athletics)

Designated hitter Garrett Kennedy tied the game with a sacrifice fly in the seventh. (Miami Herald)

A ground-out to first base by right-fielder Willie Abreu ended the inning, but not before a sacrifice fly from Garrett Kennedy tied the game and erased the zero in Miami’s score column.

It would also end the day for JB Bukauskas, as Coach Fox turned to senior Trevor Kelley to complete the eighth inning. The freshman threw 86 pitches for the day, going seven innings, while giving up just the one run and two hits, to pair with three strikeouts.

Meanwhile, Kelley struck out the first two Hurricanes he faced upon entering the game, and then got left-fielder Carl Chester to groundout to complete a three-up, three-down performance leading into the Tar Heel half of the eighth.

Kelley came back on for the ninth after the Tar Heels went scoreless in the eighth, and immediately allowed a lead-off single to center-fielder Ricky Eusebio to start the frame. Then things started to get wild, as Kelley gave up the lead on a first pitch RBI single by shortstop George Iskenderian.

With one final chance to pull even and the crowd on their feet, freshman first baseman Zack Gahagan singled home Brian Miller with two outs to keep the Tar Heels’ hopes alive.

Zack Gahagan tied the game up with his RBI single in the bottom of the ninth. (UNC Athletics)

Zack Gahagan tied the game up with his RBI single in the bottom of the ninth. (UNC Athletics)

In the tenth, trouble found Trent Thornton for the second consecutive game, when he allowed Miami’s Jacob Heyward to reach third base with just one out in the inning after a wild pitch (his second in as many days). Not taking any chances, Coach Fox turned to lefty Zach Rice out of the bullpen to try and escape the jam.

Unfortunately, Johnny Ruiz hit a deep fly ball to score Heyward on a sacrifice fly, putting the game back under Miami’s control.

Just like in seemingly every other inning during the game, the Tar Heels threatened in the bottom of the tenth, putting runners on first and third with one out against Hurricanes’ closer Bryan Garcia. Garcia then allowed Landon Lassiter his fourth hit of the ball-game, which drove home Michael Massardo to tie the contest.

Small-ball may have helped the teams trade runs at the end, but ultimately it was the big-ball, the solo shot from Zack Collins, that allowed Miami to finally put the icing on the cake.

Side-winding reliever Cooper Hammond came in for Garcia to try and keep the Tar Heels off of the board in the 11th, and after letting the first two men he faced reach first and second, Hammond settled down to strike out the next two batters, earning some questionable strike calls in the process–before getting Adam Pate to pop out and end the game.

Despite the great starting pitching effort from Bukauskas, Coach Fox says that by leaving 16 men on base, the Tar Heels didn’t fulfill every phase of the game, a necessity against top competition.

“All the phases of the game have to all work together if you’re gonna beat good teams in our league,” Coach Fox says, “Every phase of the game has to be at a high level and it just hasn’t been. We’ve just been missing that key piece, and today it was not being good with runners in scoring position.”

“We should have won today,” adds Fox.

Up Next:

The series finale will have a bit of an early start on Sunday, with first pitch set to take place at noon. The pitching match-up will see UNC senior Benton Moss (3-0, 2.08 ERA) take on Miami right-hander Enrique Sosa (3-2, 3.62 ERA).

Game Notes:

  • In the previous five games for UNC, entering Saturday, Tar Heel starting pitchers put together an ERA just under 2.04 while averaging six innings per start.
  • Defense has been improving as well for Carolina with just two errors over their past six games (including Saturday).
  • Miami’s Jacob Heyward is the brother of St. Louis Cardinals’ outfielder Jason Heyward.

FINAL BOX SCORE

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-drops-extra-inning-heartbreaker-to-miami/

Ninth Inning Collapse Dooms UNC Against Miami

Under the lights at Boshamer Stadium on Friday, UNC had the game wrapped up, until Miami second baseman Johnny Ruiz hit a late RBI single off of Carolina closer Trent Thornton to complete a wild ninth inning rally, leading the #21 Hurricanes to a 4-3 win over the #22 Tar Heels in the first game of their top 25 ACC showdown.

The Hurricanes hold on to their lead atop the ACC Coastal Division standings, improving their record to 7-3 in conference play and 18-8 overall. For the Tar Heels, they drop to 5-5 in the ACC and 15-10 overall.

Ruiz’s single came after right-fielder Willie Abreu drove in two runs to tie a game that Carolina led 3-1 entering the final inning.

“We got a 3-1 pitch to Ruiz right there [in the ninth] with a base open,” UNC Head Coach Mike Fox says about the game’s defining play, “And we don’t make the right pitch, and they executed.”

Although this game’s start was delayed by about 45 minutes due to rain, Miami center-fielder Ricky Eusebio wasted no time waking the crowd up. Just the second batter of the game, the junior from Homestead, Florida ripped a 1-2 pitch from Carolina starter Zac Gallen over the left-field wall for a solo shot to strike first blood for the Hurricanes.

Pitching took over the game after the big blast, however, as Gallen settled into his comfort zone, and Miami lefty Thomas Woodrey came out dealing his best stuff right from the jump.

Zac Gallen was lights out after giving up a home run in the first inning. (UNC Athletics)

Zac Gallen was lights out after giving up a home run in the first inning. (UNC Athletics)

After Hurricanes’ third baseman David Thompson doubled to lead-off the second inning, Gallen walked catcher Garrett Kennedy, and then promptly turned into a lean, mean, pitching machine–retiring the next 16 batters he faced, including seven strikeouts during the streak. It lasted from the second with no outs until the seventh inning with one out, when Thompson singled for his second hit of the night.

For the game, Gallen would finish with seven strong innings of work, giving up just one run, four hits, and striking out eight Hurricanes on  104 pitches in total.

Woodrey allowed a single to UNC freshman shortstop Logan Warmoth in the bottom of the second, but was otherwise perfect through the first four frames, giving up no other hits and maintaining the zero in the UNC run column.

Not until the fifth inning did the Tar Heels seriously threaten the sophomore. Right-fielder Tyler Ramirez drove a ball down the line in right for his third triple of the season, with only one out on the board to set the table, but unfortunately a pair of ground-outs by Korey Dunbar and Eli Sutherland put a quick halt to the scoring opportunity, preserving the shutout for Woodrey.

Dueling with Gallen all night long, Miami lefty Thomas Woodrey was equally spectacular. (Miami Herald)

Dueling with Gallen all night long, Miami lefty Thomas Woodrey was equally spectacular. (Miami Herald)

Fireworks ensued in the Carolina half of the seventh, though, with Woodrey still on the mound. Ramirez got a chance at redemption with one out in the frame, driving home Zack Gahagan from third with a deep groundout to the middle of the field to tie the affair, setting up the catcher, Dunbar, the hottest hitter in the Tar Heel lineup.

The 1-1 offering from Woodrey was drilled to right center-field for the two-run homer that looked like it might have put UNC ahead for good, on what was Dunbar’s third home run in his last five games.

For Zac Gallen, this play held up his beliefs about his team’s offense, as he explained why he never worried, despite being in the midst of quite a duel.

“I have a lot of faith in our hitters,” Gallen says, “We have some good approaches, guys come up with big hits, I mean Korey [Dunbar], the dude has been clutch lately. So I just tried to keep us in it, I knew we were gonna scratch a couple across just cause we’ve been pretty resilient.”

Dunbar’s homer would also spell the end of the road for the left-hander, after 6.2 workmanlike innings where he pitched mostly to contact. All in all, Woodrey finished with three runs given up on just three hits, but only struck out two in the process.

On to replace Gallen in the top of the eighth was senior Trevor Kelley, the NCAA leader in relief appearances in 2015, with this being his 17th in just 25 games so far. Despite giving up one hit in the inning, the man with the microscopic 1.69 ERA retired the Miami hitters without any real danger, setting up junior closer Trent Thornton with a prime opportunity to clinch his fifth save of the season.

Thornton, a Charlotte, North Carolina native, ended up finding himself in a huge jam trying to shut the door in the ninth.

With runners on second and third and only one out in the inning, Willie Abreu, the Miami right-fielder hit a two-run single to tie the game up, and quiet the Tar Heel crowd, before Johnny Ruiz’s RBI single, which would ultimately end up as the game-winner when UNC failed to score on Miami closer Bryan Garcia.

“It’s frustrating,” Dunbar says about losing the lead late, “but that’s the great thing about baseball is that we’ve got another game tomorrow, and another game to follow that, so it’s disappointing, but we’ve gotta turn it around and play a game tomorrow.”

Up Next:

Saturday will be the second game of the series between the teams and is scheduled to begin at 3 P.M. UNC freshman JB Bukauskas will be on the mound opposite Miami’s preseason All-American left-hander Andy Suarez. The game will be broadcast live on WCHL and shown on ESPN3.

Game Notes:

  • The two coaches, Mike Fox (UNC) and Jim Morris (Miami) entered the game having combined for an astounding 2,736 wins over the course of their careers. (Fox-1,283 in 32 seasons, Morris-1,453 in 34 seasons)
  • Miami junior third baseman David Thompson is the recipient of back-to-back ACC Player of the Week honors. He went 2-4 with a double on Friday.
  • Korey Dunbar’s home run in the seventh extended his hitting streak to six games. He has an extra base hit in all six of those.

FINAL BOX SCORE

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/ninth-inning-collapse-dooms-unc-against-miami/

UNC and Miami Set to Square Off in Top 25 Baseball Action

Winners of three of their past four games, including a crucial series win in Atlanta, the 15-9, 22nd ranked, UNC baseball team faces its toughest conference opponent yet this weekend, as the #21 Miami Hurricanes bring an 18-7 overall record, including a 6-3 conference mark, to Chapel Hill for a three-game ACC series between two squads fighting for Coastal Division supremacy.

Last season, the Tar Heels dropped two out of three games to the Hurricanes when they made the trip down to Coral Gables, but UNC head coach Mike Fox says he thinks this year’s team will match up well with Miami’s top two starting pitchers, Andrew Suarez and Thomas Woodrey, both of whom are left-handed.

Andrew Suarez will be tough to handle on the mound, no matter how good UNC has been against lefties this year. (UNC Athletics)

Andrew Suarez will be tough to handle on the mound, no matter how good UNC has been against lefties this year. (UNC Athletics)

“They’re good, they always pitch well,” Coach Fox says, “Suarez is back and he’s given us fits. They’re gonna throw probably two lefties against us, probably Friday and Saturday, which we’ve swung the bat pretty good against left-handed pitching so far, but they’ll be at another level.”

Suarez has been limited to just three starts this season due to injuries, but holds a 2-0 record with a 2.81 ERA. He was a second round draft pick (No. 57 overall) of the Washington Nationals last summer, but opted instead to return to Miami for his final year of school. Carolina will see the 2015 pre-season All-American on Saturday.

Woodrey, a sophomore, has also been quite solid.  In five starts this year, he’s put together a 3-1 mark, to go along with a 2.93 ERA in 30.2 innings of work. This will be the man with the ball to begin the series on Friday.

UNC center-fielder Skye Bolt, who leads the team with four home runs this season, says the Hurricanes will present a tough challenge off the mound just like always, but he also adds that he sees some similarities between the two teams offensively.

“You’re definitely gonna have pitching, Miami’s always had the ability to pitch on the mound,” says Bolt, “I think they’re a little bit younger with the sticks, but that’s us as well, so the talent’s there, but I think we’re gonna have to continue to adjust on the mound and make adjustments here early in the games this weekend.”

Bolt's towering home run drive on Tuesday against Appalachian State. (UNC Athletics)

Bolt’s towering home run drive on Tuesday against Appalachian State. (UNC Athletics)

One of those young Miami hitters to look out for is freshman outfielder Carl Chester, who bats in the lead-off spot and has hit four homers, showing a solid power game to pair with his .291 batting average and .381 on-base percentage. Chester has also stolen eight bases in just eleven attempts, proving to be quite the well-rounded player on a team full of them.

Overall, Coach Fox says he’s impressed what he’s seen this year from the Hurricanes, noting that they’re probably the best team the Tar Heels have seen since the UCLA series back in February.

“They’ll probably be the best team we’ve played outside of UCLA,” says Coach Fox, “They can run a little bit and got some guys in the middle of the order that can hit the ball out.  They’re a complete team, so we’ll have to play at a high level.”

UCLA, members of the PAC-12 conference, are currently ranked seventh in the D1Baseball.com top 25 poll.

With key players, such as starting pitcher Benton Moss, back from injury, things look to finally be moving in the right direction for the Tar Heels, something Skye Bolt has taken notice of.

Benton Moss's return to the starting rotation will be crucial to the Tar Heels' success. (UNC Athletics)

Benton Moss’s return to the starting rotation will be crucial to the Tar Heels’ success. (UNC Athletics)

“I think some guys are starting to play like they’re capable, and we’re starting to get into the meat of the season,” the center-fielder says, “And we’re getting some guys back healthy that have been out the past few weeks, and yeah, I think it’s all culminating at the right point.”

In Moss’s return to the starting rotation last weekend at Georgia Tech, the senior earned the victory with six solid innings of work, striking out eight batters in the process. He is currently producing a ridiculous rate of 14.43 strikeouts per nine innings pitched (34 K’s in 21.2 innings), good enough to place him fourth in the nation in that category.

First pitch for Friday’s opener is set for 6:30 P.M., with the game being shown live on ESPN3. Zac Gallen is the starting pitcher for UNC, and he’ll face off with Miami’s Thomas Woodrey.

 

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-miami-set-square-off-top-25-baseball-action/

No. 4 Carolina Meets No. 1 Wisconsin In West Coast Battle

The fourth-seeded North Carolina men’s basketball team, 26-11 overall, takes on top-seeded and 33-3 Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament West Regional Semifinal Thursday night at 7:47 p.m. in the Los Angeles STAPLES Center.

***Listen to the story***

For the veteran Badgers, the Sweet Sixteen has become customary. They’ve made it to this stage of the Big Dance in four of the past five years.

Frank Kaminsky is a special player for the Badgers (Badger Athletics)

Frank Kaminsky is a special player for the Badgers (Badger Athletics)

But this year, Wisconsin is the heavy favorite to progress even further. Armed with the first No.1 seeding designation in the school’s history, head coach Bo Ryan says he’s honored to represent the Big Ten in a big way.

“We’re just very pleased to represent the Big Ten and our University in the Sweet Sixteen. These guys definitely have had the kind of season that they’ve earned every inch of this. Hopefully we can go out to L.A. and get something done,” Coach Ryan says.

Less is more for Wisconsin. The fewer the number of possessions, the more of a premium will be placed on ball control, and frankly, up to this point, the Badgers have been far less turnover-prone than the Tar Heels.

UNC junior guard Marcus Paige says having played Virginia a couple times this season has helped Carolina prepare for the Wisconsin challenge.

An in-form Marcus Paige is vital for UNC's postseason success (Todd Melet)

An in-form Marcus Paige is vital for UNC’s postseason success (Todd Melet)

“Even if they’re not a team that traditionally plays slow, they’ll slow it down against us. They think that’s an advantage. We’ve played against that a lot this year. I think that will help us moving forward into this game. Wisconsin is one of the best teams in the country at doing that,” Paige says.

Although the Tar Heels would rather play an up-tempo style, UNC head coach Roy Williams says he’s not convinced his club will be able to establish a pace to their liking against the Badgers.

“Wisconsin is a one-seed for a reason. They’re able to get you to play their tempo more than you can get them to play the tempo you want. You guys have heard me say I’d much rather win in the 90’s, but if you want to be a really good team you’ve got to win in the 60’s or 50’s or whatever it is,” Coach Williams says.

The Tar Heels dive to the floor in their pregame ritual (Todd Melet)

The Tar Heels dive to the floor in their pregame ritual (Todd Melet)

In practice this week, UNC has attempted to simulate the methodical tenor of the Wisconsin offense, but Coach Williams is under no illusions. The Hall of Famer says at this level, it’s hard to replicate what the best players in the nation can do.

“You can’t really simulate what the dickens Wisconsin is going to do. We talk to them about it, show them the tape and the whole bit, but you can’t do it. If they’re really good, you can’t really speed it up, you just better be able to play at a different pace,” Coach Williams says.

One of the stars in L.A. this weekend will be Wisconsin’s National Player of the Year candidate, Frank Kaminsky. The consensus Big Ten Player of the Year can do it all and is averaging 18.4 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.

But Wisconsin is by no means a one-man show. Kaminsky says having all the pieces to the puzzle in place feeds into his confidence.

Roy Williams will no doubt be animated in the STAPLES Center (Todd Melet)

Roy Williams will no doubt be animated in the STAPLES Center (Todd Melet)

“We’re going into games expecting to compete, play hard and come out on top. When you get to stage like this, we were able to do it last year. We know what it takes. We know what we need to do on and off on the court. When you have that recipe for success with people in front of you, you know what it takes and know what to do,” Kaminsky says.

So what’s the game plan for Carolina? Coach Williams says the Tar Heels will need to lock in defensively, limit turnovers and make high-percentage shots.

“All the time I’m saying, ‘Let’s give them one bad shot.’ Our first goal is always to steal the ball, but you don’t do that much any more. I’m going to think about cutting down their field goal percentage, us making a high percentage and not turning the dadgum basketball over,” Coach Williams says.

UNC leads the all-time series with Wisconsin, 2-0, and won the most recent encounter in 2011, 60-57.

Join the Chapelboro Bracket Challenge to play along with other WCHL and Chapelboro fans and win great prizes!

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/no-4-carolina-meets-no-1-wisconsin-in-west-coast-battle/

Hunter Williams’ Gem Leads Tar Heels to Victory Over App State

Making just his third career start on the mound, 6’3″ freshman left-hander Hunter Williams had his eyes set on continuing the recent string of outstanding starting pitching for the Tar Heels.

“Coach challenged us, for the starting pitchers to just try and dominate the first five to six innings, so we don’t have to use as much of the bullpen,” Williams says, “And I just tried to fulfill that challenge.”

And he left no doubts about that with his performance at Boshamer Stadium on Tuesday night, leading the 22nd ranked UNC baseball squad to a 9-0 win over the Appalachian State Mountaineers, who fall to 7-17 with the loss.

Carolina picks up their second straight victory, and improves their overall record to 15-9 for the year.

Right out of the gate Williams (1-1) struck out the side in the first inning, showing off an impressive array of pitches. His hard 93 mile per hour fastball often was used to set the table for his curveball and slider, both of which showed great movement on Tuesday.

Six shutout innings, six strikeouts, and only two hits, was the stat-line for the big lefty in the signature outing of his young career, as he cruised to the win with ease.

Of course, it always helps a pitcher’s confidence when he’s throwing with the lead, which is exactly what Williams was blessed with in the Carolina half of the first.

Zack Gahagan drove in the Tar Heels first run, and later scored himself in the first inning. (UNC Athletics)

Zack Gahagan drove in the Tar Heels first run, and later scored himself in the first inning. (UNC Athletics)

Fellow freshman Zack Gahagan put a single through the right side of the infield off of App State starter Reed Howell, driving home right-fielder Tyler Ramirez, who reached on a bunt single and stole second base to make the play possible.

Gahagan then found home plate himself, after his freshman classmate, and roommate, shortstop Logan Warmoth, hit an RBI single of his own to put the Tar Heels ahead by two after the first inning.

Nine pitches was all it took for Williams to sit the Mountaineers down in order in the top of the second, before his teammates added on another pair of runs, courtesy of a two-out error by Appalachian’s right-fielder Brandon Burris. The drop on Landon Lassiter’s deep fly ball allowed Korey Dunbar and Elijah Sutherland to come around and build UNC’s lead up to four.

“I think anytime you go out and put runs out on the board first, first and foremost, is a tell-tale sign of when we’re playing good ball,” says UNC center-fielder Skye Bolt, “I think Lassiter and Ramirez at the top of the lineup are good table-setters, and you always want to play with those two guys on base in the first inning. Playing ahead is a lot more fun than playing from behind, I’ll tell you that.”

The surge ended Reed Howell’s day on the mound after throwing just two innings, forcing App State to dive into their bullpen depth to begin the third. Howell (0-2) was credited with the loss.

Stout defense from Logan Warmoth at shortstop helped Hunter Williams out greatly. (UNC Athletics)

Stout defense from Logan Warmoth at shortstop helped Hunter Williams out greatly. (UNC Athletics)

Offense kept on flowing for the Tar Heels in the fifth, as they tacked on three more tallies, throwing some more dirt onto the Mountaineer cause in the process.

After each team put a doughnut on the scoreboard in the sixth, another lefty, sophomore Zach Rice, came on in relief for Hunter Williams, putting an end to his remarkable night. Rice started out by getting himself in a bit of trouble, with one out and runners on second and third, but Hansen Butler relieved Rice and was able to escape–with the shutout intact–on a strikeout and a pop-out to the two men he faced.

Although the game was safely out of the Mountaineers’ reach, it seemed Skye Bolt still wasn’t comfortable yet, jacking a huge two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh to extend the Tar Heels’ lead to nine.

Over the final two frames, Spencer Trayner threw a 1-2-3 inning for UNC in the top of the eighth (including two strikeouts), followed by more of the same (even two more strikeouts) from freshman Jason Morgan in the ninth to close up shop on what amounted to a three-hit shutout by a combined five Tar Heel pitchers.

“We’re trying to get our bullpen a little bit better, so that’s why we’re running (Hansen) Butler, (Zach) Rice, (Spencer) Trayner, and (Jason) Morgan out there,” Coach Mike Fox says, “Those are guys that need to continue to pitch and gain some confidence…we gotta keep getting better out of the bullpen, and we were a little better today.”

Up Next:

A top 25 showdown awaits Coach Fox and his team, as the 21st ranked Miami Hurricanes make the trip north to Chapel Hill to face-off with the Tar Heels for a three game ACC series, beginning on Friday night. Carolina is 5-4 in the conference so far, while the Hurricanes lead the Coastal Division with a mark of 6-3.

Game Notes:

  • Tuesday marked the 24th game of the season for UNC, and the first in which junior infielder Alex Raburn did not earn a start. However, he did sub into the game later on at third base for freshman Ryder Ryan.
  • Hunter Williams failed to make it more than three innings in each of his previous two starts, making tonight by far his best career performance. His season ERA falls to 1.32 in 13.2 innings of work.
  • The Tar Heels improve to 5-1 in games in which they commit no errors.
  • Bolt’s homer was his fourth of the season, moving him into the team lead all by himself.

FINAL BOX SCORE

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/hunter-williams-gem-leads-tar-heels-to-victory-over-app-state/