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UNC Baseball Beats VCU in Dramatic Fashion

A walk-off wild pitch capped off a crazy ending at Boshamer Stadium on Wednesday, handing the 11th ranked UNC baseball team a 6-5 win over the VCU Rams, as they escaped a dramatic comeback attempt to improve their 2015 record to 8-3. The defeat drops VCU to 3-6.

The Tar Heels led the game 5-2 entering the top of the ninth inning, with ace Trent Thornton on to seal the deal. A win seemed like a sure thing for Carolina, but the Rams had other plans, striking for three runs off of Thornton to tie the game. Coach Mike Fox says that was definitely an unusual sight.

“It was a little bit surprising obviously with Trent,” Fox says, “We’ve got a three-run lead, two outs, and nobody on and (then) we’re making the game right now a little bit harder than it should be. You don’t see that from Trent Thornton.”

Carolina had to rally to pull this one out. (UNC Athletics)

Freshman Brian Miller entered the game as a pinch runner with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the ninth. UNC slugger Skye Bolt was at the plate, when VCU freshman closer Sean Johnson’s pitch sailed by the catcher, allowing Miller to score. Afterwards, Miller was stunned by what had just happened.

“It was a shocker,” Miller says, “Bring our closers in, and you expect to close the game, but that’s just baseball sometimes. We were prepared for it and came back and won the game, thankfully.”

Making his first start in center-field in place of the struggling Bolt, who came into the game batting just .212, sophomore Adam Pate delivered the first RBI of the day for the Tar Heels in a three-run second inning that allowed UNC to work with the lead all game long.

Describing his own thoughts on the ending, Pate says “Wow, not like our pitchers, but I’m sure they’ll bounce right back and get back to mid-season form, hopefully soon. That’s ball, that’s how it goes. They’re all better than how they pitched tonight, so they’ll be back ready to go for the weekend.

A strong unit normally, the Carolina pitchers walked nine batters on Wednesday.

Up Next:

The pitching performance will be something to keep an eye on in Chapel Hill this weekend, with UNC opening up ACC play at home against the arch-rival Duke Blue Devils. The teams are scheduled to play a three game series beginning Friday at 3 P.M.

Game Notes:

  • UNC held VCU without a hit from the fourth inning until the ninth inning rally
  • Freshman Nick Raquet (1-0) earned his first career victory by recording the final out, after replacing Thornton
  • It was the Tar Heels’ first home game since February 15th


WBB to Open ACC Tournament on Thursday at 8 p.m.

North Carolina is headed back to the ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament in the Greensboro Coliseum as a No. 6 seed. Although the seeding by no means favors the Tar Heels to win the title, Carolina holds two All-ACC First Team selections on its roster – sophomores Allisha Gray and Stephanie Mavunga.

Out of the four schools to be placed in the top seeds in the bracket, UNC only beat one of them this season. Gray led Carolina with 22 points to force an upset victory over No. 7 Florida State last month in Carmichael Arena.

“At this point in the year I think every team is a little beat up, and it is that time of year when all the ACC teams are so tough, especially on the road. You can get banged up but so much of it is mental, it’s just a mentality. That’s why I challenge the seniors because it’s their team and they’ve got to lead the way in tough situations like this.”

This is the second straight year UNC has been the 6 seed. The Tar Heels advanced to the semifinals in 2014 before a 66-61 loss to Duke.

In the final game of the regular season on Sunday, UNC faced their rival and envisioned ending the game by spoiling Duke’s senior day. However, they suffered a one-point loss in Cameron Indoor to complete the Blue Devils’ sweep.

It was then that head coach Sylvia Hatchell realized that her team would need to develop more heart to compensate for their disadvantages in height.

“Between now and the time we go to Greensboro we’re going to take boxing lessons,” Coach Hatchell said. “Because we’ve got to get tougher if we’re going to be able to battle inside and hold our own in there.”

Coach Hatchell has repeatedly made it a point to judge her team’s success not only by a higher number of points at the end of the game, but also a higher number of rebounds.

As ACC play deepened, UNC was often beaten on the glass as they depended on their speed for offensive opportunities. While Stephanie Mavunga stands at 6’3”, she is often listed as undersized compared to many frontcourt players on ACC program rosters. Mavunga still manages to lead her team in rebounds with 8.7 per game, which places her at eighth-best in the conference.

“We’re a fast break team so steals are great for us,” junior guard N’Dea Bryant said. “I feel like we finish well and that’s what Carolina basketball is about – getting steals and getting fast break points so it’s normal really, it’s what we’re here to do.”

On Thursday at 8 p.m, the first match for the Tar Heels is a game against the winner of the 11th seed Georgia Tech and 14th seed Clemson match-up.

After suffering their first conference loss to Pitt in early January, Carolina made a run at redemption by defeating Georgia Tech in Carmichael Arena, 96-81.

Also, in mid-January, sophomore guard Jessica Washington scored a career-high 20 points to defeat Clemson 78-56 on the road. Washington netted 4 three-pointers to give Carolina its third conference win.

Flames Extinguished by UNC Baseball

Clutch performances from freshmen hitters lifted Coach Mike Fox and his 11th ranked UNC baseball squad to a 6-4 road win Monday night over the Liberty Flames in Lynchburg, Virginia. The Tar Heels were able to recover from their loss on Sunday and improve to 7-3, while Liberty drops to 6-4.

Third baseman Logan Warmoth continued his impressive first year campaign with an RBI single smacked to left-field right out of the gate. The hit drove in junior Landon Lassiter to give Carolina a 1-0 lead. He also drew a bases loaded walk in the bottom of the fourth inning for his second RBI of the game.

Warmoth’s classmate, and roommate, first baseman Zack Gahagan, blasted his first career home run with a solo shot to lead off the fourth.

On the mound for the Tar Heels was yet another freshman, 6’3″ lefty Hunter Williams, who was making his first career start, however he went just two innings and allowed one earned run before handing the ball off to the bullpen; an effort to save arms with four more games scheduled this week.

Trevor Kelley was outstanding against Liberty, going - innings without allowing a runner to reach base. (Daily Tar Heel)

Trevor Kelley was outstanding against Liberty, going 5.1 innings in relief before allowing a runner to reach base. (Daily Tar Heel)

UNC quickly recovered after an infield error and a wild pitch let Liberty tie game in the bottom of the first, snatching the lead in the second behind back-to-back triples from the speedsters, Adam Pate and Brian Miller, as both men were able to score, giving Williams the lead back (Miller’s also a freshman).

Once Liberty scored another run in the bottom of the second, it was a senior, reliever Trevor Kelley (1-0), who came in and dominated, baffling Flame hitters the rest of the night. He went 5.1 innings before allowing a runner to reach base, picking up the win and throwing just 41 pitches in the process.

In just his third at-bat of his own freshman season, all of them as a pinch hitter, Ryder Ryan doubled down the left field line in the top of the seventh, scoring Alex Raburn and providing yet another RBI for the Tar Heel young guns.

Trent Thornton came on to replace Kelley with one out in the eighth after another throwing error, wild pitch combination allowed Liberty to close the gap to three.

Much like in the two wins against Rhode Island last weekend, the junior from Charlotte was able to record five outs en route to earning his third save of the season, but it didn’t come easy. He walked Liberty’s pinch hitter Nick Walker and allowed a double to shortstop Dalton Britt. A wild pitch let Walker score and bring the tying run to the plate for the Flames.

Thornton didn’t back down though, as he brought out his bulldog mentality and retired the next two batters to end the game.

Up Next:

Carolina is scheduled to face VCU on Wednesday at 3 P.M in their return to Boshamer Stadium. The game was originally set for Tuesday, but was moved due to rain and cold temperatures in the forecast. Wednesday’s high temperature is supposed to be near 70 degrees.

Game Notes:

  • Freshmen combined for five of UNC’s six RBI for the game (Warmoth- 2, Gahagan- 1, Miller- 1, Ryan-1)
  • Liberty recorded just three hits on the day, but scored four runs with help from three Tar Heel errors
  • Carolina got help defensively with two double plays on the night
  • UNC went 4-11 (.364) at the plate with two outs

Carolina Heads To ‘Hotlanta’ To Face Georgia Tech

The No. 19 North Carolina men’s basketball team, 20-9 overall and 10-6 in ACC play, travels to Atlanta Tuesday night for a rematch with Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets, 12-17 overall with a 3-14 mark in the league, will be hoping to sting the Tar Heels and knock them out of a potential No. 4 seed in next week’s ACC Tournament.

***Listen to the story***

UNC’s final road game of the season figures to be a manageable one. After all, lowly Georgia Tech has lost three in a row and Carolina absolutely clobbered the Ramblin’ Wreck earlier this season in Chapel Hill, 89-60, in the famous ‘Four Corners’ game.

When JP Tokoto's game elevates, so do the Tar Heels (Todd Melet)

When JP Tokoto’s game elevates, so do the Tar Heels (Todd Melet)

The Tar Heels will hope to embark on another runaway. After all, they’ve struggled to close out the tight games.

But UNC junior guard Marcus Paige says Saturday’s road win at Miami helped restore his team’s late-game confidence.

“It feels good. We’ve had a lot of close battles that unfortunately, one or two things happen and we lose. This time, we were able to make a couple corrections and make enough winning plays to make a difference. It feels good to be in a close game and actually come out on top,” Paige says.

UNC head coach Roy Williams says the 15 turnovers in south Florida were worrisome, but he liked the aggressive activity of junior forward J.P. Tokoto.

“I wish we’d leave out the turnovers. We don’t need to fill out that stat. I thought he had a couple big-time rebounds where it was, ‘who is going to get it?’ And it was J.P. who came up and got it. He’s got to go to the board and rebound for us. He’s done a much better job of it,” Coach Williams says.

As for the foul trouble, too many whistles have been blown for Coach Williams’ liking.

“We do want to try to get fouled. We’re leading the country in mind in number of times we reach in and make silly fouls,” Coach Williams says.

Coach Williams says he doesn’t expect freshman Theo Pinson to return to the lineup Tuesday night, but he dressed out last weekend and appears to be getting his health back. That’s good news for Tar Heel fans.

Georgia Tech head coach Brian Gregory, for one, is pretty high on Carolina.

“They’re as good as anybody around. Coach [Williams] knows that. The players know that. I think they’re, hopefully it will be after our game, they’re going to have a heck of a run,” Coach Gregory says.

Freshman guard Joel Berry came up with a clutch three-pointer over the weekend, but he credits the overall buy-in and effort from his teammates for getting the ‘W’.

Roy Williams animated on the sidelines (Todd Melet)

Roy Williams animated on the sidelines (Todd Melet)

“I think we played with a lot of energy, a lot of effort. We came out really slow against N.C. State and couldn’t get our momentum back. Today [vs. GT], we started off with great momentum. We just played together and a lot of effort,” Berry says.

If there’s one thing Georgia Tech can do, it’s rebound. Coach Gregory’s team is hauling in 38 per game. The offensive output, on the other end, is another story.

UNC leads the all-time series with Georgia Tech, 65-24. In fact, the Jackets haven’t beaten the Heels since 2011.

But McCamish Pavilon has historically been a tough venue in the ACC, and with UNC’s sights firmly set on snagging a double bye in next week’s conference tournament, a slip-up is not an option.

UNC Baseball Falls Flat in Finale vs. Rhode Island

Struggles at the plate cost the 11th ranked UNC baseball team on Saturday night, as they fell 6-3 to the Rhode Island Rams, closing out their three game series played at Francis Marion University in Florence, South Carolina. The win is the first of the season for the Rams, bringing them to 1-5 on the year. Carolina drops to 6-3.

Trouble arrived early for the Tar Heels, with Rhode Island scoring a run in each of the first two innings to take control of the proceedings. Rams’ catcher Derek Gardella singled in shortstop Tim Caputo in the first, before a pair of errors in the second extended the frame, and allowed third baseman Matt O’Neil to score on a ground-out by Caputo.

Things settled down after that, with UNC starting pitcher Zac Gallen (0-1) maintaining his composure throughout. The Milk-Man delivered a solid outing, despite being credited with the loss in his first start of the year, keeping Rhode Island off the board after the unearned run in the second. He struck out nine hitters in six innings on 99 pitches, and gave up just five hits.

Senior Trevor Kelley relieved starter Zac Gallen to begin the seventh. (UNC Athletics)

Senior Trevor Kelley relieved starter Zac Gallen to begin the seventh. (UNC Athletics)

He just couldn’t get any run support, as the offense was lacking for the Tar Heels in this one.

Skye Bolt doubled to lead-off the bottom of the first for Carolina, but Rhode Island junior Lou Distasio (1-1) retired the next three batters to put a halt to that threat immediately. The right-hander was tremendous for the Rams, throwing six scoreless innings, striking out nine, while laboring for 111 pitches in the winning effort.

In the bottom of the seventh UNC was able to load the bases with two outs, but freshman reliever Dom Grillo got Tyler Ramirez to fly out to center-field, keeping the shutout alive.

Brian Miller, the freshman from Raleigh, finally broke the drought for UNC, knocking home Adrian Chacon in the bottom of the eighth to pull the Rhode Island lead back to just 2-1. Miller was in Carolina’s designated hitter spot, making his first career start, after impressing coaches in his pinch hit opportunities thus far (he’s batting .500 for the year).

Hopes seemed to be crushed for good as soon as the Rams got their shot to retaliate in the top of the ninth. They pounded out four runs (one unearned) off of the Tar Heels’ bullpen combination of Chris McCue and Spencer Trayner to give themselves the breathing room that would decide the game.

Carolina refused to give up, loading the bases yet again, this time with no outs in the top of the ninth. As the clock ticked past midnight and the game time approached four hours, Rhode Island closer Tyler Barss walked in one run and allowed another on a sacrifice fly by Alex Raburn.

Unfortunately, the Tar Heels weren’t able to find the energy to dig out of the deficit provided by the bullpen meltdown earlier in the inning, losing their second straight series finale.

UNC leads the all-time series between the teams 3-1.

Up Next:

A road game at Liberty University on Monday awaits the Tar Heels, having just been added to the schedule to help make up for the recent cancellations with St. John’s and Winthrop.

Game Notes:

  • The Tar Heels committed five errors on the game
  • They also left 13 men on base
  • UNC sophomore shortstop Wood Myers went 1-2 with three walks, increasing his average to .400


Carolina Rides Brice Johnson To Big Road Victory

The No. 15 North Carolina men’s basketball team gutted out a 73-64 victory over Miami Saturday afternoon inside the BankUnited Center to improve to 20-9 overall and 10-6 in ACC play.

With the loss, the Hurricanes dropped to an 18-11 mark on the season and 8-8 tally in league action.

***Listen to the story***

Carolina rode a stellar 22-point outing from junior forward Brice Johnson to escape Miami with the critical ACC road win with only two games remaining on the regular season docket.

Both Johnson and junior forward J.P. Tokoto turned in double-doubles while junior guard Marcus Paige knocked down three shots from behind the arc to finish with 15 points.

With Miami junior guard Angel Rodriguez seeing limited action with a right wrist injury, the Hurricanes received standout performances from fellow classmates Sheldon McClellan and Ivan Cruzuceda, who both finished with 11 points.

The BankUnited Center (Miami Athletics)

The BankUnited Center (Miami Athletics)

But it was Carolina’s dominance on the boards – grabbing 42 rebounds to Miami’s 28 – that allowed the Tar Heels to maintain the lead for 37 minutes of the contest.

“I was really pleased with our guys. We had some mistakes, particularly late in the first half. Some of them got a negative look on their face. But they paid attention at halftime to what we talked about, and in the second half, I thought we were pretty doggone good,” UNC head coach Roy Williams says.

***Listen to Roy Williams’ postgame remarks***

The Tar Heels came out of the gates strong in Coral Gables, pushing out to a 10-4 lead less than five minutes into the contest. Getting Paige involved early was the most positive aspect of the early proceedings for Carolina.

The Hurricanes matched UNC’s scoring charge with solid production of their own, but with 9:56 to play in the opening 20 minutes, the visiting team held a 22-16 advantage.

But Carolina suffered a more than four-minute scoring drought that allowed Miami to go on an 8-0 run that trimmed UNC’s lead down to a mere 1 point at 22-21 with 6:01 remaining before halftime.

At intermission, though, the Tar Heels were clinging to a 32-30 edge on 12-29 shooting.

Out of the locker room, a couple quick scores in transition by Jackson and Johnson helped push Carolina’s lead out to 38-33 with 17:05 to play.

With 15:56 on the second half clock, Miami’s McClellan picked up his fourth foul and promptly took a seat on the bench.

Roy Williams all fired up on the sidelines (Todd Melet)

Roy Williams all fired up on the sidelines (Todd Melet)

It was Johnson who served as Carolina’s offensive sparkplug, while big man Kennedy Meeks continued to struggle to find his footing in the interior. But a flurry of threes from Miami’s Cruzuceda flipped the dynamic of the contest and gave the Hurricanes the 48-47 lead with 11:05 to play.

A big three-point make by freshman guard Joel Berry broke a 50-all deadlock. At the under-eight media timeout, UNC held on to a narrow 53-50 advantage.

Johnson’s emphatic play rolled on down the stretch and with contributions from Paige and Tokoto added in, Carolina was more than able to hold off a spirited effort from Miami.

Next up for the Tar Heels comes another road encounter – this time with the struggling Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in Atlanta Tuesday evening.


Tar Heels Sweep Double-Header Against Rhode Island

Playing in their second double-header of the season Friday, college baseball’s 11th ranked Tar Heels improved to 6-2 with a pair of wins, 4-3 in Game One and 5-3 in Game Two, over the now 0-5 Rhode Island Rams. Games were played on the campus of Francis Marion University in Florence, South Carolina due to winter weather in Chapel Hill.

Game One

The first game might as well have been called “The Benton Moss Show”, as UNC’s senior right-hander was absolutely unhittable.

Moss (2-0) came into the game boasting an insane strikeout rate, having earned strike three 16 times in just 8.2 innings pitched (16.61 K’s per nine innings), leading the ACC in that category.

That pattern continued Friday. Moss plowed through the Rhode Island lineup with ease, tossing seven innings of shut-out ball without issuing a walk, and added 10 more strikeouts to his season total. The Rams were able to manage six hits off of the senior, but failed to get any of those with a runner on base (0-11).

Landon Lassiter had an RBI and a fantastic diving catch in Game One. (UNC Athletics)

Landon Lassiter had an RBI and a fantastic diving catch in Game One. (UNC Athletics)

Freshmen Logan Warmoth and Zack Gahagan, along with junior Landon Lassiter, each drove in a run to give the Tar Heels a 3-0 lead after the second inning, and provided some cushion for Moss to work with.

Lassiter, the UNC left-fielder who transitioned from third base to the outfield entering this season, also put the flames out of the only real threat to his pitcher’s amazing day, making a diving catch that stopped Rams’ center-fielder Jordan Powell from scoring, and ended the Rhode Island half of the fifth.

A sacrifice fly from sophomore shortstop Wood Myers in the bottom of the sixth scored designated hitter Adam Pate, bringing the Tar Heels’ lead to four heading into the final innings. The play seemed meaningless at the time, but would end up proving to be the difference.

The situation got sticky in the top of the eighth after reliever Chris McCue came on to replace Moss, who threw 97 pitches. A throwing error by the third baseman, Warmoth, allowed Rams’ catcher Derek Gardella to reach base, and then McCue hit the next man up, right-fielder Mike Sherburne, with a pitch, giving the Rams multiple base-runners for the first time in the day.

Rhode Island’s designated hitter Martin Taveras would drive in a run shortly after, ending the day for McCue after recording just one out.

Trent Thornton came out of the bullpen Friday, picking up the save in each game.

Trent Thornton came out of the bullpen Friday, picking up the save in each game. (UNC Athletics)

Trent Thornton came out of the bullpen for the first time this season to try and help UNC escape the jam, but the Rams were able to score the runners that were already on base (on a passed ball and sacrifice fly), closing the Carolina lead to just 4-3 after eight.

Ultimately, it would stay right there, as Thornton closed it down in the ninth, picking up the save for the Tar Heels in the opener.

Game Two

Great starting pitching was the theme of the day for Carolina.

Freshman JB Bukauskas, looking to rebound from his first collegiate loss last weekend against UCLA, must have ate Wheaties with Benton Moss for breakfast, because he came out sharp as a tack early on in the second act of the day.

However, unlike Moss, Bukauskas found himself locked in a duel with Rhode Island’s own freshman, 6’4″ left-hander Tyler Wilson.

After four scoreless innings, the teams had combined for just three hits (two for Rhode Island, one for the Tar Heels).

That changed in the top of the fifth when Mike Sherburne hit a two-run homer to deep left center-field off of the hard-throwing Bukauskas to open up scoring.

Carolina responded in the bottom of the frame after a lead-off double by Adam Pate got things rolling. A wild pitch would allow Pate to reach third, before Korey Dunbar drew a walk, ending a great first career start for Wilson. He allowed only two hits in four innings, and struck out four batters, but hurt himself by walking five.

Tyler Ramirez talks with Coach Scott Jackson. (UNC Athletics)

Tyler Ramirez talks with Coach Scott Jackson. (UNC Athletics)

Sophomore Taso Stathopoulos came on in relief and allowed Wood Myers to single in Pate for the Tar Heels. Center-fielder Skye Bolt then walked to load the bases, setting up Tyler Ramirez, who knocked in the tying run on a fielder’s choice to second base.

Bukauskas was done after allowing a base hit to Martin Taveras to begin the sixth, but finished with six strikeouts and just two earned runs in five innings of work.

Bullpen issues continued to plague the Tar Heels, with four relievers needed to finish off the sixth, giving the lead back to Rhode Island on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by left-fielder Nick DeRegis off of UNC senior Trevor Kelley. However, it could have been much worse, as the bags were full with no outs at one point in the inning.

Again though, the Carolina offense was able to respond, after a fielding error by Rams’ shortstop Tim Caputo allowed Alex Raburn to score all the way from second base in the bottom of the inning, tying the game at three runs apiece.

The Tar Heels would take their first lead of the game in the seventh on Tyler Ramirez’s RBI single, which drove in Wood Myers. After Adrian Chacon walked, Ramirez would then score from second on a fielder’s choice to make the score 5-3 in favor of UNC.

That’s how it would finish.

Reliever Hansen Butler (1-0) would be credited with the win, but both games ended in similar fashion. Trent Thornton came in with one out in the eighth and finished the contest with his second scoreless save of the day, striking out four hitters in this one, including every batter he faced in the ninth.

Next Up:

Saturday’s series finale will feature sophomore Zac Gallen (0-0 3.00 ERA) on the mound for Carolina, with Rhode Island’s starter yet to be decided. That game will be played under the lights with an approximate start time set at 7 P.M. It will begin after host Francis Marion University completes their own doubleheader.

Notes From the Day:

  • Rhode Island had not played a game since February 15th, their third loss in a series against #2 Florida
  • With 10 more Friday, Benton Moss now has 278 strikeouts in his UNC career. Only three former Tar Heels have reached 300 (Andrew Miller, Alex White, Patrick Johnson).
  • The Tar Heels continue to struggle hitting with runners in scoring position going 3-22 on the day
  • Carolina won Game Two, and scored five runs, despite only getting five hits



Scouting Report: Miami Coach Jim Larrañaga

WCHL’s Matt Oakes had the chance to chat with Miami men’s basketball coach Jim Larrañaga as his Hurricnaes get set to welcome the Tar Heels to the BankUnited Center Saturday afternoon.

The two discuss the do-or-die scenario facing  bubble teams like his own, the competitiveness of coaching in the ACC, the special challenges Carolina presents and the special atmosphere that will await UNC on Senior Day at Miami.

***Listen to the conversation***

Snow Sends UNC-Rhode Island Baseball Series to Florence, SC

Mother Nature has sent the 11th ranked, 4-2, UNC baseball team on the road yet again, as their scheduled home series against the 0-3 Rhode Island Rams has been moved to Francis Marion University in Florence, South Carolina.

This decision raises their streak of consecutive games affected by winter weather to eight (UCLA series moved to Florida, St. John’s and Winthrop games canceled, this series moved to South Carolina).

When they have played though, freshman third baseman Logan Warmoth has left quite an impression, playing well above expectations for his age. The Orlando, Florida native is hitting .316 on the year with four RBI.

“The last three weeks, or two weekends, I swung it pretty well, so I have some confidence going into this weekend,” Warmoth says.

Coach Mike Fox says he sees a bright future at the hot corner for his Tar Heels over the next few years, adding that it’s a sign of high praise for a freshman to be in the starting line-up from day one.

“Over time I think you’re gonna see how good Logan Warmoth can be at third,” Fox says, “He’s gonna be a good player for us. There’s not too many times we start a freshman position player. You have to do something pretty special in the fall and the pre-season to earn a start.”

Warmoth will finally get a chance to build on his hot start Friday, as action kicks off in Florence with a double-header beginning at 11 A.M.

Trent Thornton and Benton Moss are the probable Tar Heel starting pitchers Friday, while JB Bukauskas will likely close the series out under the lights, with the finale set to begin at 7 P.M. on Saturday.

Slumping Tar Heels Head To Miami In Hopes Of Recovery Effort

The No. 15 North Carolina men’s basketball team, 19-9 overall and 9-6 in ACC action, hits the road to sunny south Florida to take on the 18-10 Miami Hurricanes Saturday afternoon. The Tar Heels will desperately be looking to get back on track after dropping five of their last seven games.

***Listen to the story***

If there’s such a thing as a must-win game, Saturday’s tilt at the BankUnited Center is one of those.

The Hurricanes, winners of three of their last four contests, are fighting to secure their place on the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble while the Tar Heels need to build up their shaken confidence here on the doorstep of the postseason.

Can Marcus Paige regain his form? (Todd Melet)

Can Marcus Paige regain his form? (Todd Melet)

Likely most concerning for UNC head coach Roy Williams has been the late-game miscues that have repeatedly cost his squad vital victories.

The end-game woes all started with the collapse at Louisville, continued in the disappointment at Duke and stung most recently in the N.C. State loss.

“Silly poise. No poise. I’ve never had a play where our big guy shoots a three-point shot, unless he could really shoot threes. Kennedy [Meeks] just didn’t know what to do so he shot it. We had a set play called twice in a row and didn’t execute that so that’s the Coach’s fault,” Coach Williams says.

Junior forward Brice Johnson, who struggled mightily Tuesday night against the Wolfpack with a 1-6 shooting mark, says the Tar Heels need to leave their struggles behind them and focus on the here and now.

“That was awful. We got to do better. We got to be ready to play from the tip. We didn’t. They came here and beat us. We can’t let that happen, but it did. We got to bounce back from it. We’ve been in this predicament before,” Johnson says.

Coach Williams says his team needs to get tougher and take it to opponents at the rim for a full forty minutes going forward.

“Pump fake and go at him strong. Don’t pump fake 17 times and then try to make the softest shot in the history of basketball. You got to be tough. It’s a physical game. You’ve got to be strong,” Coach Williams says.

UNC’s toughness will likely be put to the test Saturday against Miami head coach Jim Larranaga’s bunch. Junior guards Sheldon McClellan and Angel Rodriguez are capable of taking over a game.

Miami's Angel Rodriguez is a handful (Todd Melet)

Miami’s Angel Rodriguez is a handful (Todd Melet)

Last time out, Rodriguez did just that, running over the rival  FSU Seminoles with ruthless authority to the tune of 25 points.

UNC would do well to get its scoring leader, junior guard Marcus Paige, back into the flow. Coach Williams says the rest of the team, though, needs to do a better job of helping him out.

“He’s an emphasis for the other team. We’ve got to do a better job of getting him open. He’s got to do a better job moving, but other guys got to be able to step up and make a shot every now and then too,” Coach Williams says.

Paige says it’s not the defense that’s got him concerned. But with nights like Tuesday, where the Tar Heels shot a mere 35 percent from the floor and totaled a Smith Center low in points, the offense is another issue altogether.

“We need to play better. We were getting decent shots, but we weren’t giving them a chance to get us layups. In the second half we got a bunch of layups, got back in the game and made it interesting, and then we kind of deviated from that again. We need to play better offensively. Offensively, we just kind of stunk it up,” Paige says.

Despite the discouraging slide of late, UNC remains in the hunt for that coveted No. 4 seed in the ACC Tournament. But it can ill-afford a slip-up in the Sunshine State.