With spring practice now in the books, a productive summer awaits the Tar Heel football team. But head coach Larry Fedora says he’s already been seeing plenty of progression from a variety of players.
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Many say championships are won and lost away from the bright lights of game day.
The offseason serves as a training ground for established athletes and provides a proving ground for young, inexperienced players hoping to make their mark.
That’s why Coach Fedora says it’s all about the reps this time of year.
The Carolina skipper says Damien Washington, Juval Mollette and even walk-on Thomas Jackson have all been making strides.
It’s no surprise the microscope will be focused on new defensive coordinator Gene Chizik and what he can do with a UNC defense that was hapless for the majority of the 2014 season.
A fresh philosophy could breed more life into a ragged unit.
So far, at least, Coach Fedora says he’s been pleasantly surprised by the performance of a few standout players, young and old, on the defensive side of the ball.
“[Dajaun] Drennon’s doing a really nice job; [Jeff] Schoettmer has picked up right where he left off. He understands this already, a very intelligent guy. Shakeel Rashad has taken a lot of pressure off himself. He’s slid back to linebacker and done a good job of adjusting there,” Coach Fedora says.
A lot of eyes will be on promising newcomer Jalen Dalton. The defensive end could provide a much-needed boost in the pass rush, creating havoc in the backfield. Coach Fedora’s been observing the freshman closely and has high hopes for Dalton.
“He’s got good power for a guy that ought to be in high school right now. He’s 270 pounds and 6’ 6”. He’s got some pop and a little bit of quickness about him, so he’s going to develop into a really nice player,” Coach Fedora says.
In the secondary, a pair of experienced campaigners has led the way.
“Brian Walker has done a really good job. Malik Simmons has stepped up made some plays for us this spring,” Coach Fedora says.
Another glaring weakness for the Tar Heels a season ago came in the special teams department – primarily at the place-kicking position.
But this year, there are questions to be answered at punter as well. Reliable Tommy Hibbard has moved on to pursue his dreams of landing a roster spot in the NFL.
“We still have a long way to go with our punters. We’ve made some strides with our kickers, but we still have a ways to go,” Coach Fedora says.
There may be a ways to go, but with no warm-up games to ease into the 2015 campaign, there’s more urgency inherent in this offseason for the Tar Heels.
Carolina will certainly need to be firing on all cylinders when it takes on South Carolina to kick off the college football season Thursday, Sept. 3 at Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/larry-fedora-sees-progress-potential-for-tar-heels/
Considered to be one of the best young pitchers in the major leagues, Matt Harvey has been on fire this season as a starting pitcher for the New York Mets. He holds a 4-0 record, tied for first in Major League Baseball with his teammate Bartolo Colon and his 3.04 ERA is ranked 12th among pitchers with at least three winning starts this year.
Harvey was a standout pitcher in college, leading the Tar Heels to NCAA tournament appearances in all three years he was a part of the program. Deciding at the end of his junior campaign to forego his senior year at UNC, he was drafted seventh overall by the Mets in 2010.
After suffering a partially torn UCL in his right elbow in August of 2013, Harvey underwent Tommy John surgery and had to miss the entire 2014 MLB season. Being back on the mound this year as a star for the Mets has provided a spark for his team and has given Harvey a fresh perspective on the game he loves.
“Missing a year, I think definitely bring the freshness of being up here back. I’m definitely excited again to be playing and I think that goes back to 2012 and the beginning of 2013, just being excited to be out there and be with my teammates again and be able to put the Mets uniform is something that I know now not to take for granted,” Harvey says.
Harvey’s most recent win came against the Yankees last Saturday in which he allowed only 5 hits and 2 earned runs. He came one out shy of throwing a complete game before the Mets’ manager Terry Collins called reliever Carlos Torres from the bullpen, spoiling what could have been the first complete game of his young career. Recognizing that there is room for improvement, Harvey notes that it’s more about the win than his own statistics.
“You get into the 8th or 9th inning I think finishing the game is on your mind so it’s tough but I think at the same time I needed to do a better job of getting those last two guys out and that decision’s not hard to make. So he [Collins] obviously made the right call and brought in Carlos and he got the last out and we won the game so that’s all that matters,” Harvey says.
With his opponents’ batting average at .220 against him this season, Harvey hopes to continue his success as the Mets hold the best record in all of Major League Baseball at 15-5. He spoke before their game Sunday about what it will take to continue this upward trend for their ball club.
“I think just coming to the ballpark knowing we’re going to win, and we had that mentality in spring training, we knew we were going to be good, we knew we had a good pitching staff and we knew we were going to win a lot of games and to have that mentality going into the clubhouse and onto the field every day is half the battle,” Harvey says.
Harvey’s next appearance is scheduled for this Friday, May 1 in the first game of a home series against the Washington Nationals.
Visit us next week for another edition of “Tar Heels in the Pros” featuring NBA rising star, Harrison Barnes.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/tar-heels-pros-matt-harvey/
Solid pitching, along with 14 hits and a big four run third inning, proved to be enough for the UNC-Greensboro Spartans to hold on for an upset road victory over the No. 22 Tar Heel baseball team on Tuesday night at Boshamer Stadium by a score of 5-3.
The non-conference loss snaps Carolina’s six game win streak and drops their record to 29-16, while the Spartans reach the .500 mark–improving to 20-20 with the win.
After a clean sweep of three games this past weekend against Boston College that saw the three Tar Heel starting pitchers refuse to allow a single earned run, while pitching 24 of a possible 27 innings, all eyes centered on Hunter Williams, who took the mound on Tuesday looking to provide a solid follow-up performance.
However, the tables seemed to be turned in this game, with Greensboro being the team that controlled the action all the way through.
With a full week of rest approaching, it appeared that UNC head coach Mike Fox had Williams (4-2), the freshman left-hander, on quite a short leash–pulling him after he had thrown just 2.1 innings on 54 pitches.
However, that was not the case, as Williams simply did not have his best stuff, Coach Fox says.
“That was not a good start [by Williams], He didn’t have command of anything and a lot of balls were hit hard off of him. I’m surprised he lasted two and a third [innings] because he was not good tonight.”
In that time, the Spartans were able to put together five base-hits, and had already put two men on base in the third when senior Trevor Kelley came out of the bullpen to take over for Williams.
Kelley struck out the first man he faced upon entering the game, then allowed a trio of two-out RBI singles to Jake Kusz, Tyler Long, and Devin Ruiz, which resulted in the whopping four run third inning for the visiting side.
“That got us off to a bad start,” says Coach Fox, “[UNC-G] are a good offensive team, and if [we] don’t pitch well [we’re] gonna get behind, and we did. And we’re not a good enough offensive team to climb out of a hole like that.”
Kusz, the Spartan catcher, struck again in the top of the fifth with a solo home run off of Kelley, putting Carolina into a five-run hole.
Pitching for UNC-Greensboro was freshman right-hander Michael Bates (1-3), who came into the game with a sky-high 10.08 ERA, but you wouldn’t know it if you saw him throw in this game, which was by far his best start of the season.
For four innings Bates held the Tar Heel offense scoreless, until junior second baseman Alex Raburn hit a solo shot of his own in the bottom of the fifth, just barely getting the ball over the fence in left center-field.
“They’re a confident group, it seemed like to me,” says Raburn about the Spartans, “I actually know a couple of those guys.”
“They don’t back down from anybody. They can really swing. I know they’re maybe top five in the country in home runs, so they’re a good team, and [they] definitely didn’t back down.”
In total, Bates tossed 5.1 innings on 95 pitches, and gave up just one run and five hits before handing the ball off to reliever Blair Betts.
Raburn continued his excellent game in the bottom of the seventh, slapping a single off of Betts for his third hit of the night, leaving him just a triple shy of hitting for the cycle.
That hit was followed by a single from freshman third baseman Zack Gahagan, which plated Skye Bolt and shrank the Tar Heel deficit down to just three runs with no outs in the inning.
Keaton Haack then came on to pitch for the Spartans and promptly walked pinch-hitter Adam Pate to load the bases. Next up was left-fielder Landon Lassiter, who also walked to bring in the second run of the frame–forcing Greensboro to bring Julian Abreu out of the bullpen to try and escape the huge jam.
And he would do just that–earning strike three against Tyler Ramirez for the first out, before getting Korey Dunbar to ground into an inning-ending double play–highlighting UNC’s season-long woes with runners in scoring position.
Hansen Butler, Zach Rice, and Trent Thornton combined to keep the Spartans scoreless over the final four innings, but that would not be enough, as the Carolina offense was unable to fight all the way back at the end.
Closer Collin Woody walked Alex Raburn to begin the Tar Heels’ final at-bats in the bottom of the ninth, but then picked up a fielder’s choice and a double play to close up shop on the Spartans’ upset.
“Yeah, this was very disappointing,” says Coach Fox, “I pleaded with [the players] Sunday after the game, I pleaded with them before the game, to please be ready tonight.”
“I won’t call it a trap game, but the game during exams, it’s gone both ways for us.”
The Tar Heels will have a week off for final exams, so there will not be an ACC series this weekend. They will return to action next Tuesday at Boshamer Stadium with a game against UNC-Asheville, which was originally scheduled for April 15th, but was postponed due to rain.
The Tar Heel men’s and women’s tennis teams found out their NCAA Tournament fates Tuesday evening.
For the 13th time in the last 14 seasons, the women will host a home regional – this time as the No. 2 national seed.
Head coach Brian Kalbas’ Tar Heels dropped their first match of the season last weekend in the ACC Tournament and will look to rebound in their NCAA Tournament opener May 9 against Quinnipiac, the MAAC champions.
Should UNC prevail in the opening match, it will face the winner of the contest between William & Mary and Dartmouth the following day.
As for the men’s tennis squad, they’ve been handed a No. 13 seed nationally and will also be hosting here in Chapel Hill May 8. Meeting the Tar Heels in their regional will be William & Mary, Mississippi State and Denver.
For the complete women’s bracket, click here.
For the complete men’s bracket, click here.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/tar-heel-tennis-to-host-ncaa-tourney-openers/
The North Carolina men’s basketball team will tip off next season by paying respect to the troops. The Tar Heels will join Temple, Florida and Navy at the Veterans Classic, held at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
UNC will face off against Temple on Nov. 13 in a game that will be nationally televised on CBS Sports Network.
But it won’t all be about basketball for the Tar Heels. The team will have the chance to tour the Naval Academy and immerse themselves in the culture and tradition of the midshipmen.
“It’s a tremendous honor for Carolina Basketball to visit the Naval Academy and play in an event that pays tribute to the brave men and women who safeguard our country,” UNC head coach Roy Williams says. “Four years ago we were privileged to play on an active aircraft carrier; we are again blessed with the opportunity to learn more about life at the Academy. Our players, coaches and staff certainly will have an unforgettable experience.”
Carolina will be facing Temple for the first time since the NCAA Tournament East Regional final in 1991. UNC won that contest 75-72 to advance to the Final Four.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/tar-heels-to-headline-veterans-classic-at-the-naval-academy/
Brandon Ingram, the No. 3 player in the basketball Class of 2015, chose Duke as his college destination Monday evening inside the Kinston High School gymnasium.
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For the Tar Heels, the decision hurts. UNC had recruited the five-star recruit heavily since his freshman year in high school.
But alas, Ingram will be playing for the national champions this fall, wearing a darker shade of blue.
Ingram says he’s ‘creating his own path’ in his basketball journey.
He made that statement loud and clear to the college hoops world when he slapped on a dark blue Blue Devil hat inside a packed gym lined with throngs of fans and media members.
UNC appeared to have the leg up on the competition in the Ingram Stakes. Roy Williams and the UNC coaching staff had him targeted for years. The Tar Heels also had the built-in advantage of former UNC players Jerry Stackhouse and Reggie Bullock hailing from Kinston – Ingram’s rural hometown.
Ingram had been talking to both and appeared destined to make his way to Chapel Hill. But instead, with the weight of the ominous NCAA cloud still hanging over Carolina, its most hated rival, Duke, swept in and grabbed the 6’ 8” talent at the eleventh hour.
But former Tar Heel great Phil Ford says deciding on a school to play ball is always a difficult decision, and it’s one each player must make for himself.
“It’s not a science in picking the right school. It’s just one of those things that you have to go with your heart. Follow your heart,” Ford says.
Yes, Ingram may be following his heart down the road to Durham, but that doesn’t make it sting any less for the Tar Heels.
Following his son’s announcement, Donald Ingram told the media the ongoing NCAA investigation ultimately killed UNC’s chances.
And his son doesn’t disagree. Brandon Ingram confirmed what had been a long-held belief by many – sans the NCAA cloud; he would have been wearing Carolina blue.
UNC has given out 13 offers to the class of 2015. Eleven of those players have opted for other schools – only Kenny Williams and Jaylen Brown remain.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/brandon-ingram-creating-own-path-chooses-duke/
After a masterful series sweep last weekend against Boston College, the No. 22 UNC baseball team hosts the UNC-Greensboro Spartans at Boshamer Stadium on Tuesday before taking a week-long break for final exams.
The Tar Heels have been red-hot in recent weeks, as they’re currently riding a season-long six-game win streak, while picking up wins in 12 of their last 14 outings en route to a 29-15 overall record.
Greensboro comes into the matchup with wins in its past two games and a record of 19-20 and is led by first baseman Aaron Wright, who is batting .318 with eight home runs on the year.
Most of the attention in this game will focus on freshman left-hander Hunter Williams, who is likely to start on the mound for UNC. The Tar Heel pitching staff has gone three straight games without allowing an earned run, so it will be interesting to see if Williams can keep that train rolling.
As the team heads into the latter stages of the season, head coach Mike Fox has said that he’s happy with where the team is headed, but stills sees one major area the team needs to get better.
Despite scoring six runs and getting ten hits in the second game of the series against Boston College, the Tar Heels left men on base in every inning they went to the plate that day—leading Coach Fox to say that they’ll have to hit better with runners in scoring position against top level competition at the end of the year.
Tuesday will provide the Diamond Heels with one last chance to sharpen their skills in April, before making their stretch run in May.
The game is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/red-hot-tar-heels-host-unc-greensboro-final-exams/
The second-ranked North Carolina women’s lacrosse team couldn’t recover from a slow start Sunday afternoon in the ACC Championship game. The Syracuse Orange downed the Tar Heels, 9-8, in overtime sudden victory to claim their first league title in just their second year in the ACC.
With the loss, the Tar Heels dropped to 15-3 overall and 6-2 in the ACC. With the win, the Orange improved to 14-6 on the season with a 4-4 mark in the league.
The Orange players were dancing on the sidelines early and often in this one. UNC head coach Jenny Levy’s Tar Heels fell behind 3-0 with 17:17 to go in the first half.
And although UNC bravely fought back to tie the game from difficult deficits time and time again, sloppy turnovers and missed opportunities ultimately doomed Carolina.
But the Orange played well, taking full advantage of UNC miscues. It was Kayla Treanor’s fifth goal of the tournament that proved to be the decider. The thrilling overtime score sealed the conference title for Syracuse.
The loss snapped Carolina’s seven-game winning streak. Next up for the Tar Heels after an exam break, comes the NCAA Tournament. First round action begins May 8.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/orange-upset-tar-heels-for-acc-title/
Benton Moss continued the Tar Heel starting pitching dominance, throwing eight shutout innings while getting quite a bit of help from his offense, as the No. 23 UNC baseball team cruised to a 6-0 win over the Boston College Eagles on Sunday–completing its first ACC weekend sweep of the season.
Carolina has now won six in a row for their longest winning streak of the season, as they improve to 29-15 overall and 13-10 in the ACC. Boston College drops to 22-21 after the sweep, with a 9-14 record inside the conference.
Like Zac Gallen and JB Bukauskas in the two previous games in the series, Moss (6-0) had no troubles getting outs against the Boston College lineup.
“The last three days we’ve really, really pitched well. And that’s probably an understatement,” says UNC head coach Mike Fox.
“I’m trying to think of a weekend where we’ve pitched a whole weekend and not given up an earned run, and I can’t imagine that we’ve had one here. Sensational by all three of those guys. Benton followed up today with another great performance.”
The senior out of Enfield, North Carolina walked the first batter he faced, and then started off the next man with two straight pitches outside the strike zone–prompting pitching coach Scott Forbes to go out to the mound for a little chat.
From then on, Moss didn’t allow a single hit to the Eagles until the top of the third, when shortstop Johnny Adams was able to slap a single back up the middle, and didn’t surrender another until Logan Hoggarth singled in the top of the eighth.
In his eight innings of work, Moss allowed just two hits, while never allowing an Eagle hitter to reach second base during his time on the mound.
The man behind the plate for Moss’s pitches, Korey Dunbar, says he was impressed with the way Moss recovered early on.
“I thought Benton did a really good job–walking the first guy–and then coming back from that doing what he did today was pretty incredible,” says Dunbar.
He didn’t have to wait long for run support either, as the Tar Heel offense stayed red-hot after scoring in each of its last five plate appearances the day before.
Right-fielder Tyler Ramirez walked to begin the Tar Heel half of the second inning, setting up their power-hitting catcher, Dunbar, who then drilled a pitch from Boston College left-hander Jesse Adams (2-3) way over the wall in left center-field for a two-run homer to put the home team out in front.
In the very next inning, Carolina added three more tallies, all with two outs, on a hard hit grounder by Dunbar (ruled an error) that scored Brian Miller, which was followed two batters later by a two-run single with the bases loaded by freshman shortstop Logan Warmoth.
Dunbar’s home run in the second briefly put him all alone in the team lead, with six, but Tyler Ramirez didn’t let that last for long.
Ramirez caught all of a 1-1 pitch from Adams in the bottom of the fifth, sending it out of the park for his sixth home run of the year–ironically putting UNC ahead by six in the process–a lead that made Coach Fox a whole lot more comfortable.
“Obviously that home run was big by Korey, just kinda getting that first punch, but going from four to six is huge,” Fox says, “If you’re in that dugout and you’re down four you really feel like you’re still somewhat in the game, especially early. Then all of a sudden, if you get down six, it’s a little tougher hill to climb.”
From then on, the bats sat in cruise control with their big lead already built, while Moss did his thing on the mound, reaching 105 pitches after finishing off his eighth scoreless inning.
Junior closer Trent Thornton came on from the bullpen to pitch a scoreless ninth, despite allowing an opposing runner to reach second base for the first time all day.
For the entire series, the trio of Gallen, Bukauskas, and Moss pitched 24 out of a possible 27 innings, with none of them allowing a run, or more than three hits. It’s weekends like this that make Moss, a senior, glad that he chose to turn down the opportunity to play pro ball for another shot at college glory.
“It’s awesome to watch Gallen and JB [Bukauskas] pitch. And I think our bullpen…just look how deep it is,” says Moss, “We’ve got just arms on arms on arms. I’m thankful that I came back for my senior year to be a part of a team like this.”
“It’s been awesome to watch, and I think we’re clicking at the right time,” he adds.
The Diamond Heels will remain at home for their next game–a Tuesday mid-week showdown with UNC-Greensboro scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.
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.
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.
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.”
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.