Datres’ Heroics Help UNC Take “Must-Win” Game from UNC-Wilmington

UNC baseball head coach Mike Fox–with his Tar Heels mired in a slump that has lasted throughout the month of April–challenged his team to be tougher.

After a back-and-forth affair which lasted nearly four and a half hours on Tuesday, they showed their coach’s message was taken to heart–ending UNC-Wilmington’s 12-game win streak with a 10-9 victory at Boshamer Stadium courtesy of freshman Kyle Datres’ walk-off walk.

Facing a 3-2 count with the bases loaded and two outs, the Pennsylvania native held strong and allowed UNC-Wilmington reliever Jared Gesell do the work for him.

Datres watches the game's final pitch go by. It was his second walk-off RBI this season. (Joe Bray/ UNC Athletics)

Datres watches the game’s final pitch go by. It was his second walk-off RBI this season. (Joe Bray/ UNC Athletics)

“Bases loaded, all the pressure’s on him,” Datres said after the game. “He has to throw it in the zone. I saw him struggling, so I went up there with a patient approach and made him have to bring one to me.”

Now 27-15 this season, the Tar Heels desperately needed to pick up a quality win to bolster their NCAA Tournament resume.

They needed it so badly, in fact, that their coach stepped out of character to make a bold statement before the game.

“I went in the locker room, and I said ‘To heck with it, I need to tell them how it really is,'” Fox said. “We gotta win.

“As a coach you really gotta be careful saying that,” he continued. “But I mean, that’s the position that we’re in.”

Fox also had to set a player aside and let him know he wouldn’t be in the starting lineup.

Yep. Datres. The one that ended up winning the game.

“I called him in the locker room–and I don’t hardly ever do this–but I challenged our team about being tougher and then he’s not in the lineup,” the coach said.

“He’s one of our toughest players, both mentally and physically,” Fox added. “So I called him in and I said ‘Hey, listen I want you to know you’re not in there because I think you’re better right now off the bench for us.'”

Armed from the top-down with extra motivation from its coach, UNC–which scored just seven runs all weekend while getting swept at Wake Forest–racked up six runs in the first inning against UNC-Wilmington starter Justin Crump.

The Seahawks (27-10) and their explosive offense weren’t going to let the nation’s longest winning streak end that easily, though. Facing 6-foot-6 righty Jason Morgan they stormed back for a six-run inning of their own in the third.

Once the score was 6-4, the Tar Heels sent Brett Daniels to the mound for Morgan, but Joe Bertone tied it up by sending Daniels’ first pitch over the wall in left-center field for a two-run bomb.

Both teams traded runs the rest of the way, with UNC-Wilmington eventually taking a 9-8 lead heading into the bottom of the eighth inning.

That’s when Datres was able to make his mark.

Adam Pate capped off UNC's six-run first inning with an RBI single, as the Tar Heels were able to end UNC-Wilmington's 12-game win streak. (Joe Bray/ UNC Athletics)

Adam Pate capped off UNC’s six-run first inning with an RBI single, as the Tar Heels were able to end UNC-Wilmington’s 12-game win streak. (Joe Bray/ UNC Athletics)

Entering as pinch hitter, the Pennsylvania native tied the game in the eighth when his RBI single brought home Tyler Ramirez.

Left in to play third base, Datres would again get his name called in crunch time–only on this occasion it was the bottom of the ninth, there were two outs and the bases were loaded.

UNC-Wilmington reliever Jared Gesell worked a 3-2 count against the freshman, but Datres remained calm and watched ball four sail outside.

Moments later, an elated Tar Heel bench stormed the field to mob the man who started the game amongst them.

Now UNC will look to find consistency over the final month of the regular season, and if they do–it’s quite likely the team will single out Tuesday night as a turning point.

In a must-win game, where toughness was needed more than ever to get the job done, the Tar Heels were able to take care of business.

Up Next:

UNC continues its seven-game homestand at the Bosh with a game Wednesday against Campbell. First pitch is set for 6 p.m.

It is also the Tar Heels’ off-week from ACC play, which means they will not play on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

Game Notes:

  • UNC-Wilmington was fortunate to hold UNC to just one run in the bottom of the fourth, benefiting from a rare “5-4-2” double play. After recording the first out, second baseman Brian Mims threw home for a tag on UNC’s Logan Warmoth, who was ruled out despite appearing to reach home plate in time.
  • The Tar Heels are now 21-1 this season when scoring at least six runs.
  • UNC was perfect on stolen base attempts in the game–going 7-for-7, with six different players stealing at least once.

 

FINAL BOX SCORE

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/datres-heroics-help-unc-take-must-win-game-from-unc-wilmington

UNC Baseball Swept at Wake Forest, Demon Deacons Walk-Off Winners

Trailing 2-1 in the eighth inning Sunday–on the verge of yet another ACC loss–the No. 17 UNC baseball team was desperately in need of a spark.

Enter Tyler Lynn.

The junior college transfer from Phenix City, Alabama came off the bench and led off the frame with a game-tying solo home run–appearing to shift all momentum to the visiting dugout.

Wake Forest had other ideas, however, as sophomore Stuart Fairchild doubled home Will Craig in the bottom of the ninth against UNC reliever AJ Bogucki–giving the Demon Deacons a 3-2 victory in walk-off fashion.

Hunter Williams got his first weekend start of 2016 on Sunday, allowing a pair of homers in the third inning. (Joe Bray/ UNC Athletics)

Hunter Williams got his first weekend start of 2016 on Sunday, allowing a pair of homers in the third inning. (Joe Bray/ UNC Athletics)

It also completed a clean sweep for Wake Forest (26-17, 10-11 ACC), which continually saw its superstar, Craig, come up clutch against the Tar Heels (26-15, 9-12 ACC) all weekend long.

UNC head coach Mike Fox shook up his pitching rotation in another attempt to give his team some life, but it made no difference.

Lefty Hunter Williams got the call over Jason Morgan, who pitched on Wednesday against William & Mary but had been the starter in each of the team’s Sunday games in 2016.

Williams lasted just three innings, though, as he surrendered a pair of solo homers in the third–the first to Kevin Conway and the second to Craig, who now has 13 on the season.

After his offense powered the Demon Deacons to a win on Friday–and his pitching sealed the deal on Saturday–the mere threat of Craig at the plate turned out to be UNC’s undoing on Sunday.

Despite having thrown over four solid innings out of the bullpen, the call was made for Bogucki to intentionally walk Craig with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.

A wild pitch allowed Craig to reach second base, which allowed him to easily score the game-winning run on Fairchild’s double down the left-field line.

Brandon Riley doubled to start the ninth for UNC, but the Tar Heels weren't able to capitalize. (Joe Bray/ UNC Athletics)

Brandon Riley doubled to start the ninth for UNC, but the Tar Heels weren’t able to capitalize. (Joe Bray/ UNC Athletics)

The Tar Heels’ offensive woes continued to haunt them as Wake Forest starter Connor Johnstone held them to just four hits across seven innings.

Eli Sutherland’s RBI single in the seventh was the only time Johnstone found himself in the slightest bit of trouble.

Not until the Demon Deacons went to their bullpen did UNC get its life.

Lynn homered off Garrett Kelly to tie the game in the eighth, while freshman Brandon Riley doubled off John McCarren to lead off the ninth–putting the Tar Heels in position to take the lead.

Seven pitches and three outs later, those hopes were brought to a halt.

Fairchild’s game-winner sent UNC to its fourth straight ACC loss and 12th in total–more than any other team in the conference except for Virginia Tech, which entered Sunday with 17.

Up Next:

The Tar Heels will return home to Boshamer Stadium for a non-conference battle against UNC-Wilmington on Tuesday at 6 p.m.

Game Notes:

  • Riley’s ninth-inning double was the only extra-base hit UNC had during the game.
  • Will Craig’s 13 home runs for Wake Forest this season are more than Tyler Ramirez (seven) and Eli Sutherland (four)–the top two men on UNC’s list this year–have combined for.
  • Not one time during the game Sunday did UNC have a man on third base with less than two outs.

 

FINAL BOX SCORE

 

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-baseball-swept-at-wake-forest-demon-deacons-walk-off-winners

UNC Baseball Continues to Slide, Drops Series to Wake Forest

The late season free-fall continued on Saturday for the No. 17 UNC baseball team.

For the second straight outing the Tar Heels lost in Winston Salem to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons–this one by a score of 5-4–putting the team two games below .500 in ACC play.

Now sitting at 26-14 this season (9-11 ACC) after an 18-2 start, the Tar Heels find themselves in real danger of missing out on postseason play.

Freshman catcher Logan Harvey put the Demon Deacons (25-17, 9-11 ACC) out in front with a two-run double off UNC starter JB Bukauskas in the bottom of the fourth inning, as the home team was able to hang on to a close lead for the majority of the game.

Just a day removed from leading his team to victory at the plate, Wake Forest junior Will Craig struck out four times against Bukauskas, but pitched the last two innings to pick up the win on the mound.

JB Bukauskas wasn't able to carry the Tar Heels to victory against Wake Forest on Saturday. (Joe Bray/ UNC Athletics)

JB Bukauskas wasn’t able to carry the Tar Heels to victory against Wake Forest on Saturday. (Joe Bray/ UNC Athletics)

Craig ran into trouble late when he allowed UNC center fielder Tyler Ramirez to make it a 5-4 game with a one-out, RBI single in the ninth, however he recovered to retire Logan Warmoth and Brandon Riley to end the game with the tying run on base.

Brian Miller, the Tar Heel lead-off man, again led the way on offense for head coach Mike Fox–going 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs.

For a brief moment it appeared as if UNC wouldn’t need the rest of the lineup to start hitting.

After taking over for reliever Donnie Sellers with the bases loaded in the seventh, Craig walked Miller and Ramirez–tying the game at 3-3.

Unfortunately for the Tar Heels, they met the same fate in the bottom half of the frame. Hansen Butler walked Wake Forest’s Johnny Aiello with two outs and the bags full–handing over the lead for good.

The Demon Deacons added an insurance run in the eighth on a single by Kevin Conway, which proved to be the difference.

Up Next:

UNC will look to prevent a surprising sweep on Sunday, with first pitch set for 1 p.m. Jason Morgan, the 6-foot-6 righty.

Game Notes:

  • Bukauskas was pulled with one out in the sixth inning after having thrown 106 pitches for the Tar Heels. The ACC leader in strikeouts entering the weekend, he struck out seven Demon Deacons on Saturday.
  • Logan Warmoth, Brandon Riley, and Eli Sutherland–UNC’s 3, 4, and 5 hitters–went a combined 1-for-13 in the game.
  • UNC had just seven hits in the game.

 

FINAL BOX SCORE

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-baseball-continues-to-slide-drops-series-to-wake-forest

Craig Leads Wake Forest Past Gallen, No. 17 UNC Baseball to Open Series

When it comes to the best hitters in college baseball, you won’t find many better than Wake Forest third baseman Will Craig.

The ACC leader in batting average and RBIs, Craig sparked the Demon Deacons to a 6-1 win on Friday in their series opener with the No. 17 Tar Heels.

Zac Gallen–one of the ACC’s top pitchers–gave up just five hits in 6.2 innings on the mound for UNC, but it was Craig who shined brightest in the battle between the two stars.

Zac Gallen was solid on the mound for UNC on Friday, but didn't get the run support necessary to get a win. (Joe Bray/ UNC Athletics)

Zac Gallen was solid on the mound for UNC on Friday, but didn’t get the run support necessary to get a win. (Joe Bray/ UNC Athletics)

A 6-foot-3-inch, 230-pound junior from Johnson City, Tennessee, Craig put Wake Forest (24-17, 8-11 ACC) ahead with an RBI single against Gallen in the first inning, scored a run in the fourth after reaching base on a walk, then sent his 12th home run of the season over the wall in left center to lead off the sixth.

He also walked in his fourth, and final, plate appearance of the night–keeping his average at a staggering .455.

The Tar Heels (26-13, 9-10 ACC) continued their inconsistency at the plate, picking up just a single run on six hits–two days after scoring 17 runs in a rout over William & Mary.

Parker Dunshee continually pitched to contact all night for the Demon Deacons, but managed to hold UNC scoreless for seven innings, before finally allowing the Tar Heels to scrape one across in the eighth on an RBI groundout from Brian Miller.

Miller, a sophomore from Raleigh, led the Tar Heels offensively, going 2-for-4 with a double. He was the only UNC player to reach base more than once, as the entire team failed to see ball four at all during the game.

Brian Miller had two hits for UNC, which failed to draw a single walk against Wake Forest. (Jeffrey A. Camarati/ UNC Athletics)

Brian Miller had two hits for UNC, which failed to draw a single walk against Wake Forest. (Jeffrey A. Camarati/ UNC Athletics)

Facing reliever Brett Daniels in their half of the eighth, Wake Forest added a fourth run when Daniels walked Jonathan Pryor with two outs and the bases loaded.

A single by freshman catcher Logan Harvey in the next at-bat brought home two more–all but ensuring the Tar Heels would come up short in conference play yet again.

After falling below .500 in the conference standings, UNC has one month–and 11 ACC more games–to show it can regain the consistency that carried it through the early portion of the year.

That’s easier said than done, though, against players as dominant as Craig and a league as dominant as the ACC–which has had as many as eight teams ranked in the Top 25 this season.

Up Next:

UNC and Wake Forest will play the second game of the three-game series on Saturday, with first pitch scheduled for 4 p.m.

Game Notes:

  • With runners on base, the Tar Heels went just 1-for-13, despite the lead-off man reaching on four occasions.
  • Craig’s 12 home runs put him second in the ACC behind only Clemson freshman Seth Beer, who entered Friday with 14.
  • Gallen fell to 4-4 this season for UNC after suffering his second straight loss.

 

FINAL BOX SCORE

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/craig-leads-wake-forest-past-gallen-no-17-unc-baseball-to-open-series

Coastal Carolina Tops UNC Baseball in Top-25 Showdown

April can’t end soon enough for the UNC baseball team.

The No. 17 Tar Heels are now just 5-8 in the month–which has been filled with games against high-level competition–after a 6-3 loss to the No. 21 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers Tuesday night at Boshamer Stadium.

Sophomore lefty Hunter Williams started on the mound for UNC (25-12), but was rocked for four runs in the first inning by the sweet-swinging Chanticleers (28-10)–who won their 15th game in 16 tries.

Six days after Williams, who entered Tuesday with a 0.99 ERA, tossed six shutout innings against South Carolina he surrendered all of Coastal Carolina’s six runs, twice as many as he had allowed all season.

Early on, the Chanticleers got two hits apiece from GK Young, Connor Owings and Billy Cooke to help build a 6-1 lead after three innings. Cooke and Owings each drove in two runs as well.

UNC's outfielders combined to go just 2-for-11 against Coastal Carolina. (Smith Cameron Photography)

UNC’s outfielders combined to go just 2-for-11 against Coastal Carolina. (Smith Cameron Photography)

Williams was pulled in the third inning, and by the end of the fourth the Tar Heels had used four pitchers.

However, freshman Rodney Hutchison provided a steadying presence once he entered to begin the fifth.

Hutchison gave up just two hits and struck out seven over the next 4 2/3 innings–keeping UNC within striking distance.

Offensively, the Tar Heels were carried by sophomore third baseman Zack Gahagan. The Fletcher, North Carolina native went 2-for-3 with all three of the team’s RBIs, including his fourth home run of the year–a solo blast in the bottom of the sixth that was the last run scored by either side.

Gahagan also had an RBI single in the second inning and a sacrifice fly in the fourth.

Freshman Brandon Riley went 2-for-4 for the Tar Heels with a pair of singles, while Eli Sutherland, Kyle Datres, and Cody Roberts rounded out the contributions from UNC’s bats.

The Chanticleers held the Tar Heels’ top two hitters, Brian Miller and Tyler Ramirez, to a combined 0-for-9 performance at the plate–which keyed their ability to hold on to the early lead.

Hitting has typically decided whether UNC wins, as the Tar Heels are 19-1 when scoring at least six runs. (Smith Cameron Photography)

Hitting has typically decided whether UNC wins, as the Tar Heels are 19-1 when scoring at least six runs. (Smith Cameron Photography)

It was just the latest chapter in UNC’s month to forget.

April began with the Tar Heels beign swept at Miami, then lost games the next week to UNC-Asheville and Virginia Tech–two teams who have less wins combined than this season than UNC has.

Following a huge 15-0 win over a top-10 team, South Carolina, last week, the Tar Heels had a chance to make a statement against defending national champion Virginia–but instead dropped two of three.

Although the talent on the roster has proven its capable of big things when it puts everything together, inconsistency has plagued UNC against top-level competition.

Tuesday was no different.

Up Next:

The Tar Heels will stay at home Wednesday, where they will have a chance to regroup against William & Mary (17-18).

Game Notes:

  • UNC shortstop Logan Warmoth, a sophomore who has started all but two of UNC’s last 85 games, sat out due to an injury suffered on Sunday. He was replaced by freshman Utah Jones.
  • Coastal Carolina has won two of its last three games against UNC dating back to last season.
  • The Tar Heels are now 3-8 when the opponent scores at least six runs.
  • With runners on base Coastal Carolina went 7-for-19 in the game (.368).

 

FINAL BOX SCORE

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/coastal-carolina-tops-unc-baseball-in-top-25-showdown

Virginia Walks Over UNC Baseball, Hands Tar Heels Fourth Straight Sunday Loss

In search of its first series victory over Virginia since 2012, the No. 15 UNC baseball team instead was a victim once again of the Sunday blues–falling 15-9 to the Cavaliers for its fourth straight loss in a series finale.

The Tar Heels–now 25-11 (9-9 ACC)–walked a season-high 13 batters, and hit one, in perhaps their sloppiest pitching performance of the season.  Virginia’s 15 runs were the most UNC has allowed in 2016, beating the previous mark of 10 set by Georgia Tech in late March.

At the plate, Brian Miller had a perfect day for the Tar Heels, going 5-for-5, while the “Toy Cannon,” second baseman Eli Sutherland, went 2-for-4 with four RBIs.

Tyler Ramirez had 3 RBIs on Sunday, but the Tar Heels lost for the first time this season when scoring more than six runs. (Smith Cameron Photography)

Tyler Ramirez had 3 RBIs on Sunday, but the Tar Heels lost for the first time this season when scoring more than six runs. (Smith Cameron Photography)

Victory has been almost guaranteed this season when the Tar Heels get hitting performances as good as they got Sunday, racking up 15 hits to Virginia’s 12.

Entering the game UNC was 18-0 in games where it scored at least six runs and 21-2 in games where it out-hit its opponent.

UNC also built leads of 3-0 and 5-3 early on, but struggled to find the strike zone, letting Virginia (23-15, 9-9 ACC) to climb back each time.

Right-hander Jason Morgan started the game for the Tar Heels, but was pulled in the second inning after his fourth walk loaded the bases. He was replaced by junior reliever AJ Bogucki, who walked Ernie Clement before surrendering a two-run single to Matt Thaiss–tying the score at 3-3.

After UNC went back ahead in the top of the fourth inning, Bogucki retired the first two men he faced in the bottom of the frame. Then he walked the bases the loaded.

The next man up, shortstop Daniel Pinero, cleared the bases with a double down the left-field line to put the Cavaliers back in front.

Seven pitchers saw action for UNC on Sunday, with none going longer than two innings. (Smith Cameron Photography)

Seven pitchers saw action for UNC on Sunday, with none going longer than two innings. (Smith Cameron Photography)

Next out of the bullpen for the Tar Heels was Spencer Trayner. More trouble ensued, as Trayner walked the first two men he faced. Meeting a similar fate as Bogucki, he only pitched to one more–allowing a bases-clearing double to Cameron Simmons.

At that point, Virginia led the game 9-5 but had just five hits–two of which were three-run doubles.

A two-run homer in the fifth off freshman Taylor Sugg by the Cavaliers’ star catcher, Thaiss, led to Virginia following its six-run inning with a four-run inning.

UNC plated three runs in the sixth inning and one in the seventh, but could never keep Virginia from doing the same. The Cavaliers added a tally in their half of the sixth and another in the eighth.

By the end of the game the Tar Heels had used seven pitchers, who had totaled an incredible 208 pitches.

Up Next:

The Tar Heels will return home to Boshamer Stadium on Tuesday for a game against Coastal Carolina. First pitch for that game is set for 6 p.m.

Game Notes:

  • UNC is 1-5 in Sunday games against ACC opponents.
  • Sutherland went 6-for-12 with 7 RBIs, a double and a home run during the series for UNC.
  • The game took nearly four and a half hours to complete.
  • Junior center fielder Tyler Ramirez went 2-for-2 with 3 RBIs for the Tar Heels, increasing his team-leading batting average to .385.

 

FINAL BOX SCORE

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-baseball-drops-high-scoring-rubber-match-to-virginia

Bukauskas Stays Hot, Leads UNC Baseball Past Virginia to Even Series

Most people around the UNC baseball program were aware of the talent JB Bukauskas had before he ever stepped on campus.

A potential first-round MLB Draft picking coming out of high school, he opted to attend UNC for at least three years rather than head straight for the pros.

Now a sophomore, Bukauskas is living up to those expectations and then some–striking out 11 hitters on Saturday to lead the No. 15 Tar Heels to an 8-1 win over the Virginia Cavaliers in Charlottesville.

UNC (24-11, 9-8 ACC) desperately needed the victory in order to avoid dipping below .500 in the conference standings.

Kyle Datres (8) opened the scoring on Saturday with a solo homer off Virginia pitcher Adam Haseley. (Smith Cameron Photography)

Kyle Datres (8) opened the scoring on Saturday with a solo homer off Virginia pitcher Adam Haseley. (Smith Cameron Photography)

Home runs by freshman Kyle Datres–who was left out of the lineup in Friday’s loss–and senior Eli Sutherland gave Bukauskas more than enough run support in his matchup with Virginia’s Adam Haseley–who had yet to lose a decision entering the day.

Virginia (22-15, 8-9 ACC), like most teams who have faced the right-hander this year, simply could not stay on balance with the combination of Bukauskas’ 97 mph fastball and hard 88 mph slider.

The dominant effort on the mound comes a week after Bukauskas set a career-high with 13 strikeouts against Virginia Tech.  A native of Ashburn, Virginia, he now has at least 11 strikeouts in three of his last four starts.

It was, as expected, a pitcher’s duel through the first four innings. The teams combined for no runs on just five hits during that span.

Datres finally broke the scoreless streak in the top of the fifth when he got the sweet spot on a pitch by Haseley–sending it deep into left field for a solo home run, his second long bomb of the year.

A pair of errors by Virginia in the sixth inning was what finally caught up to Haseley, and allowed UNC some breathing room.

The first error allowed Tyler Ramirez to become the second man on base for the Tar Heels with no outs in the inning. The second error, a throwing miscue by third baseman Justin Novak, allowed both Ramirez and Adam Pate to score.

Haseley then walked Datres, which forced the Cavaliers to turn to their bullpen a bit earlier than they expected.

Spencer Trayner pitched a scoreless ninth inning to close out the win. (Smith Cameron Photography)

Spencer Trayner pitched a scoreless ninth inning to close out the win. (Smith Cameron Photography)

A pair of Virginia relievers were needed to finish off the frame, but not before they walked Cody Roberts with the bases loaded and balked during the next at-bat. The mistakes allowed UNC to open up a 5-0 lead after handing the Tar Heels an additional two runs without much resistance.

After scraping across one run in their half of the sixth, the Cavaliers picked up right where they left off for the seventh.

Walks to Pate and shortstop Logan Warmoth to begin the inning set up Sutherland’s fourth home run of the season for UNC–a three-run bomb that brought the score to its final margin.

Bukauskas threw one more inning after that, but the Tar Heels turned to Brett Daniels, Cole Aker, and Spencer Trayner to finish the game.

Up Next:

The Tar Heels will go for their first series win over Virginia since 2012 in Sunday’s rubber match, with first pitch set to be thrown at 1 p.m.

Game Notes:

  • Just four players had hits for the Tar Heels, as Datres, Sutherland and Pate each had two. Roberts was the only player on the team to have just one.
  • UNC scored eight runs despite going 1-for-16 at the plate with runners on base.
  • The Tar Heels are 18-0 this year when scoring at least six runs.

 

FINAL BOX SCORE

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/bukauskas-stays-hot-leads-unc-baseball-past-virginia

Offense Wins, Defense Impresses in UNC Football Spring Game

Although the offense won the UNC football spring game 74-70 under an odd scoring system, it was the team’s defense that made the biggest impression at Kenan Stadium on Saturday.

With everyone in the stadium focusing on the quarterback position–and how junior Mitch Trubisky would look in his first appearance since the graduation of former starter Marquise Williams—the defense stole the show with four interceptions.

Three of the picks came against backup Caleb Henderson, but senior cornerback Des Lawrence was able to make an impressive play against Trubisky to get one against the starter.

That earned three points for the defense in a confusing scoring system head coach Larry Fedora said was adopted from the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks.

Quarterback Mitch Trubisky threw for 148 yards with one touchdown and one interception in the spring game. (Jeffrey A. Camarati)

Quarterback Mitch Trubisky threw for 148 yards with one touchdown and one interception in the spring game. (Jeffrey A. Camarati)

“I don’t wanna sit here and say one side was better than the other,” Fedora said after the game. “I think that both sides benefited from what we did today.

“That’s the tough thing about a spring game,” he continued. “I thought there were good things in some situations, and I thought there were bad things on both sides of the ball. So we know as a team we’ve got a lot to work on.”

In all, Trubisky completed 13 of his 22 passes for 148 yards, with 111 of those yard–and an 18-yard touchdown pass–going to big-play receiver Mack Hollins.

Playing without starting receiver Bug Howard and starting running back Elijah Hood, the offense was only able to score three touchdowns and two field goals in a game made up of two 45-minute halves and a running clock.

While not impressed with the overall effort offensively, Fedora did like what he saw from Trubisky.

“I thought he had a pretty good command of the offense,” the coach said. “We had one pick on the sideline, Des [Lawrence] made a great play on that ball, but it was a well-thrown ball.

“He didn’t miss many throws,” Fedora added. “I thought he did a good job.”

One interesting development came when the clock ran out at the end of each half. The offense was left out there with no time on the clock to run 11 untimed plays in the first half, and another three untimed plays following the second half.

Since the team uses the same scoring system in practices, whichever side loses typically carries the other’s pads back to the locker room.

That wasn’t the case on Saturday, but Lawrence still had some fun with it—saying it was a conspiracy by the coaching staff.

An outline of how the scoring was counted during the spring game. Touchdowns and field goals did not count for points. (UNC Athletics)

An outline of how the scoring was counted during the spring game. Touchdowns and field goals did not count for points. (UNC Athletics)

“They were lucky,” Lawrence said with a smile about his teammates on offense. “I think they wanted the offense to score one more time so they wouldn’t have to carry our pads, but we’ll let them have their fun today.”

The defense actually held a slim lead in the score until a make-shift offense led by reserve quarterback Manny Miles—the fifth man to take snaps for the Tar Heels—pulled ahead on the final drive.

Despite that, junior defensive tackle Naz Jones felt good about the way his unit performed, saying the score was meant more for the fans.

“I think they wanted to get more big plays so the crowd could enjoy it and get more into it” Jones said. “Because they don’t really get up for big defensive stops or anything besides an interception.”

The crowd was lucky enough to be treated to four of those, as the defense did its best to provide some entertainment in a game that otherwise resembled an unorganized scrimmage.

Whether it means anything long-term is unclear given the amount of injuries on the roster, but for one day at least defense was king for the normally high-powered Tar Heels.

Game Notes:

  • Sophomore safety Cameron Albright led the defense with two interceptions.
  • Star wideout Ryan Switzer–a rising senior–was held to just two catches and 10 yards while being matched up with cornerback MJ Stewart.
  • Freshman Jordon Brown–a running back who enrolled in January–had 11 carries for 85 yards.
  • Linebacker Cole Holcomb had 10 tackles, which narrowly edged out Lawrence’s nine for the team lead.
http://chapelboro.com/featured/offense-wins-defense-impresses-in-unc-football-spring-game

Virginia Cruises to 7-4 Series-Opening Win Over No. 15 UNC Baseball

For all the enthusiasm that Wednesday’s blowout of No. 8 South Carolina produced in Chapel Hill, the UNC baseball team had to immediately turn its focus to its road series this weekend in Charlottesville against the defending national champs.

The same fortunes that were with them in Charlotte against the Gamecocks, however, didn’t show themselves in the series opener–as the Virginia Cavaliers defeated the No. 13 Tar Heels 7-4 on Friday night.

UNC falls to 24-10 (8-8 ACC) in 2016, as ace Zac Gallen surrendered five runs in the first three innings– just one week removed from being named National Pitcher of the Week for what was easily the best performance of his career.

Zac Gallen was hit by Virginia for five runs in the first three innings on Friday. (Joe Bray/ UNC Athletics)

Zac Gallen was hit by Virginia for five runs in the first three innings on Friday. (Joe Bray/ UNC Athletics)

Junior left fielder Tyler Lynn went 3-for-3 with a home run–having himself a career night–but the Tar Heels continued to struggle since the meat of conference play began three weeks ago against Georgia Tech. In that span UNC is just 6-8.

So is life in the ACC, which boasts six of the nation’s top 25 teams–and that’s not even including Virginia.

The Cavaliers have been one of the nation’s top programs in recent years but are just 22-15 this year after losing a few key pieces.

One of Virginia’s returning stars, junior right-hander Connor Jones gave his team six solid innings of work Friday night. Jones (7-1) was far from perfect–laboring for 117 pitches and striking out just two hitters–but he did enough to get the job done.

UNC took a 2-0 lead against Jones in the top of the second inning, though, when freshman catcher Cody Roberts’ sacrifice fly was mishandled at home plate. Zack Gahagan, who had reached base on an earlier error, and Lynn scored on the play.

Jones then found his groove and forced eight groundouts over the next four frames while holding the Tar Heels scoreless.

Meanwhile, the Cavalier offense scraped across one run in their half of the second inning before taking it to Gallen in the third for four more.

UNC has had issues scoring runs at the same clip it did early on since conference play got rolling. (Joe Bray/ UNC Athletics)

UNC has had issues scoring runs at the same clip it did early on since conference play got rolling. (Joe Bray/ UNC Athletics)

Catcher Matt Thaiss, another key contributor to last year’s title-winning team, slapped an RBI single to tie the game at 2-2. After a walk loaded the bases, Nate Eikhoff cleared them with a huge triple to right-center field–giving Virginia a commanding lead.

Not until the seventh inning did UNC get another push from its offense. Lynn led off the frame with a triple against Jones–his second hit of the day–and then scored the next at-bat on a single by Roberts.

Virginia broke through for two more runs in the eighth against the Tar Heel bullpen, however, which put a damper on any comeback hopes.

Lynn hit a solo shot in the top of the ninth off closer Kevin Doherty, but the UNC rally fell short as Doherty induced a pair of flyouts before Tommy Doyle came on and struck out Tyler Ramirez to seal the deal.

Up Next:

The second game of the series is scheduled to begin Saturday at 4 p.m. with the Tar Heels sending sophomore JB Bukauskas to the mound. Bukauskas, like Gallen, had a career-high 13 strikeouts last week against Virginia Tech.

Game Notes:

  • Virginia has won seven of the last eight meetings between these two teams. UNC leads the all-time series 179-110-4.
  • Each team had just eight hits in the game. The Tar Heels are 2-2 this season in that situation.
  • Brian Miller, Tyler Ramirez, and Logan Warmoth–who hit first, third, and fourth for UNC–went a combined 0-for-12 on Friday.

 

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/virginia-cruises-to-7-4-series-opening-win-over-no-15-unc-baseball

Spring Game Gives Chance for UNC Football’s New Stars to Shine

It may not be exactly the same as it is in the fall—with another team on the opposite sideline ready to do battle—but the UNC football team has plenty of reasons to be excited about Saturday’s spring game at Kenan Stadium.

For fans, coaches, and teammates alike, it seems everyone in Chapel Hill is anxious to see the debut of junior Mitch Trubisky as the team’s starting quarterback.

A rash of injuries has limited the format of the spring game to essentially a glorified offense versus defense practice session, but Trubisky has still put in some time thinking about what he needs to accomplish in order for him to call the day a success.

“One of the goals will be to just manage the offense,” Trubisky said. “Also to make it fun for my family—who’s coming down [from Ohio]—and the fans. And then to put on a good show to show everyone how hard we’ve been working and that we do look good as a team.

Mitch Turbisky (13) scrambles. Photo by Smith Cameron Photography.

Trubisky has proven in his limited playing time that he can both run and throw the ball. (Photo by Smith Cameron Photography.)

“I wanna see good plays on offense, on defense, on special teams,” he continued. “And for myself? I just wanna try to complete every ball.”

Although Trubisky will get the nod as the starting quarterback on Saturday, and likely in the regular season too, UNC head coach Larry Fedora has made it a point this spring to never officially call him the starter. It’s been part of the coach’s plan to keep every player on the team competing for their jobs no matter the situation.

But for what reason?

“I want every guy on our football team to feel like they earned what they’ve got,” Fedora said. “Nobody gave them anything. I don’t want them to give anybody anything.

“And so I want [Trubisky] to come out and earn the job,” he continued. “Plus, when you do that it also earns the respect of your teammates.”

If there’s one group of people on Saturday that would like Trubisky–and the talented group of receivers and running backs around him–to have an off day it’s the Tar Heel defense.

All spring the defensive players have been asked about how new guys will step up to fill the shoes of departed leaders Shakeel Rashad and Jeff Schoettmer—seemingly implying the unit may be due for a step back this season.

Senior cornerback Des Lawrence sees Saturday as a chance to show that despite popular belief the improvements will keep on coming in Gene Chizik’s second year as defensive coordinator.

“Not only do we wanna show our offense, we wanna show ourselves [what we’re capable of],” Lawrence said. “We know what [the offense] is gonna do.

“I think we have–if not the best quarterback in the nation–we have one of the best quarterbacks in the nation,” he added. “So we know what they can do. We know they can put up 40 or 50 points a game, but it’s gonna be on us.

“The spring game is gonna be a testament to what we do [on defense].”

Junior defensive tackle Naz Jones, one of just eight healthy defensive linemen for the Tar Heels right now after Dajaun Drennon broke his foot recently, said he expects the game to be extremely exhausting for the defensive players—especially since they won’t be divided into teams.

Shakeel Rashad (42)celebrates with Nazir Jones (90) and Mikey Bart (45). Photo by Smith Cameron Photography.

Naz Jones (right) will be one of the defensive players expected to fill the leadership void left behind by guys like Shakeel Rashad (middle).

That won’t stop him, however, from trying to help Lawrence and the rest of the defense find ways to succeed as best as they can in the scrimmage format.

“We just gotta dominate no matter if they score,” Jones said. “A lot of times they’ll put ‘em on the 2-yard-line, so sometimes they’re gonna score. But what we gotta do as a defensive line—and as a defense in general—is just dominate our position and be aggressive.

“If we do that, then I think we’ll come out successful—no matter what position they put us in.”

While yes, it’s true Saturday won’t exactly be a smash-mouth game, the competition will still be there.

Fans will get a chance to see the kind of environment Fedora creates for his players, while watching those same young men battle for bragging rights within the team.

That, according to Trubisky, is the best part of the whole deal.

“We’re talking smack all the time, but at the end of the day we’re brothers,” Trubisky said. “I think we’re definitely pushing each other.

“Des [Lawrence] and Naz [Jones] are always in my ear, saying ‘Hey throw me a pick, let me get a turnover in front of Coach.’ And I’ll say, ‘Nah I can’t do that.’

“We’re always messing with each other,” he continued. “It’s just good fun.”

Game Time:

Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday.

http://chapelboro.com/featured/spring-game-gives-chance-for-unc-footballs-new-stars-to-shine