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.
Zac Gallen did it again.
For the second time in his last three starts, Gallen tossed a complete game, and this time it was of the shutout variety, as the sophomore carried the No. 23 UNC baseball team to a 1-0 victory over the Boston College Eagles at Boshamer Stadium on Friday night.
UNC picks up its fourth consecutive victory, improving to 27-15 overall and 11-10 in the ACC, while ending the Eagles’ five game win streak. For the season, Boston College is 22-19, with a 9-12 record inside the conference.
Coming into the game, it was expected to be a fantastic pitcher’s duel between Gallen (3-3) and Boston College sophomore Mike King (1-3)–and neither of these guys decided to stray from the script.
Gallen threw a complete game in his last home start two weeks ago against NC State, while King came into Friday’s contest having thrown a complete game, one-hit, shutout last week against Georgia Tech. So it was no surprise to fans that each man came out strong.
“[Gallen’s] a strike thrower, so that always helps. So was King for them tonight. We thought it would be a quick game,” says UNC head coach Mike Fox, “Both pitchers throwing a lot of strikes and getting a lot of first pitch outs.”
The first nine batters of the game were each unsuccessful in their attempts to reach base, and through five innings the teams had combined for just four hits, as offense was tougher to find than the Lochness Monster in this one.
Carolina right-fielder Tyler Ramirez recorded the first hit of the game with a hard hit single off of King to lead-off the bottom of the second. After a walk to Joe Dudek and an infield single by Eli Sutherland, suddenly the Tar Heels found themselves in business–with the bases loaded and just one out.
In the next at-bat, King got freshman Zack Gahagan to strike out swinging, but followed that up by walking shortstop Logan Warmoth on four straight pitches to bring home Ramirez before he could escape the jam, giving the Tar Heels the first, and only, run of the game.
Meanwhile Zac Gallen’s home dominance continued, as he made quick work of the Eagle hitters all night long, finishing the game with just 115 pitches. In total, Gallen struck out eight Eagles, while amazingly only giving up three hits the entire game.
“I wish we could play at home every game,” Gallen says, “It’s just a comfortability thing. Like they say, it’s tough to go on the road in the ACC. Your fans usually aren’t there, it’s gonna be majority their fans, and the mound’s a little bit different.”
“It’s good to come home.”
In fact, no runner even reached second base against UNC’s right-handed sophomore until the top of the sixth.
Designated hitter Scott Braren singled to begin the frame, and moved over on a sacrifice. Braren then got to third on a wild pitch, but was thrown out at home by Logan Warmoth trying to come home on a ground-ball hit by Jake Palomaki that never left the infield.
After that, Gallen locked down the shop–working perfect seventh and eighth innings, as his offense continued to struggle against Mike King, who worked all eight innings for the Eagles–meaning neither bullpen was needed at all in this game.
For the game, King allowed just five hits in his eight innings, striking out five Tar Heels as well.
“I was so glad Zac made it to the end, I know he was getting a little bit tired. His pitch count was still down, but he walked those two in the ninth and [we’re] thinking ‘Oh boy, we gotta try to let him finish’, so that was a nail-biter,” says Coach Fox.
When Gallen came back out to pitch the ninth, the New Jersey native was greeted by a chorus of cheers.
But then a one-out walk to Palomaki was followed by a base-hit from second baseman Blake Butera, causing some anxiety. After the second out, Michael Strem drew the second walk in the inning off Gallen to load the bases, bringing the home fans to their feet again.
A diving stop at first base by Joe Dudek on the next play, a hard hit liner by Donovan Casey, preserved the shut-out and the victory, on what looked like it could have been a two-run base-hit, sending the Tar Heel faithful home happy.
To his credit, Gallen couldn’t help but give all the credit to his defense, which saw center-fielder Skye Bolt make an incredible diving catch in the fifth to go along with Warmoth’s throw home in the sixth–and of course the one that sealed it, Dudek’s game-saving stop.
“Once Skye [Bolt] made the catch, I thought I was in a video game. I was like ‘OK, that’s gonna be on SportsCenter, that should be Vine famous’,” Gallen says.
“And then Logan [Warmoth] makes that play, and then Joe [Dudek] makes that play and it’s like ‘Dude I owe you lunch for the rest of your life.”
Saturday’s second game of the series was originally scheduled to begin at 6 p.m., but due to persistent rain in the forecast first pitch has been moved up to 10:30 a.m. The pitching match-up in that one will pit UNC freshman JB Bukauskas (3-1, 3.88 ERA) against Boston College senior John Gorman (4-2, 5.13 ERA).
When the No. 23 UNC baseball team opens its three-game ACC series with the Boston College Eagles Friday night at Boshamer Stadium, Zac Gallen will be returning to the mound on which he delivered the two finest performances of his young pitching career against his team’s two biggest rivals.
For the majority of the season, the sophomore from Gibbsboro, New Jersey has spear-headed the dominant UNC weekend rotation, helping the team reach its current 26-15 overall record and 10-10 conference mark.
Boston College comes into Chapel Hill this weekend not far behind the Tar Heels in the tight conference standings–at 9-11 in the ACC and 22-18 against all competition—which is why Gallen (2-3, 3.31 ERA) knows it’s important to get his team off to a good start by pitching well in the Friday series opener.
“It’s huge. I mean, when you lose that Friday [game] it’s like ‘man, [our] backs are against the wall’,” Gallen says, “So it’s good to put the pressure on early…especially with the position we’re in, in the ACC, we’re right in the thick of things.”
“Every game we play on Friday is a battle,” he adds.
A part of the starting rotation for 17 games in 2014 as a freshman, you would think penciling his name in this year as part of a competition among pitchers fighting for a starting role would have been just a formality, but with the addition of hard throwing freshmen JB Bukauskas and Hunter Williams, head coach Mike Fox decided to try something else early on in the year.
“Zac’s a good example,” says Coach Fox, “We started the season, and he wasn’t one of our weekend guys—he was all last year as a freshman. He didn’t pout. He wasn’t happy about it, but he didn’t pout and he pitched great out of the bullpen…and then for one reason or another we’re having to [start] him in our first ACC game.”
After making two appearances in relief against Seton Hall and UCLA, Gallen got his first start of the year in the season’s third week against Rhode Island due to the loss of closer Reilly Hovis–an injury that forced Coach Fox to shuffle junior Trent Thornton from the weekend rotation into his current bullpen role.
In that game, Gallen went six innings and struck out a then career-high nine hitters, despite being credited with the loss.
The stage was set then, for the sophomore to get a chance to pitch in the team’s aforementioned ACC opener against its cross-town rival, the Duke Blue Devils.
He did not disappoint either, this time earning a win, while going seven innings and picking up yet another career-high in strikeouts with 12—a number that has yet to be matched by any other Tar Heel this season, prompting Coach Fox to issue a strong statement afterwards.
“I’m hoping all the other pitchers just take a look at that,” Fox said about Gallen’s situation after he mowed down the Duke lineup, “Be prepared.”
The main difference between this year’s Zac Gallen and last year’s Zac Gallen, according to the man himself, is a shiny new toy he installed in his repertoire during the off-season.
“I picked up a cutter this summer. I just happened to be [playing] catch with a buddy and just kinda picked it up. I just felt a good angle on my ball,” Gallen says, adding that “I feel good staying in the lower half of the [strike] zone, which is helping out a lot.”
When he’s out on the mound pitching, Gallen gives off an aura of confidence without needing to say anything at all.
His one, singular, focus is on throwing strikes–something that never wavered throughout the tough times he faced, says junior Korey Dunbar, who has been the catcher behind the plate in each of Gallen’s starts.
“I think with him moving to the bullpen at the start the season, he kinda came out [in the starting rotation] with a chip on his shoulder. It’s shown and he’s done a really good job,” says Dunbar.
“He’s the type of guy that’s not gonna show a lot of emotion on the mound, he’s just in command of everything. That’s his huge thing is command.”
Keeping his fastball-cutter combination in the strike zone has been the key to success for Gallen since the year began.
To illustrate the type of control Gallen exhibits, the New Jersey native has started 25 games for Coach Fox since arriving in Chapel Hill, and has never walked more than three batters in a game.
Now think about this–UNC drew five walks in the first inning against Virginia Tech starter Jon Woodcock last Saturday, and drew another four against Campbell starter Heath Bowers in Tuesday’s first inning.
“He’s a strike thrower,” says Coach Fox on Gallen’s control, “He gets us into the sixth and seventh inning, which is what you want on Fridays. I think he’s pitched well. He’s really only had one bad outing.”
Against Pittsburgh on the road in early March, Gallen set career highs in walks (three) and runs allowed (eight), while only making it through 3.2 innings.
To this day, it remains Gallen’s only start of the season to not last five innings or longer.
But a month later, in another rivalry start, against NC State in front of a sell-out home crowd and a national television audience, he provided yet another stroke of magic—going all nine innings to preserve a 2-1 Tar Heel victory, in a game that went right down to the wire.
Coach Fox couldn’t help but crack a smile after that game–one which the official team Twitter account declared “Gallentine’s Day“.
“It’s mind-boggling to me that we had him pitching in relief the first [two] weekends of the season. He wasn’t even one of our first three starters,” Fox said with a chuckle, “We laugh about that now.”
Despite picking up a loss last weekend at Virginia Tech, Gallen was solid for the first five innings, allowing just one run during that time, before eventually giving up four in the sixth to earn his spot on the bench.
As the season progresses into its final stages, and more importantly tournament time, Coach Fox will need his starting rotation to continue carrying the bulk of the load in order to have a chance to make a serious run at his seventh College World Series appearance.
And of course, as the Friday man, that all begins with Zac Gallen.
Boston College has won five games in a row and will present the UNC right-hander with a stiff test in the series opener. The Eagles will likely send 6’3” sophomore Mike King to the mound to face-off with Gallen—which should make for an interesting match-up, as King threw a complete game of his own last Friday against No. 24 Georgia Tech, shutting the Yellow Jackets out en route to tossing a one-hitter.
First pitch for Friday’s pitching showdown at Boshamer Stadium is set for 6:30 p.m., with all three games in the series set to be shown on ESPN3 and broadcast live on 97.9 FM, WCHL.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/gallen-fridays-key-diamond-heels-stretch/
Trent Thornton struck out pinch-hitter Joe Bertone in the bottom of the 12th inning to close out a 6-5 road win for the #23 UNC baseball team over its top 25 opponent, the #22 UNC-Wilmington Seahawks–with Carolina right-fielder Tyler Ramirez scoring on a balk earlier in the frame to break the tie.
Suddenly the surging Tar Heels find themselves with a solid 26-15 record, as they hand the red-hot Seahawks just their ninth loss of the season, putting them at 28-9 overall.
Thornton (3-4) pitched the final 2.2 innings, all in extras, without allowing Wilmington to record a hit, while UNC-W reliever Justin Crump (0-1) ruined a fantastic bullpen effort by his teammates with his late, game-changing balk coming at the end of a night that looked like it would turn into a slug-fest.
Coming off a strong birthday performance the night before, UNC catcher Korey Dunbar got the ball rolling with a two-out, two-run single off Wilmington starting pitcher Evan Phillips in the top of the first–giving freshman left-hander Hunter Williams a two-run cushion before he had to throw his first pitch.
The Seahawks manufactured one run in the bottom of the first, but it looked like that may not be enough with the way Carolina came out swinging the bats.
Skye Bolt’s single in the top of the second scored freshman Zack Gahagan, and was followed by a sacrifice fly off the bat of Landon Lassiter, making it appear as if the Tar Heels were poised to break things open.
Switching pitchers didn’t look like it did anything for UNC-W in the next inning, as reliever Austin Magestro allowed Carolina second baseman Eli Sutherland, who came in to the game batting .197, to double home Dunbar and give the team in light blue its fifth run of the game.
Despite looking unhittable over his last four starts on the mound for the Tar Heels, Hunter Williams couldn’t hold onto the big lead against the toughest lineup he’s faced this year. Wilmington scored three runs in the bottom of the third to close the gap to one–ending Williams’ day after just 2.2 innings, with the big man striking out three, walking three, and being credited with earned runs for all four of the Seahawks’ tallies.
And in the very next inning, UNC-W catcher Gavin Stupienski got the better of Carolina’s top reliever, senior Trevor Kelley, for a game-tying RBI single to make it a whole new ball-game in the blink of an eye.
From then on, though, the bullpens for both sides settled down immensely.
UNC’s relief duo consisting of freshman Hansen Butler and sophomore lefty Zach Rice surrendered just four hits combined and held the Seahawks scoreless over the next 4.1 innings, while the Tar Heel offense also fell flat–getting just two hits and no runs over the final six regulation frames, ensuring the fans in Wilmington would see some extra baseball.
As both teams continued to put up zeros in the score column, drama ensued in the top of the 11th, when Skye Bolt was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double–ultimately resulting in some arguing, and the ejection of coach Mike Fox.
Despite not scoring in the 11th, the Tar Heels were granted another opportunity in the 12th–resulting in the game winning balk. They were put in the position thanks to the fantastic effort in relief from Thornton, who came on with one out in the tenth, and did not allow a hit the rest of the way, striking out three Seahawks on his way to the victory.
The Diamond Heels return home this weekend as ACC play winds down in 2015, with the Boston College Eagles visiting Boshamer Stadium for a three game series beginning on Friday at 6:30 p.m.
Bacon wasn’t the only thing sizzling on Tuesday night at Boshamer Stadium.
Junior catcher Korey Dunbar homered, racked up three RBI, and scored twice himself–on his birthday–to lead the #23 UNC baseball team to a 8-3 win over the tough Campbell Fightin’ Camels as the Carolina marketing department drew fans out to the field with promises of “special bacon related concession items”.
“I smelled bacon when I was throwing BP, and that’s not what you want to smell when you’re throwing batting practice, so I might not have a piece of bacon for another couple months,” UNC head baseball coach Mike Fox says with a smile.
The Tar Heels improve to 25-15 with their second win in a row, while sending the Camels to their sixth consecutive loss, dropping the visitors to 25-16 on the year, proving that the bacon was not a distraction once the first pitch was thrown.
Tyler Ramirez also homered, and went 3-5 with an RBI, to help a Tar Heel team that had to rally from behind two separate times before finally distancing themselves in the final innings.
Campbell actually took the lead right out of the gate, as they legged out three infield hits against Carolina starter Benton Moss in the top of the first inning–capped off by first baseman Kyle Leady’s RBI single, which scored Cedric Mullins, who stole third base beforehand to set up the run.
That lead did not last very long, however, due to Camels’ starting pitcher Heath Bowers (6-4) struggling to find the strike zone.
Four walks and a balk by Bowers in the Tar Heels’ first turn at the plate was all it took to get home team on the right side of the scoreboard. Catcher Korey Dunbar crossed home on Bowers’ balk to tie it up, before Skye Bolt drew a bases loaded walk to put UNC ahead, despite getting just one hit (a single from Tyler Ramirez).
The Camels tied the game in the top of the third on a successful steal of home plate by catcher Steven Leonard, which happened because Moss had runners on first and third base, and Cedric Mullins took off for second base, prompting Korey Dunbar to throw across the diamond. After the throw was made, Leonard then bolted home to tie it up.
While the Carolina offense continued to have problems at the plate early on, the Camels kept finding ways to get hits at key moments. A double down the left-field line by right-fielder Cole Hallum with two outs in the fifth brought Cedric Mullins home, to put control of the game back in the visitor’s dugout.
Hallum was also the last batter that Benton Moss would face for the night, as Coach Fox made the move to the one other senior on his roster, reliever Trevor Kelley (4-1). For the night Moss would finish at 4.2 innings, striking out just two batters, while surrendering eight hits and three runs (two earned) on 78 pitches.
Again, though, the Camels could not hold onto the lead against a determined Tar Heel bunch–with the boys in light blue striking for four tallies in their half of the fifth, showing off the ability they have to rally from behind.
A lead-off double from Landon Lassiter, followed by Tyler Ramirez’s second base-hit of the night, chased Heath Bowers back to the dugout, and put the game in the hands of the Camel bullpen.
Senior reliever Coley Thompkins was supposed to be the solution for Campbell, but instead he allowed three consecutive RBI doubles to Korey Dunbar, Joe Dudek, and Skye Bolt to let the Tar Heels take a three run lead (Dunbar’s hit drove home both Lassiter and Ramirez).
“It was good to see us have a big inning, we needed it.” says Coach Fox, “We haven’t had an inning like that in a while. [Pitching] Coach [Scott] Forbes said ‘Do you wanna play for the big inning?’, and I was like ‘A big inning for us recently has been two runs’, so it was nice to see us have a big one.”
The birthday boy, Dunbar, struck again in the next frame, drilling a pitch from Campbell’s Bobby Thorson over the fence in right center-field to give Trevor Kelley an even bigger cushion to work with.
In case that wasn’t enough, the Tar Heels got another homer in the bottom of the eighth, this one from Tyler Ramirez, to twist the dagger in Campbell’s victory hopes.
All that was needed at that point was a clean ninth inning from Kelley, who came through, closing the game out with 4.1 scoreless innings after taking over for Moss.
“It’s cool, I mean it’s cool any day, it just happened to be on my birthday I guess,” says the soft-spoken Dunbar about his big night, adding that “I can’t take all the credit. Trevor [Kelley] goes out and Benton Moss, and they throw great innings for us, and then we got contributions from [Tyler Ramirez], and a whole bunch of other guys hit the ball well. It was a team effort.”
The Tar Heels will travel down to Wilmington on Wednesday for a top 25 match-up with the #22 UNCW Seahawks, who held a 28-8 record entering the week. On the mound for Carolina will be freshman lefty Hunter Williams (4-1, 1.14 ERA), who will take on Wilmington junior Evan Phillips (1-1, 5.96 ERA).
After a surprise series split with Virginia Tech this past weekend, the #23 Diamond Heels return home to Boshamer Stadium with a 24-15 record, which will be put on the line Tuesday for an in-state showdown with the 25-15 Campbell Fightin’ Camels.
Uncharacteristic struggles by UNC starting pitchers Zac Gallen and JB Bukauskas in Blacksburg almost cost Carolina a pair of crucial ACC wins against the Hokies, however the offense fought back for a tight victory on Saturday to position the Tar Heels in sole possession of second place in the ACC’s Coastal Division–also ensuring that head coach Mike Fox would not lose a series to Virginia Tech for the first time in his illustrious career.
Gallen, who threw a complete game the week before at home against NC State, allowed six runs in six innings against the Hokies on Friday, while Bukauskas, a freshman, hadn’t had a start go less than 4.2 innings in his entire career before Saturday, when he lasted just two innings and gave up seven runs.
During recent mid-week games, though, the Carolina starting pitching has been lights out behind the left arm of freshman Hunter Williams. Over his last four starts, all during the middle of the week, Williams has thrown 24 innings, allowing just two runs and 10 hits combined.
If Williams is on the mound Tuesday night against the Camels, he’ll take on a team that has had great success throughout the season, but also one that is mired in the midst of a five game losing streak.
Campbell split two games with Virginia Tech back in February, and can also claim a road victory at Duke on March 31st, showing they’re capable of defeating ACC competition.
The main threat to the Tar Heels is the Camels’ junior outfielder Cole Hallum, who has 10 home runs and 34 RBI this year, while also picking up seven saves as the team’s closer. This high level of play earned Hallum National Player of the Week honors earlier in the year for his performance during the week of March 16.
First pitch is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday. The starting pitchers have yet to be announced.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/diamond-heels-tested-tough-campbell-squad/
Brian Miller’s sacrifice fly in the top of the eighth inning broke a 10-10 tie, and helped the #23 Tar Heel baseball team pick up a wild 11-10 win over the Virginia Tech Hokies on Saturday afternoon in Blacksburg, Virginia.
Carolina moves to 24-15 on the season, with an even 10-10 mark in the ACC, while the loss sends the Hokies back to 19-21 overall and 8-12 in the conference.
On a day that included three bases loaded hit-by-pitches, four multiple run rallies, 14 walks, and saw neither starting pitcher make it longer than two innings, UNC held on at the end thanks to Miller’s sac fly and a strong 4.1 inning relief performance from Trent Thornton (2-4).
Like a young kid on a swing-set, this game was back and forth all day long.
In a rather bizarre turn of events, the Tar Heels scored four runs in the top of the first inning without even getting a hit against Virginia Tech starting pitcher Jon Woodcock. After getting the UNC lead-off man, Miller, to fly-out to begin the game, Woodcock walked the next five men he faced, and then hit the sixth–allowing Skye Bolt, Landon Lassiter, and Tyler Ramirez to come all the way around and score.
Woodcock was then done for the day after picking up just one out, with the junior credited with a fourth earned run in the frame when Carolina freshman shortstop Logan Warmoth hit a sacrifice fly off his replacement, Chris Monaco.
The Hokies were not rattled though, as they answered back immediately against super freshman JB Bukauskas with four runs of their own.
Four of their first five batters reached base against Bukauskas, with left-fielder Erik Payne’s two-run single cutting the lead in half, before first baseman Brendon Hayden’s second two-run homer in as many days erased the whole thing, making it a whole new ball-game tied at four apiece–after just one inning.
Crazily enough, the teams each tacked on a few more runs in the third in similar fashion, with the Hokies eventually snatching the lead and chasing Bukauskas from the game.
In Carolina’s turn at the plate Chris Monaco hit Tyler Ramirez with a pitch, allowed a single to Korey Dunbar, and walked Joe Dudek–all with the bases loaded–to put the UNC small-ball attack in business.
Second baseman Eli Sutherland hit a sacrifice fly to bring home Ramirez, and then Dunbar scored on a sacrifice bunt by Logan Warmoth, because of a fielding error on Virginia Tech catcher Andrew Mogg at home plate, putting the Tar Heels back in front– even though they had amassed their six runs with just one hit.
But the Brendon Hayden show was not done yet, as the 6’6″ senior out of Twin Lakes, Wisconsin followed a pair of no-out walks with a game-tying two-run double. Hayden would then score to put his team ahead on another RBI double, this one by designated hitter Sean Keselica.
Seven runs was enough for UNC head coach Mike Fox to end the shakiest start of Bukauskas’ young career after just two innings.
He replaced the freshman with his go-to relief man, senior Trevor Kelley, who allowed another run to cross the plate before getting out of the inning– on a controversial bases loaded hit-by-pitch call, which ended up getting Coach Fox ejected from the game, after Fox unsuccessfully argued that Tech’s Mac Caples was not hit, but actually tipped the ball foul.
So of course, the Tar Heels went ahead and put together a rally for their leader.
Loading the bases in the top of the fifth with no outs, Carolina got one run back on Skye Bolt’s ground-out, and then followed up with a two-run single to left-field by Landon Lassiter. The inning wasn’t done until the Tar Heels scored a fourth time after Eli Sutherland was plunked by reliever Luke Scherzer (1-3) for the third bases loaded hit-by-pitch of the game, swinging momentum back into the visiting dugout yet again.
The Hokies got one run back in their next time at the plate, when center-fielder Saige Jenco drove in a run to make it 10-9, but that play spurred the Tar Heels to pull Trevor Kelley in favor of Trent Thornton, who put an end to the fifth with UNC still ahead.
Keeping with the theme of the game though, Virginia Tech made sure to tie the game against Thornton in the bottom of the sixth on Sean Keselica’s second RBI of the day–making it an outrageous 10-10 tie entering the seventh inning stretch.
Finally though, the game would be decided, when Eli Sutherland doubled off Scherzer to lead off the Tar Heels’ eighth inning effort, and later scored on Miller’s sacrifice fly, while Thornton settled down after the sixth to pitch three straight scoreless innings to keep the Hokies offense at bay the rest of the game–earning a crucial win for his team–and avoiding the first series loss to Virginia Tech since Mike Fox took over as head coach in 1999.
The series rubber match is scheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m, with Carolina senior Benton Moss (5-0, 3.25 ERA) set to take the mound. Virginia Tech’s starting pitcher is yet to be announced. The game will be shown on ESPN3 and broadcast live on WCHL.
On the strength of a five-run sixth inning, the Virginia Tech Hokies rallied to defeat the #23 UNC baseball team by a score of 8-3 on Friday night for a surprise upset victory in Blacksburg, Virginia at English Field.
Coming into the game, UNC head coach Mike Fox boasted a 27-1 record all-time against Virginia Tech, but on this night the Hokies’ huge inning gave them their elusive second victory against Fox. Their last win over Carolina came in 2007.
The Tar Heels fall below .500 in the ACC with the loss, dropping to 9-10 in the conference, while their overall record slips to 23-15. Virginia Tech jumps to 8-11 in the league and 19-20 in total after the big win.
Trailing 2-1 entering the bottom of the sixth, the Hokies struggled to string together hits against UNC starting pitcher Zac Gallen (2-3) through the first half of the proceedings–but everything changed when shortstop Alex Perez stepped to the plate to lead things off.
Perez hit a solo shot to tie the game, giving new life to the Virginia Tech dugout.
Then the floodgates opened up.
Erik Payne singled in the next at-bat, before immediately coming home on a home run by first baseman Brendon Hayden. When Sean Keselica singled to mark the fourth consecutive hit for the Hokies, Gallen’s outing was done.
Coach Fox turned to his NCAA leader in relief appearances, senior Trevor Kelley, to try and get out of the inning without any more damage, but two wild pitches by Kelley, along with an RBI single by third baseman Ryan Tufts, led to two more Hokie runs–with the Tar Heels all of a sudden finding themselves in a four-run hole.
Leading the charge for UNC on offense was junior left-fielder Landon Lassiter, who went 3-5, with an RBI triple in the top of the seventh, which scored Skye Bolt and brought Carolina back within three.
However, that was as close as they would get the rest of the way.
A two-run double by the Hokies’ second baseman Sam Fragale off of UNC reliever Spencer Trayner in the bottom of the seventh increased the lead to five, where it would stay until the finish.
Two scoreless innings from Luke Scherzer and Aaron McGarity kept the Tar Heels from putting up a late game fight, allowing singles to Brian Miller and Skye Bolt, but nothing more–sealing the upset win for the home team.
Carolina gets a chance at redemption in Game Two of the series on Saturday, as they’ll send freshman phenom JB Bukauskas (3-1, 2.68 ERA) to the mound to face off with Virginia Tech left-hander Jon Woodcock (2-2, 3.66 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on WCHL’s airwaves.
As one of five teams tied at 9-9 in the ACC, the UNC baseball team hopes to distance itself from the crowd this weekend, heading to Virginia Tech to face the Hokies in an important three-game conference series.
Overall, the Tar Heels are 23-14 this season, while Virginia Tech is 18-20, with a 7-11 mark in league play.
The Tar Heels sit tied for second in the ACC Coastal Division with Georgia Tech, while Wake Forest, Clemson, and Notre Dame are all tied for third in the Atlantic division.
As tight as the standings are, that’s not the main focus for UNC head coach Mike Fox.
“We don’t focus on any of that. We don’t put the standings up [in the clubhouse], we don’t put the statistics up there, [the players] have all that stuff if they want it,” Fox says.
“But they’re silly if they start looking at all of that, we’ve just gotta get better as a team game by game, and do what we can to play a little bit better.”
Sophomore first baseman Joe Dudek shares similar thoughts when he says that it’s all about keeping a focused mindset in a league as competitive as the ACC.
“We understand how competitive this league is, and having to go out there and be focused every pitch, from the first one to the last one, is important,” says Dudek.
“I think we have good focus. As long as we keep doing the little things right, I think we’ll win some games.”
Although UNC has won six of its last seven games, and three of its last four in the conference, Coach Fox still sees one glaring problem that needs to be fixed as the games gain more significance from here on out.
“The frustrating thing is we just don’t move the ball as much as we need to,” says Fox, “Strikeouts are strikeouts, they happen, but we seem to strikeout a lot with people in scoring position.”
For them to improve, Fox says his hitters can’t rely on just one player to do all the heavy lifting.
“We can’t rely on one or two guys in our lineup. We’ve gotta have some production from the bottom of the order. We’ve been really streaky offensively. Guys get hot and then they go in the other direction,” Coach says.
“Our freshmen are really facing that time of the year where I don’t know whether they’re tired, or if they’re pressing a little bit. Other teams watch and know your weaknesses, and you have to make adjustments. So we’ll have to get those guys going.”
Freshmen infielders Logan Warmoth and Zack Gahagan started off the year hot enough to where Coach Fox was hitting them in the number three and four spots in the batting order as recently as March 28th at home against #10 Miami. But recent struggles have pushed Warmoth (.254, 1 HR, 18 RBI) into the ninth, and final, spot in the order, while Gahagan (.239, 2 HR, 27 RBI) has been hitting fifth.
The man who’s had the hot bat for UNC recently, though, is Joe Dudek, with a .317 batting average, and a team-leading slugging percentage of .585–including going 4-9 with two RBI in his last three games. Dudek says he’s confident that this team has the right attributes to make a run late in the season.
“I think this team’s got a lot of fight,” Dudek says, “We’re a gritty team. I think this month is just gonna show. We’ve been putting it together–haven’t had exactly the results we were looking for in some games, couple tough losses here and there–but I think it’s all coming together well, and I think it’s gonna translate into a lot of wins down the stretch.”
Unfortunately, Carolina’s bullpen took a hit on Tuesday when it was announced that junior reliever Reilly Hovis, the 2014 closer, will miss the rest of the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, putting even more pressure on senior Trevor Kelley (the NCAA leader in relief appearances with 26) to continue carrying the load, says Coach Fox.
“[Kelley’s] been invaluable for us because he’s pitched well, but also because our bullpen’s somewhat kinda been in flux, and hasn’t been as deep as we want it to be, and need it to be, so we’ve used him probably more than we would have liked to have.”
Zac Gallen (2-2, 2.92 ERA) will make the start for the Tar Heels on Friday against the Hokies’ Kit Scheetz (1-1, 6.31 ERA), with first pitch set for 5:30 p.m.
Reilly Hovis, a junior reliever for the UNC baseball team, has been declared out for the remainder of the 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery Tuesday morning to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow.
Hovis, a native of Gastonia, North Carolina served as the team’s closer last year and was named to the All-ACC first team as a relief pitcher. He was credited with a team-high nine wins in 2014, while also picking up six saves. On top of that, he also struck out 81 hitters in just 64 innings, finishing the year with a 2.25 ERA.
Those numbers were good enough to earn Hovis a spot as a third-team Preseason All-American reliever for 2015, but after struggling mightily in his only two appearances of this year, allowing six runs in just three innings pitched, it was clear there might have been something wrong.
Head coach Mike Fox had hoped to have Hovis return at some point during this year to help out a bullpen that has struggled to find production from anyone other than senior Trevor Kelley and junior Trent Thornton, but that dream has gone out the window with this news.
The surgery was performed by the world famous Dr. James Andrews, and it typically requires at least 12 months of recovery time.
In related news, the Tar Heels’ game against UNC-Asheville, which was originally scheduled for 6 p.m. at Boshamer Stadium on Wednesday, has been canceled due to heavy rain in the forecast. No makeup date has been announced. Next up, Carolina will travel to Blacksburg, Virginia this weekend for a three-game ACC series with Virginia Tech.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-reliever-reilly-hovis-has-tommy-john-surgery-out-for-season/