Flames Extinguished by UNC Baseball

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Up Next:

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

Game Notes:

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



UNC Baseball Falls Flat in Finale vs. Rhode Island

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Up Next:

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

Game Notes:

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





Tar Heels Sweep Double-Header Against Rhode Island

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

Game One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game Two

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s how it would finish.

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

Next Up:

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

Notes From the Day:

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






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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


UNC Baseball Game Against Winthrop Canceled

The 4-2, 11th ranked , UNC baseball team’s home game against the 3-3 Winthrop Eagles has been canceled. Winter weather conditions forced the cancellation of Tuesday’s match-up with St. John’s.

There will be no rescheduling of the St. John’s game. This is five consecutive home games to be altered due to winter weather.


Diamond Heels Look to Bounce Back Against St. John’s

After returning home from Orlando early Monday morning, the No. 11 Tar Heel baseball team is going right back to work; putting their 4-2 record on the line, welcoming the 3-3 St. John’s Red Storm to Boshamer Stadium for a game that will start Tuesday at 3 p.m.

UNC looks to recover after dropping two out of three to No. 4 UCLA this past weekend, needing a better performance from the pitching staff after the Bruins scored at least six runs in each contest against the Tar Heels.

Sophomore right-fielder Tyler Ramirez has led the way on offense for Carolina so far in this young season, posting team highs with two home runs, seven RBI, and an impressive .500 on-base percentage.

St. John’s is coming off a weekend tournament in Greenville, North Carolina, where it went 2-1, losing to East Carolina in the finale on Sunday. The Red Storm have not played at home in frigid New York yet this season (and aren’t scheduled to until March 14th).

Starting pitchers for Tuesday’s game have yet to be announced.


UCLA Offense Too Much for UNC in Series Clincher

Third baseman Chris Keck drove in four runs to lead the #4 UCLA Bruins to a 12-4 victory in the rubber match of their three game set with the #6 Diamond Heels Sunday afternoon in Orlando, leading an offense that pounded out 16 hits. The win in this early season test improves the Bruins to 6-1 and drops UNC to a record of 4-2.

Top-flight pitching was expected to be the strength of both teams heading into the season. Runs were supposed to come at a premium. But you wouldn’t know it from seeing the results of this series. The first two games were sloppy, taking close to four hours to complete, featuring 17 combined errors, and plenty of runs, 28 to be exact.

Today would be no different, with three more errors, 16 more runs, and a game that crept the four hour mark.

Scoring began in the top of the third with the Bruins stringing together four consecutive hits off Tar Heel freshman starter JB Bukauskas. A line drive by left-fielder Ty Moore, batting .548 on the season, struck Bukauskas on the heel and got through the middle, scoring shortstop Kevin Kramer and giving UCLA the first lead of the game.

JB Bukauskas went 4.2 innings, striking out five, and allowing five earned runs. (UNC Athletics)

JB Bukauskas went 4.2 innings, striking out five, and allowing five earned runs. (UNC Athletics)

Pitching coach Scott Forbes came out to the mound to check on his starter, but Bukauskas was okay to stay in. Still with no outs in the inning, he came back to face Keck, who promptly smashed a double down the left field line, driving in two runs and extending the lead to three. Luckily for Carolina, the freshman regained his composure and retired the next three batters up, including two swinging strikeouts, to escape the jam.

He would increase that streak to seven, going three up, three down, in the fourth, and getting Bruin first baseman Luke Persico to pop out to begin the fifth, before running into trouble again. Ty Moore doubled down the right field line, catcher Darrell Miller Jr. reached first after being hit by a pitch, and right-fielder Kort Peterson hit a two-bagger that brought Moore home, ending the day for Bukauskas (1-1).

Sophomore Zac Gallen replaced UNC’s young flame-thrower and completed the inning, however, he inherited two base-runners that would each score on designated hitter Sean Bouchard’s single, increasing the Tar Heels’ deficit to 6-0.

UCLA junior Cody Poteet was fantastic, throwing five innings on his way to the win. (Baseball America

UCLA junior Cody Poteet was fantastic, throwing five innings on his way to the win. (Baseball America)

Carolina put a runner in scoring position in each of the first three innings, but failed to break through on Bruins’ junior right-hander Cody Poteet (2-0) until their turn in the bottom of the fifth. Korey Dunbar scored after a two-out throwing error by UCLA second baseman Trent Chatterton kept the inning alive, and allowed Skye Bolt to reach first. Poteet then issued three consecutive walks to Tyler Ramirez, Adrian Chacon, and Alex Raburn that pulled UNC within four.

The junior was credited with the win after five strong innings. He struck out three, and both runs he allowed were unearned, shrinking his ERA to 1.64 on the season.

Bruin bats added another run in the top of the sixth; Keck knocking in his third RBI of the day with a single off of Tar Heel freshman lefty Hunter Williams.

But the Tar Heels had a response ready for the UCLA bullpen, getting a run back in the bottom of the frame on an RBI base hit from Skye Bolt, and another in the seventh, delivered by pinch-hitter Brian Miller, the freshman out of Millbrook High School in Raleigh (his second straight game with an RBI off the bench).

They just couldn’t keep up over the long haul with a Bruin squad that clearly has an offense dangerous enough to match their vaunted pitching staff. They plated five more runs over the eighth and ninth, proving to be too much for UNC.

UCLA’s bullpen also tightened things up, closing it out with back-to-back scoreless innings, keeping the Tar Heels from mounting a comeback.

Winning the series certainly qualifies the Bruins as contenders to reach the College World Series in Omaha, while Carolina earns some valuable experience that can be drawn upon going forward, as they try to do the same thing.

The Tar Heels’ next game is scheduled for Tuesday, February 24th, against St. Johns at Boshamer Stadium in Chapel Hill. Starters have not yet been announced.

Game Notes:

  • UNC 1B/C Adrian Chacon, who went 1-4 with a walk on Sunday, has reached base in every game this season
  • Ty Moore’s RBI in the third was the first earned run allowed in college by JB Bukauskas (5 IP, 0 ER last week)
  • Tyler Ramirez, Carolina’s home run leader, went 1-1 and walked four times today
  • The Tar Heels went a combined 2-25 with runners in scoring position in their two losses, 9-22 in the win



#6 UNC Strikes Back in Game 2 to Even Series With #4 UCLA

A burst of late offense led the #6 UNC baseball team (4-1) to a 9-6 victory in another back-and-forth affair with the #4 UCLA Bruins (5-1) in the second game of their top-ten showdown on Saturday. The game marks the Bruins’ first loss of the season.

Fans in Orlando were treated to a pitchers’ duel at the start, between UNC’s Trent Thornton and UCLA’s lefty Grant Watson, as both offenses desperately searched for answers early on.

Trent Thornton began the game with five scoreless innings. (UNC Athletics)

Trent Thornton began the game with five scoreless innings. (UNC Athletics)

Thornton opened the game with five scoreless innings, settling down after giving up two hits in the first, retiring nine hitters in a row at one point, until getting himself in a tough situation in the sixth. He finished with six strikeouts and allowed three earned runs (all in the sixth), while throwing 5.1 innings for Carolina.

Watson matched that initial effort pitch for pitch, keeping the Tar Heels out of the hit column for three innings, until sophomore shortstop Wood Myers finally broke through with a double to lead off the fourth.

A follow-up walk to Tyler Ramirez gave the UNC dugout a sign of life, before Bruins’ center-fielder Christoph Bono sprawled out for an amazing diving catch that kept Tar Heel first baseman Adrian Chacon from potentially driving Myers home. Next at the plate, though, was second baseman Alex Raburn, who lined a two-out RBI single to left center-field, scoring Myers and giving Carolina a 1-0 lead through four.

Shortstop Wood Myers led the Tar Heel offense Saturday (UNC Athletics)

Shortstop Wood Myers led the Tar Heel offense Saturday, going 3-5 (UNC Athletics)

With the Tar Heels seemingly on the way to being victims of yet another Watson 1-2-3 inning, in the bottom of the fifth, Landon Lassiter and Myers each singled with two outs, setting the table for Skye Bolt, who brought home Lassiter with a hit that bounced over the head of UCLA shortstop Kevin Kramer. Carolina went ahead 3-0 on the next at-bat after a fielding error by Bruin first baseman Luke Persico allowed Wood Myers to come home, and Tyler Ramirez to reach base.

This rally would spell the end of the road for the senior lefty, as Watson would be done after five innings and 90 pitches, giving up five hits, walking two, and striking out just one Tar Heel batter.

The 2013 NCAA Champions would rise to the challenge though, and then some, pouncing on Thornton in the top of the sixth for two runs. Christoph Bono scored on a wild pitch and Persico doubled home Kramer to end the day for the junior right-hander.

Coach Mike Fox would bring in his All-American reliever, Reilly Hovis, to try and escape the one-out jam, but the early struggles for Hovis would continue, initially.

After Seton Hall tagged the righty for four runs in the ninth inning, with the game out of reach, last Sunday in Chapel Hill, UCLA designated hitter Ty Moore immediately drove in Persico to tie the game at three. Second baseman Sean Bouchard then got in on the act with an RBI single through the left side, putting the Bruins in front by one.

UNC’s offense continued to shine late in the game, snatching the lead back by scoring two runs off of UCLA reliever Griffin Canning right away, in the bottom of the sixth. Alex Raburn scored on a double by freshman pinch-hitter Brian Miller, and Logan Warmoth came home courtesy of a sacrifice fly from Landon Lassiter.

Freshman Logan Warmoth continues to impress at third. (UNC Athletics)

Freshman Logan Warmoth continues to impress at third. (UNC Athletics)

Hovis remained on the mound to start the seventh, showing the Tar Heel faithful what they’ve come to expect, sitting the Bruins down in order in the top of the frame.  He would also be credited with the win (1-0) for his efforts.

In the Carolina half of the seventh, UNC was able to manufacture scoring yet again, this time off the bats of freshman roommates Warmoth (RBI single, his second base hit of the game) and first baseman Zack Gahagan (single up the middle for two RBI in his first at-bat off the bench).

UCLA tacked on two runs in the top of the eighth, but a wild pitch in the bottom of the inning by reliever Scott Burke let Tyler Ramirez cross the plate and extend the UNC lead to 9-6.

With one final opportunity to tie the game in the ninth against Tar Heel reliever Chris McCue, the Bruins were able to get a couple runners on base, thanks to two errors in the field by UNC.

Clinging to the lead, Coach Fox called to the bullpen for lefty Zach Rice to deliver the final out, and the save. And he did, when Bruin third baseman Chris Keck flew out two pitches later to end the game.

The rubber match will take place Sunday morning, with first pitch coming at 11 A.M. UNC will send freshman sensation JB Bukauskas to the mound to face off with UCLA junior right-hander Cody Poteet.

Game Notes: 

  • UCLA batted around in the top of the sixth
  • UNC batted 9-22 with runners in scoring position today, after a dismal 0-8 performance Friday
  • Both teams have combined for 17 errors in two games (each team had three today)
  • The Tar Heels had 12 hits, distributed among nine different players, led by Wood Myers (3-5) and Logan Warmoth (2-4, RBI)



Errors Cost Tar Heels Game 1 of Showdown With UCLA

The UCLA Bruins, ranked fourth in the most recent D1Baseball.com Top 25 Poll, triumphed over the #6 Tar Heels 8-5 Friday, in their highly anticipated series opener being held in Orlando, Florida at UCF’s Jay Bergman Field. The win brings the Bruins’ record to 5-0, and the Tar Heels earn their first loss of the season, dropping to 3-1.

Action would go back and forth in the early going, and for the third consecutive game the Tar Heels dug themselves a 1-0 hole in the top of the first, after starter Benton Moss allowed singles to the first three batters he faced. The third, by UCLA first baseman Luke Persico, driving in lead-off man Brett Stephens. However, Moss was able to escape the early jam by striking out the next three hitters.

Again, though, UNC would recover quickly. Sophomore Tyler Ramirez continued to show the improvement in his power swing, kicking off the bottom of the second with a home run to right field on the first pitch he saw from Bruin right-hander James Kaprielian. In this, just the fourth game of the year for the Tar Heels, Ramirez’s second homer matches his long ball count from all of last season.

Tyler Ramirez homered again Friday, matching his total from last year (2). (UNC Athletics)

Tyler Ramirez homered again Friday, matching his total from last year (2). (UNC Athletics)

In the top of the third, following two wild pitches from Moss, Persico, who led the Bruin offense all day, going 3-6 with two RBI, singled in Stevens for a second time, giving UCLA a 2-1 lead . Carolina would answer immediately, on a two-out solo shot by Skye Bolt in the bottom of the frame.

Stuck in yet another hole, with two men on base, and two outs in the top of the fourth, Coach Mike Fox would end Benton Moss’s day a bit early after the senior threw 82 pitches in just 3.2 innings, giving up two earned runs. Moss was not credited with a decision and added seven more strikeouts to his impressive tally for the year, which is now at 16 in just 8.2 innings of work.

Coach Fox would then turn to the lefty Zach Rice, looking for a favorable match-up with a UCLA lineup that features six left-handed hitters. Rice slammed the door in the fourth inning, but allowed the Bruins to rattle off three straight two-out hits in the fifth, capped off by an RBI double from right-fielder Kort Peterson.

On a bizarre play in the bottom of the fifth with Skye Bolt at the plate and second baseman Alex Raburn on first, Bolt went for a check swing but ended up sending the ball down the left field line for what was ruled a double. However, the Bruins fielders mishandled the ball twice, allowing Bolt to reach third and Raburn to score, tying the score at 3-3.

The Bruins would get the last laugh on this day. (UCLA Athletics)

The Bruins would get the last laugh on this day. (UCLA Athletics)

Trouble arrived in the top of the sixth for the Tar Heels when a wild pitch from Spencer Trayner, UNC’s third of the game, handed the lead right back to the Bruins. Freshman Nick Raquet allowed two unearned runs in relief of Trayner (1-1), who picked up the loss. Catcher Adrian Chacon gave up the first on a passed ball, with the second coming on a throwing error by freshman Preston Hudak, who came into the game at second base prior to the inning.

Tar Heel third baseman Logan Warmoth, the freshman playing in his hometown, would score on an Alex Raburn sacrifice fly that shrank the UCLA lead to 6-4 in the bottom of the seventh, after hitting a single through the left side that ended the day for the Bruins’ starter, Kaprielian, who earned the win with a workmanlike performance (6 IP, 7 K, 3 ER, 0 BB).

The Bruins chalked up a run in the eighth and ninth innings, proving to have the upper hand on a UNC bullpen that used six relievers Friday, and has earned high praise so far this year.

UCLA closer, senior David Berg, who holds the NCAA single season saves record (24), struggled in the bottom of the ninth, allowing the Heels to get one run back, but ultimately ended up sealing the deal.

The second game will begin tomorrow at 1 P.M.  Trent Thornton will be on the mound for the Heels against UCLA lefty Grant Watson.

Game Notes:

  •  The teams combined for 11 errors on the day (six for UNC, five for UCLA)
  • UCLA left 16 men on base, in a game that took nearly four hours to complete
  • UNC’s Tyler Ramirez also homered in his first at-bat last Friday
  • Eight Tar Heels recorded a hit, but only Skye Bolt (2-4 HR, RBI ) and Wood Myers (2-4) got two
  • Carolina went 0-8 with runners in scoring position







Tar Heels Force Pirates to Walk the Plank

On a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon the 3-0, sixth ranked, Tar Heel baseball team hammered the Seton Hall Pirates (0-3) 10-4 in Game 1 of their doubleheader, followed by a 9-5 win in the second leg that completed a clean sweep of the series for UNC.

Early on in the first inning of the opener, it appeared that the Pirates would grab the momentum after first baseman Sal Annunziata’s two out double off of Benton Moss gave Seton Hall a 1-0 lead.

Although falling behind in the beginning of games was the Achilles Heel for the Tar Heels last year, that was certainly not the case on this day.

The offense immediately wrestled the lead away as soon as they got their chance in the bottom of the first, with catcher Adrian Chacon’s RBI single and an error by Seton Hall third baseman Kyle Grimm immediately handing the Tar Heels a 2-1 lead.

There was a bit of a scare in the top of the third inning, when Tar Heel starter Benton Moss inadvertently hit Pirate center-fielder Derek Jenkins in the face with a hard fastball.

“When you hit somebody in the face, that gets a little unsettling, just the way he got up, and then kind of buckled and fell was a little weird, but I think he’s doing okay, just had to get some stitches,” Moss says.

Jenkins would leave the game after spending a minute writhing in pain on the ground, and was replaced by Jackson Martin. However, Jenkins suffered no serious injuries, and was only kept out of Game 2 as a precaution.

The floodgates were opened up in the bottom half of the third as the Heels batted all the way through the order and scored seven runs on a flurry of base-hits and sacrifice plays. Skye Bolt’s sacrifice fly capped off the inning and left UNC with a 9-1 lead after three, ending the day for Pirate left-handed starter Anthony Elia.

It was a perfect example of what this team can look like running on all cylinders, as Adrian Chacon described the run by saying that “We were locked in, got a couple hits here and there, and we were able to scrap off a couple runs, and then once we got going again we were able to push off a few more.”

Skye Bolt showed extreme patience at the plate with two nine-pitch walks in Game 1. (UNC Athletics)

Skye Bolt showed extreme patience at the plate with two nine-pitch walks in Game 1. (UNC Athletics)

Moss came out dealing in mid-season form, striking out nine hitters on 88 pitches, while giving up just two earned runs in five innings of work.

From then on, it was smooth sailing for the Tar Heels in Game 1, as they rode the bullpen arms of Hunter Williams, Trevor Kelley, Brett Daniels, and Nick Raquet to close things out.

Logan Warmoth (2-4) and Adrian Chacon (3-4) led the balanced offensive attack, with each picking up two RBI in the day’s opener.

In Game 2, UNC again fell behind 1-0 in the first inning, on an unearned run, after Seton Hall lead off man Zack Weigel reached base on a throwing error by Tar Heel second baseman Alex Raburn, made it to 2nd on a base hit by Chris Chiaradio, stole 3rd, and finally scored on a ground out by Sal Annunziata.

Pitching stole center stage in the second act of the afternoon, with another Pirate lefty, Anthony Pacillo quieting the Tar Heel offense for the first three innings, before Joe Dudek’s double in the fourth drove in Adrian Chacon and Logan Warmoth, both of whom continued to impress.

Freshman JB Bukauskas brought the heat in Game 2. (UNC Athletics)

Freshman JB Bukauskas brought the heat in Game 2. (UNC Athletics)

Highly touted freshman JB Bukauskas showed fans why he’s received so much hype in the offseason, and why he earned a start in his first career college series, as he immediately unleashed fireballs on Seton Hall hitters that topped out at 97 miles per hour on the radar gun.

Bukauskas admitted he was nervous after allowing the first two hitters he faced to reach base, but says “I kind of hit a groove and settled in. I felt like the nerves kind of left me. It was just another game at that point.”

Any initial jitters he had quickly disappeared, as the freshman allowed no earned runs, only four hits in five innings, and earned all five of his strikeouts by making batters swing and miss, on the way to picking up the victory in his debut.

Coach Mike Fox had nothing but high praise for his young prodigy, saying that “it couldn’t have been scripted out any (more) perfect to get him five innings and eighty-something pitches. We weren’t going to let him throw over 90, so we didn’t see any reason to put him out there in the sixth inning. He just had a little tough luck there in the first.”

Once the sun began to go down, the bats woke up and went back to work for the Tar Heels. Tyler Ramirez’s single to right field with the bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth plated Korey Dunbar and Wood Myers, and gave UNC some breathing room. Over the next two innings, Landon Lassiter singled home Korey Dunbar, and Joe Dudek added another RBI to his tally for the game, making it 6-1 in favor of the Tar Heels.

The scoring continued all the way through the eighth with UNC tacking on three more, just to be safe.

Relievers Zac Gallen and Chris McCue combined to retire each batter they faced in the three innings they pitched (2 for Gallen, 1 for McCue) after coming in the game for Bukauskus following the fifth frame. Closer Reilly Hovis came on to pitch the ninth with the game out of reach, however he looked shaky in his first appearance of the year, allowing four runs before finally shutting the door with back-to-back strikeouts.

The two wins on the day improved Carolina’s all-time record against Seton Hall to 58-11.

Fourth-ranked UCLA is next on the docket for the Tar Heels, as the Bruins make the cross-country trip from Los Angeles to Chapel Hill for a three game series beginning on Friday, February 20th.