As they await their NCAA Tournament fate after missing out on this week’s ACC Tournament, the UNC baseball team received some good news on Monday.
Three Tar Heels were selected to All-ACC teams, while sophomore shortstop Logan Warmoth was named the conference’s Player of the Week after going 9-for-20 with a home run and eight RBIs in UNC’s last four games.
JB Bukauskas, a sophomore starting pitcher, and Tyler Ramirez, a junior center fielder, were each named to the All-ACC second team.
UNC’s Friday night ace–junior Zac Gallen–rounded out the team’s all-conference selections with a spot on the All-ACC third team.
No Tar Heel was on the first team.
Despite closing the year strong, Warmoth didn’t quite make the cut for any of the All-Conference teams, but he showed great potential heading into his junior year–flashing a great glove at shortstop and leading the team with 53 RBIs.
Ramirez was arguably the most consistent Tar Heel all season–both offensively and defensively.
The native of Suffolk, Virginia hit .333 during the season with eight home runs and 47 RBIs, while also making a number of highlight plays in the outfield.
Gallen, a crafty starter with great control–posted a 5-6 record with 91 strikeouts and a 2.68 ERA in 13 starts. His win-loss record suffered mainly due to a lack of run support during the latter half of the year.
Both Ramirez and Gallen, as juniors, are expected to be selected in June’s MLB Draft–meaning they may have already played their final games as Tar Heels should the team miss the NCAA Tournament.
Bukauskas, however, just finished his sophomore season having established himself as one of the league’s most dominant starters.
His 97 mph fastball–mixed with a devastating 88 mph slider–helped him pick up an ACC-leading 111 strikeouts while having a 7-2 record and a 3.10 ERA.
Next season’s edition of the Diamond Heels will likely feature Bukauskas and Warmoth as centerpieces, as the team looks to return to the ACC success that had become commonplace over the last decade.
The results across the ACC baseball landscape this weekend–including UNC’s 16-4 destruction of NC State on Friday–put the Tar Heels into a simple predicament.
A win Saturday at Doak Field would guarantee UNC’s entry into next week’s conference tournament in Durham.
Well, then the Tar Heels (34-21, 13-17 ACC) would need Georgia Tech to win at least once during its double-header against Boston College.
Unfortunately for head coach Mike Fox and his squad, the No. 13 Wolfpack (34-18, 15-13 ACC) were out for vengeance–clinching the series with a 10-1 blowout they can call their own.
Boston College also defeated the Yellow Jackets in both games of the all-important doubleheader in Atlanta.
So for the first time since 2010, the Tar Heels failed to qualify for the ACC Tournament.
Back in Raleigh, though, The Wolfpack received great pitching from each of the four players it used on the mound.
An outstanding start from lefty Ryan Williamson–five strikeouts across 3.1 innings–set the tone, as UNC never once got in a rhythm at the plate–even after Williamson was suddenly removed during the fourth inning .
Junior outfielder Adam Pate went 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI for the Tar Heels, which accounted for half of the team’s six hits.
Those struggles continued over to the pitching for UNC, as right-hander Jason Morgan started and gave up three runs–including a two-run homer to Preston Palmeiro–in just three innings.
It was the eighth time in his last 10 starts Morgan failed to make it through five innings.
Finding the strike zone was a problem for the entire Tar Heel staff–all seven that they used throughout the game.
NC State took full advantage of the control issues, by drawing eight walks and scoring a majority of their runs because of them.
A wild pitch by Morgan in the bottom of the second inning allowed the first run to score, while reliever AJ Bogucki’s pitch hit Wolfpack second baseman Stephen Pitarra with the bases loaded in the fourth.
Similar issues continued into the sixth inning, as Hansen Butler walked Brett Kinneman on four pitches with the bags full to put NC State ahead 6-1.
Cole Aker, a Tar Heel freshman, managed to put the ball right over the plate in the seventh–only for NC State’s Evan Mendoza to put it over the wall in left-center field for a two-run blast.
The Wolfpack seemed perfectly content prolonging the beatdown, just as the Tar Heels were the night before–adding another run in the eighth inning on an RBI single from senior Ryne Willard.
By the end, UNC was left knowing that it no longer controlled its own destiny.
Although it’s been noted that the Tar Heels have a shot to sneak into the NCAA Tournament without making the ACC Tournament, advancing to Durham and winning a couple games would certainly improve their odds.
Now all they can do is wait and watch.
UNC’s regular season is complete, and because the Tar Heels didn’t make the ACC Tourney they’ll have to wait until next Monday to find out if their season will continue into the NCAA Regionals.
With their season hanging in the balance, the UNC baseball team played lights out Friday night at Doak Field in Raleigh.
A stadium power outage in the middle of the sixth inning delayed the game for 17 minutes–with the Tar Heels ahead 8-2–before their 16-4 blowout of the No. 13 NC State Wolfpack was finally completed.
The first four hitters in UNC’s lineup–Brian Miller, Logan Warmoth, Tyler Ramirez and Zack Gahagan–each had at least two RBIs, providing all the power the Tar Heels (34-20, 13-16 ACC) would need.
Warmoth in particular, though, was the standout performer–going 2-for-4 with a two-run homer in the fourth inning and a two-run double in the eighth.
In two games this series, the sophomore shortstop has gone 6-for-9 with seven RBIs.
JB Bukauskas (7-2) continued his stellar season on the mound for the Tar Heels, delivering six innings while adding nine strikeouts–giving him 111 on the year, good enough to lead the ACC.
After UNC opened up a 3-0 lead in the top of the first, Bukauskas had the benefit of pitching from ahead the entire time he was in the game.
The Wolfpack (33-18, 14-13 ACC) finally broke through against Bukauskas in the middle innings with a pair of two-run blasts–one by left fielder Brett Kinneman in the fourth and another by Preston Palmeiro in the sixth following the power outage.
By that point, however, NC State’s chances of coming back against a clearly motivated Tar Heel team were as dim as its stadium during that 17-minute delay.
UNC exploded for five runs in the top of the seventh, before adding two in the eighth and one more in the ninth–just to be safe.
It was a blowout of epic proportions, comparable to last November’s football game between the two Triangle rivals.
Head coach Larry Fedora’s Tar Heels jumped out to a 35-7 first quarter lead in Carter-Finley Stadium that day, then cruised to its 11th straight victory.
On each occasion, the Tar Heels had a number of reasons to leave Raleigh feeling quite good about themselves.
Not only did it clinch a big rivalry win Friday, a pair of losses by Notre Dame this weekend also moves UNC into position to finally clinch a berth in the ACC Tournament.
Should the Tar Heels win the series finale with NC State on Saturday–or if Boston College loses once during its double-header against Georgia Tech–they will be locked into the field of 10 that will play next week in Durham.
Some national writers, like Aaron Fitt of D1baseball.com, are saying that UNC may have already done enough to clinch a spot in the NCAA Tournament regardless of what happens.
UNC will be 13-16 after today; RPI currently No. 16. If UNC loses tomorrow, could still get in at 13-17 with that RPI. But 14-16 much safer.
— Aaron Fitt (@aaronfitt) May 21, 2016
A win Saturday would clinch bragging rights for the Tar Heels, however, and sometimes that means more.
The series rubber match between the Tar Heels and Wolfpack is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Saturday.
The UNC baseball team traveled to Raleigh on Thursday knowing it likely has to win at least two of its three games against No. 13 NC State to qualify for the ACC Tournament.
Round one, however, went to the team in red.
NC State put together back-to-back three-run innings in the sixth and seventh–then held off a furious Tar Heel rally in the ninth–to pull out a 6-4 victory at Doak Field.
The loss sends UNC to a record of 33-20 (12-16 ACC), while putting a damper on a career night for sophomore shortstop Logan Warmoth.
Warmoth went 4-for-5 with 3 RBIs, including a run-scoring single in the ninth inning–making him responsible for half of the Tar Heels’ eight hits in the game.
Zac Gallen–in what could have been his final collegiate start as UNC’s ace–got tagged for a season-high five earned runs over 6.1 innings.
He was outstanding for five innings, but the Wolfpack lineup simply took full advantage of a couple opportunities later in the game.
Trailing 2-0 entering the bottom of the sixth inning, NC State sophomore Stephen Pitarra doubled off of Gallen with one out–just the third hit of the night for the home team.
After Gallen sat Evan Mendoza down in the next at-bat, Preston Palmeiro, Joe Dunand and Brock Deatherage strung together three straight RBI hits–all with two outs.
Momentum followed NC State into the seventh, where it forced Gallen out of the game by getting men over to second and third base with just one out.
UNC reliever Brett Daniels entered the game, but immediately allowed Pitarra to kick-start the next big inning for the Wolfpack.
The local product from nearby Cary, NC singled home NC State’s fourth run–sending a 2-0 pitch from Daniels into center field.
Mendoza then hit a sacrifice fly, before Dunand later picked up his second RBI of the night with a two-out double to left.
Eight of the Wolfpack’s 10 hits came during that crucial two-inning span.
Not until the top of the ninth–their final chance–did the Tar Heels have any kind of answer.
Pinch-hitter Wyatt Cross walked to begin the frame, followed by a single from Cody Roberts.
The next man up, Brian Miller, brought Cross home with a single. Warmoth added his third RBI two batters later.
With the tying run on first base, and just one out, both Brandon Riley and Zack Gahagan grounded into fielder’s choices to end the game.
It’s safe to say that at this point–with just two regular season games remaining–the Tar Heels’ backs are clearly pressed against the wall.
How they respond could make all the difference.
Friday’s game is set to begin at 6:30 p.m. JB Bukauskas will be on the mound for the Tar Heels, facing off with NC State’s Brian Brown.
It all comes down to this for the UNC baseball team.
Three games in Raleigh against its fiercest rival—the No. 13 NC State Wolfpack—with its season on the line.
Currently sitting ninth in the tight ACC standings—tied with Duke and just one game ahead in the win column over Boston College and Notre Dame—the Tar Heels find themselves in a bit of a tricky position, able to finish anywhere between fifth and 13th.
The top 10 teams make the conference tournament, so if UNC (33-19, 12-15 ACC) was to end up on the outside looking in–its NCAA Tournament chances would likely go up in smoke as well.
Should the Tar Heels advance to postseason play, anything is possible given the unpredictable nature of baseball.
Their head coach, Mike Fox, reiterated that message in an email to his team this past Sunday.
“Everything’s still in play for us,” Fox said. “An ACC Tournament title, an NCAA bid, winning a regional—it’s all still in play for us.
“[The email] was just to remind them–it is what it is ,” the coach added. “We have to win.”
But here’s the thing.
Fox was adamant after Monday’s win over Notre Dame that his players don’t need any extra motivation this weekend—saying it’s always fun playing against the “ornery” Wolfpack and their head coach Elliott Avent, who will be making his return to the field after missing three games due to a copperhead bite.
UNC sophomore infielder Zack Gahagan admitted it can be hard to keep the blinders on at times–in terms of checking out the standings—but said he and his teammates will be up to the challenge.
“It’s the rivalry, so I mean we’re ready to go,” Gahagan said. “We try not to think too much about the standings and stuff like that, but obviously it’s there.
“But it’s NC State, and we’re gonna bring what we got,” he continued. “It’s gonna be hostile, but I think it’ll be a good series.”
To take care of business against the Wolfpack, the Tar Heels will have to stay calm at the plate in order to help their talented pitching staff.
Last Saturday, JB Bukauskas was brilliant on the mound, only for UNC’s offense to back him with just one run on three hits.
UNC freshman third baseman Kyle Datres, who went 3-for-4 with a home run on Monday, also acknowledged that the Tar Heels haven’t exactly given their ace—junior Zac Gallen—the best run support in his series opening starts.
That can’t happen against an NC State squad hitting .303 as a team if the Tar Heels expect to come out on top.
“We know our pitchers,” Datres said. “They’re gonna go out there and give it all they got. Us, as hitters, we just gotta keep doing our thing and our jobs winning at-bats.
“We’ve gotta put hits together. Not one an inning. Try to put a couple hits together. That’s what we did [Monday], and we’ll keep it going I’m pretty sure.”
Anyone who’s seen the video of the dugout dancing routine from Monday can see that the team is feeling loose and gaining confidence at the right time. Fox often says that winning and confidence are closely related, but as for the pressure many of his players have spoken about recently—he’s not buying it as an excuse.
“I believe in confidence,” Fox said. “I’ll be surprised if Kyle Datres doesn’t go over to NC State and have some good at-bats. That’s just the way that it works.
“I haven’t ever sensed our dugout really being uptight to where I felt like it was affecting our performance,” he continued. “I just don’t think, at times, that we’ve been very good.”
While the Tar Heels may not agree with their coach’s blunt assessment, they certainly realize that it’s in their past.
As far as they’re concerned, their slate is clean and the postseason starts now.
Leave it to Datres, the excitable freshman, to best put it in perspective.
“I mean, it’s State,” he said, matter of factly. “It doesn’t matter. The standings go out the door when we play State.
“We just wanna win.”
All three games in the series will be broadcast on WCHL’s airwaves.
The series is set to begin Thursday at 6:00 p.m. Friday’s game will start at 6:30, while Saturday’s regular season finale is scheduled for 1:00.
Former UNC third baseman Colin Moran is reportedly making the jump from AAA to Major League Baseball on Tuesday night to join the Houston Astros.
Longtime MLB journalist, and Tar Heel in his own right, Peter Gammons first reported the news on Tuesday morning.
Colin Moran joins Astros tonight
— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) May 17, 2016
Moran played for UNC form 2011 – 2013. He was selected with the number six overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft by the Miami Marlins and the traded to the Astros’ organization the next year.
Moran was named the ACC Freshman of the Year, Baseball America Freshman of the Year, National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Freshman All-American and a Baseball America All-American – the only freshman on the team – after his first year in a Carolina uniform.
Injuries slowed down Moran’s sophomore season, but he finished his junior campaign as one of the nation’s leading hitters.
The left-handed hitting third baseman was hitting .288 with a .747 OPS in AAA so far this season.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/report-colin-moran-receives-big-league-call-up
From the minute he was brought back to coach his alma mater in 1999, UNC head baseball coach Mike Fox has been battling for Triangle superiority with longtime NC State skipper Elliott Avent.
Although they get along well off the field, that didn’t stop Fox from trying to use Avent’s recent snake-bite injury against him ahead of their crucial rivalry series looming this weekend.
While outside his home last Wednesday evening, Avent and his 10-week-old puppy, Sammi, were bit by a venomous copperhead.
They each ended up fine, but the 60-year-old Avent spent a few hours in the hospital and was forced to miss the Wolfpack’s series against Louisville–which saw NC State swept in ACC play for the first time this season.
It was also the first time in Avent’s career that he was forced to miss games because of a physical ailment.
Before the news found its way to the media, though, Fox heard of his colleague’s bizarre injury through the coaching grapevine and decided to send his buddy a text.
“My wife got bit by one, probably about three years ago,” Fox said. “So as soon as I told Elliott that, he’s bombarding me. ‘What happened? Where was he? Where was she?’”
Noticing how freaked out Avent was, Fox did what any good friend would do. He took the opportunity to mess with him.
“It turned into me just making it seem like it’s a little worse than it was,” Fox said. “Elliott’s a little gullible. He was like, ‘How long does it take to recover?’
“I was like, ‘Months.’”
It’s really nothing more than a coincidence that Avent will be making his return to the field this weekend at home against Fox’s Tar Heels.
But with UNC needing as many wins as it can get in order to gain entry to the postseason, Fox joked that he should have told Avent that his wife hadn’t yet recovered from her bite.
Of course, then Avent—who went back and killed the snake with an umbrella after first trying with a stick—did his best to make sure Fox kept laughing.
“I really was concerned about him,” Fox said about Avent. “He said ‘I’m gonna send you a picture.’ So I thought he was gonna send me a picture because I said ‘Where did you get bit?’
“So I thought he was gonna send me a picture of his ankle—then all of a sudden a picture of the snake pops up on my phone,” Fox said, shaking his head with a big grin on his face. “Only Elliott.”http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/mike-fox-shares-his-side-of-the-elliott-avent-snakebite-incident
The UNC baseball team cruised to a 8-1 victory over Notre Dame Monday night.
It was a relaxed team.
During a televised interview with ACC Co-Pitcher of the Week Zac Gallen, several members of the team decided to have some fun. Gallen’s teammates began their videobomb with a piece of bubblegum. It all went uphill from there.
The videobomb was highlighted by one of the best baseball dances you will ever see from Taylor Sugg. Sugg showcased that practice makes perfect on Twitter.
— Taylor Sugg⚾ (@SUUGGGYYY_4) May 17, 2016
Logan Welch also gets into the act with a unique use of cups. Utah Jones brings a banana.
Utah’s banana has made previous experiences.
The Tar Heels will head to Raleigh for their last regular-season series of the year. The three-game series against NC State will begin on Thursday.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/awesome-videobomb-from-unc-baseball
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers made headlines a couple seasons ago when he told fans and reporters alike to “R-E-L-A-X” following an early losing streak.
As it turns out, the UNC baseball team decided to use that same advice Monday night at Boshamer Stadium in order to win its first ACC series in over a month.
The Tar Heels snapped out of a pressure-induced hitting slump with a seven-run second inning–on the way to an 8-1 win over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Having totaled just seven hits in their previous two games this series, some Tar Heel players admitted that the “must-win” situation they currently find themselves in has caused them to press more than they should at the plate.
“We knew this was a big one,” UNC freshman third baseman Kyle Datres–who went 3-for-4 with a home run–said after the game. “We try not to look at the standings, but you come down to the end and you know you gotta bear down and get some wins.
“Instead of just playing all tense, we tried to go out there and relax [tonight],” Datres later added, with a wide smile across his face. “It’s a lot more fun that way.”
UNC head coach Mike Fox–though he doesn’t like to view things in “must-win” terms–decided to send an e-mail to his players on Sunday’s off day detailing their current situation.
He then spoke to them again before the game Monday–bringing to light a cold, hard truth.
“I did remind them today that ‘When you told me, yes you wanted to come to North Carolina, guess what? You’re under pressure,” Fox said. “The expectations are to win here. At every sport. It is what it is.”
“They don’t realize it when they say that, because they’re 15 years old,” the coach said, dryly. “But they realize it once they get here.”
An inexperienced group of Notre Dame pitchers–as much as any relaxation or coaching techniques–also played a big role in the Tar Heels’ offensive outburst. The Fighting Irish got just one inning from its starter–freshman Connor Hock (9.1 IP for his career)–before eventually using seven pitchers in the game.
Three different Tar Heels–Brian Miller, Zack Gahagan and Brandon Riley–hit two-run doubles during the second-inning outburst, while shortstop Logan Warmoth also added an RBI single.
It all started after UNC loaded the bases for Miller, putting its top hitter in a position to come through with runners in scoring position–which has been another of the team’s problem areas this season.
By the end of the frame, the Tar Heels had already amassed seven hits–matching their total from the previous 18 innings.
Four of the team’s players ended the game with multiple hits, as Miller and Datres led the way with three apiece.
Datres’ fifth-inning homer–his third of the season–gave UNC some extra breathing room that finally allowed the pitching staff to get in some relaxing of their own.
Right-hander Jason Morgan started on the mound for the Tar Heels, but was pulled after allowing the first two men he faced in the fourth inning to reach base.
AJ Bogucki then took over and tossed five innings of no-hit ball through the eighth to pick up the victory.
“When you go out there, and the game’s 8-0, it’s pretty hard to not be relaxed,” Bogucki said. “You know you can just throw the ball over the plate.”
Spencer Trayner and Hansen Butler combined to finish off the Fighting Irish in the ninth, but not before the shutout was erased by Torii Hunter Jr.’s RBI single.
It was an occasion where yet another great performance by the Tar Heel pitching staff became merely a footnote because of what was going on at the plate.
Nothing matters more for UNC right now than to get its hitters loose–and in a rhythm–down the stretch.
Entering the day, the Tar Heels found themselves in 12th place in the ACC, which matters because only the top 10 teams advance to the conference tournament in Durham.
Notre Dame was 9th in the standings, but drops out of the mix after Monday’s loss–replaced by UNC.
Usually, it’s hyperbole to think each game in a season full of them can be so important.
But for all intents and purposes, the Tar Heels’ postseason has already begun.
“It was like an elimination game,” Fox said. “It wasn’t quite that because we’ve still got three games to play, but if we’d have lost tonight that might have been….close to the nail in our coffin”
UNC will head to Raleigh on Thursday for the beginning of its final, and most important, series of the season against rival NC State–the nation’s No. 13 team.
On Friday night Zac Gallen and Hansen Butler combined to deliver a crucial shutout victory for the UNC baseball team, despite the Tar Heel offense scoring just three runs on four hits.
Sophomore JB Bukauskas attempted to pull off the same feat on Saturday at Boshamer Stadium, but couldn’t get much in terms of run support as Notre Dame’s three-run sixth inning proved to be the difference in the Fighting Irish’s 3-1 victory.
Stuck in a stretch run marred by inconsistency at the plate, the Tar Heels now fall to 32-19 (11-15 ACC) in 2016.
The Fighting Irish, meanwhile, move to 27-23 (11-13 ACC), which actually puts them ahead of UNC in the conference standings due to the tiebreaker being winning percentage in league games.
Lefty Michael Hearne was sensational for Notre Dame, holding the Tar Heels without a hit until the bottom of the sixth inning–when freshman catcher Cody Roberts unleashed his first career home run to left field.
UNC ended up with just three hits–Roberts’ homer and infield singles by Tyler Ramirez and Logan Warmoth–which brings their total for the weekend to seven.
“I think we’re just putting way too much pressure on ourselves,” Roberts said after the game. “If we could score those runs we were scoring early in the season [we’d be alright].
“I think now we’re pressing so hard to try and get those wins that we’re waiting until the sixth or seventh inning to get those runs.”
The lack of offensive firepower prevented Bukauskas from earning his seventh win of the season for the Tar Heels, which seemed as if it could have been a sure thing given the way the sophomore dominated the first five innings.
Through the first half of the game, the Ashburn, Virginia native surrendered just two hits–matching Hearne’s dominance every step of the way.
However, a two-run blast by Notre Dame center fielder Matt Vierling in the sixth inning completely flipped the game on its head–taking momentum away from a UNC team that has relied heavily on its pitching in ACC play.
“I can’t really do anything about the ‘no runs,'” Bukauskas said when asked how Vierling’s big swing affected momentum. “We’re just struggling really bad at the plate right now. Their guy [Hearne] was really crafty.
“But [the home run] didn’t affect me too much out on the mound,” he continued. “It was just a bad pitch. I left it out over the plate. It happens. It was just a bad time for it.”
Cole Daily, the Fighting Irish third baseman, singled home the visitors’ third run of the game later in the frame with a hard liner up the middle–all but ensuring it would be Bukauskas’ final inning of the night, considering he had reached the 100 pitch mark.
After Roberts homered for UNC in the bottom half of the sixth, Ramirez and Warmoth opened the seventh with their back-to-back infield hits.
A sacrifice bunt by freshman Brandon Riley then moved the tying run to second base with just one out, before Hearne got Zack Gahagan to strike out swinging and forced Eli Sutherland to fly out.
Ramirez and Warmoth ended up being the last base runners UNC was able to get, as reliever Sean Guenther came on in the eighth inning and retired all six men he faced to shut the door on his first save of the year.
The lack of pop from the Tar Heel bats has the team on the verge of missing the ACC Tournament for the first time under head coach Mike Fox.
With only 11 wins in conference, UNC will likely need to win at least two more to reach 13–which was the minimum number won by any of the league’s 10 participants last year.
Not only that, the players, especially the hitters, know what’s at stake.
If they can’t qualify for their own conference tournament, there’s a slim chance that they are still able to qualify for the NCAA Tournament–despite having a number of quality wins this season outside the league.
“That’s on them,” Tar Heel head coach Mike Fox said about his players feeling the pressure. “We’re in this position because we’re in this position. I don’t know how to undo that.
“I can tell the kids to relax, but it’s them in the box,” the coach continued. “They gotta breathe, and they gotta try to have good at-bats.”
Jason Morgan will head to the mound on Monday night for the Tar Heels in front of a national television audience, hoping to give UNC its first ACC series win in over a month.
That game, UNC’s home finale this season, is scheduled for 7 p.m.