UNC-Wilmington Powers Past Diamond Heels
The UNC baseball team took a trip to the beach Wednesday night, but was washed away by one of the nation’s most powerful lineups.
Tar Heel pitchers surrendered three home runs–including two to designated hitter Gavin Stupienski–which proved to be the difference in a 6-2 road loss to the UNC-Wilmington Seahawks.
Freshman right-hander Rodney Hutchison got off to a shaky start on the mound for UNC, which set the tone of the game right from the get-go.
The 6-foot-6 Ohio native allowed back-to-back jacks to Stupienski and catcher Nick Feight as part of a four-run first inning by UNC-Wilmington.
In total, UNC had to use six different pitchers after Hutchison was pulled following the early onslaught.
Eli Sutherland hit his fifth home run of the season in the eighth inning Wednesday against UNC-Wilmington, but the Tar Heels came up short. (Joe Bray/ UNC Athletics)
UNC-Wilmington (34-11) entered Wednesday with the second highest batting average in America–hitting .335 as a team. The Seahawks used their bats to make easy work of the inconsistent Tar Heels, as they improved to 19-2 over their last 21 games.
Steven Linkous drove in a run in the fourth inning with an RBI single, while Stupienski also homered in the fifth inning to make it 6-1 in favor of UNC-Wilmington.
Coming off a big win at home Tuesday over No. 21 East Carolina, UNC (31-18) was led offensively by senior second baseman Eli Sutherland’s fifth home run of the year–a solo shot in the eighth–but struggled to produce with runners in scoring position.
Just two times in 14 tries did UNC pick up a base hit with a runner on second or third base, despite having 10 hits in the game–which was actually two more than UNC-Wilmington had.
Not only that, the Tar Heels put the lead-off man on base in five of the nine innings, but failed to put a runner on third with less than two outs at any time during the night.
Eight players recorded a hit for UNC, but Sutherland was the only one to record an RBI since Adam Pate scored the first run of the game for the Tar Heels by way of a throwing error.
The Tar Heels had one final opportunity when they brought the tying run–freshman Kyle Datres–to the plate in the ninth inning with two outs and the bases loaded.
Unfortunately for head coach Mike Fox and his team, UNC-Wilmington continued making the timely plays–as the Seahawks snuffed out the threat to end the game–getting Datres to fly out to left.
It was the final mid-week contest of the season for UNC, which now must close out ACC play with a bang over the next three weekends in order to ensure a spot in the postseason–something nobody thought would be an issue after a red-hot 18-2 start.
Missed opportunities have come to define the second half of the Tar Heels’ season. With just six games remaining, UNC doesn’t have much time to find a solution.
It’s now or never.
UNC returns home to Boshamer Stadium for its final home series this weekend. The Tar Heels be out for revenge against Notre Dame, which swept them in South Bend last season.
- The teams split their season series at one game apiece.
- Stupienski’s two home runs on Wednesday alone would tie him for fifth place if he played for UNC. He has 11 in total this season.
- Tar Heel pitchers combined for eight walks on the night.
Datres’ Heroics Help UNC Take “Must-Win” Game from UNC-Wilmington
UNC baseball head coach Mike Fox–with his Tar Heels mired in a slump that has lasted throughout the month of April–challenged his team to be tougher.
After a back-and-forth affair which lasted nearly four and a half hours on Tuesday, they showed their coach’s message was taken to heart–ending UNC-Wilmington’s 12-game win streak with a 10-9 victory at Boshamer Stadium courtesy of freshman Kyle Datres’ walk-off walk.
Facing a 3-2 count with the bases loaded and two outs, the Pennsylvania native held strong and allowed UNC-Wilmington reliever Jared Gesell do the work for him.
Datres watches the game’s final pitch go by. It was his second walk-off RBI this season. (Joe Bray/ UNC Athletics)
“Bases loaded, all the pressure’s on him,” Datres said after the game. “He has to throw it in the zone. I saw him struggling, so I went up there with a patient approach and made him have to bring one to me.”
Now 27-15 this season, the Tar Heels desperately needed to pick up a quality win to bolster their NCAA Tournament resume.
They needed it so badly, in fact, that their coach stepped out of character to make a bold statement before the game.
“I went in the locker room, and I said ‘To heck with it, I need to tell them how it really is,'” Fox said. “We gotta win.
“As a coach you really gotta be careful saying that,” he continued. “But I mean, that’s the position that we’re in.”
Fox also had to set a player aside and let him know he wouldn’t be in the starting lineup.
Yep. Datres. The one that ended up winning the game.
“I called him in the locker room–and I don’t hardly ever do this–but I challenged our team about being tougher and then he’s not in the lineup,” the coach said.
“He’s one of our toughest players, both mentally and physically,” Fox added. “So I called him in and I said ‘Hey, listen I want you to know you’re not in there because I think you’re better right now off the bench for us.'”
Armed from the top-down with extra motivation from its coach, UNC–which scored just seven runs all weekend while getting swept at Wake Forest–racked up six runs in the first inning against UNC-Wilmington starter Justin Crump.
The Seahawks (27-10) and their explosive offense weren’t going to let the nation’s longest winning streak end that easily, though. Facing 6-foot-6 righty Jason Morgan they stormed back for a six-run inning of their own in the third.
Once the score was 6-4, the Tar Heels sent Brett Daniels to the mound for Morgan, but Joe Bertone tied it up by sending Daniels’ first pitch over the wall in left-center field for a two-run bomb.
Both teams traded runs the rest of the way, with UNC-Wilmington eventually taking a 9-8 lead heading into the bottom of the eighth inning.
That’s when Datres was able to make his mark.
Adam Pate capped off UNC’s six-run first inning with an RBI single, as the Tar Heels were able to end UNC-Wilmington’s 12-game win streak. (Joe Bray/ UNC Athletics)
Entering as pinch hitter, the Pennsylvania native tied the game in the eighth when his RBI single brought home Tyler Ramirez.
Left in to play third base, Datres would again get his name called in crunch time–only on this occasion it was the bottom of the ninth, there were two outs and the bases were loaded.
UNC-Wilmington reliever Jared Gesell worked a 3-2 count against the freshman, but Datres remained calm and watched ball four sail outside.
Moments later, an elated Tar Heel bench stormed the field to mob the man who started the game amongst them.
Now UNC will look to find consistency over the final month of the regular season, and if they do–it’s quite likely the team will single out Tuesday night as a turning point.
In a must-win game, where toughness was needed more than ever to get the job done, the Tar Heels were able to take care of business.
UNC continues its seven-game homestand at the Bosh with a game Wednesday against Campbell. First pitch is set for 6 p.m.
It is also the Tar Heels’ off-week from ACC play, which means they will not play on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
- UNC-Wilmington was fortunate to hold UNC to just one run in the bottom of the fourth, benefiting from a rare “5-4-2” double play. After recording the first out, second baseman Brian Mims threw home for a tag on UNC’s Logan Warmoth, who was ruled out despite appearing to reach home plate in time.
- The Tar Heels are now 21-1 this season when scoring at least six runs.
- UNC was perfect on stolen base attempts in the game–going 7-for-7, with six different players stealing at least once.
FINAL BOX SCORE
No. 1 UNC Baseball Shuts Out UNC Wilmington On The Road
WILMINGTON – The No. 1 UNCbaseball team remained undefeated on the road with a shutout win over UNC Wilmington Wednesday night.
Despite leaving eight runners stranded, the Tar Heels took down the Seahawks 10-0 thanks in part to the talented bats of junior third-baseman Colin Moran, junior first-baseman Cody Stubbs, and sophomore second-baseman Mike Zolk. The three Tar Heels each tallied two RBIs and freshman right-fielder Skye Bolt hit his fifth homerun of the season.
Senior right-hander Chris Munnelly took the game for seven innings throwing eight strikeouts and only giving up two hits. Three Tar Heel pitchers saw action Wednesday night and no Seahawks saw a free pass in the shutout.
With the win, Carolina improved to 26-2; Wilmington fell to 21-9. This weekend, the Tar Heels bring their league-leading 9-2 conference record back to this Hill to host the Maryland Terrapins who are 4-8 in league play and are coming off a 6-3 win over the Towson Tigers 6-3 on Wednesday.
First pitch for the Friday-night series opener is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. at Boshamer Stadium. You can hear all the action on WCHL immediately following the WCHL Evening News with Aaron Keck.
No. 1 UNC Baseball Looks To Begin Another Winning Streak
CHAPEL HILL – The No. 1 UNCbaseball team steps out of conference play on Wednesday with the hopes of bouncing back from its second loss of the season when it travels to UNC Wilmington.
The Tar Heels dropped the third game of the series against the Clemson Tigers in a 5-4 11-inning decision Monday after taking the first two wins. Monday was a marathon day after UNC and Clemson had to make up the remainder of Sunday’s rain-out. The Tar Heels took the first game of the day 6-2 after starting in the top of the third with a 2-0 lead.
The polls came out Monday morning before Carolina dropped just its second game of the season—the Tar Heels are tied with LSU with the best record in the country. The Tar Heels held a unanimous No. 1 spot across the four polls.
UNC Wilmington could provide a good challenge for Carolina on Wednesday. The Seahawks hold the top spot in the Colonial Athletic Association at 7-1 and are 21-8 overall. They’re currently on a four-game winning streak, including a sweep over conference-opponent Old Dominion and a win Tuesday over the Southern Conference’s College of Charleston.
Senior right-hander Chris Munnelly will get the start. In 15.1 innings, he’s 1-0 on the season with a 1.17 earned run average (ERA). He’s thrown 22 strikeouts compared to just nine walks. The UNC pitching staff has inched two marks closer to the top squad in the land as Arkansas is just 0.02 better in its team ERA at 1.68.
Wednesday’s game between UNC and UNCW is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. You can hear all the action live on WCHL immediately following an abbreviated version of the WCHL Evening News with Aaron Keck.