The North Carolina baseball team is rolling once again. With a 5-4 win Sunday afternoon at Boshamer Stadium, the Tar Heels completed a series sweep over the Virginia Tech Hokies and improved to 27-18 overall and 13-11 in league play.
With the loss, the visiting Hokies dropped to 18-25-1 on the year and 13-11 in the ACC.
Carolina was made to work in all three games of the weekend, but earned gutty come-from-behind victories in every one of them, including on Sunday, when Tyler Ramirez’s sacrifice fly sent Michael Russell across home plate in the bottom of the ninth to snatch the sweep.
The in-form Russell extended his career-long hitting streak to 17 games with three hits in the series finale as Carolina extended its head-to-head dominance against Virginia Tech. Head Coach Mike Fox’s team hasn’t lost to the Hokies since 2007.
The Carolina bullpen’s tenacity coupled with timely, opportunistic hitting provided the winning formula for a UNC team that has been searching for some momentum heading into postseason play.
The Tar Heels will next play host to East Carolina Tuesday at 6 p.m. before taking an exam break. Carolina will have revenge on its mind as the Pirates defeated the Tar Heels down in Greenville just last week.
The North Carolina baseball team rallied past Virginia Tech Friday night, earning a 3-2 victory to improve to 25-18 on the season and even the ACC record at 11-11.
With the defeat, the Hokies dropped to 18-23-1 on the year and 7-15 in conference play.
In the first inning, starting UNC pitcher Trent Thornton worked his way out of a jam.
Carolina’s Wood Myers was struck in the hand by a pitch in the second inning and hit the ground for a few minutes. He recovered to take his base, but he was replaced shortly after by Alex Raburn. After the game, Myers was diagnosed with a non-displaced fracture in one of his fingers and should be out at least four weeks.
Michael Russell recorded Carolina’s first hit of the night in the bottom of the third inning, slipping one up the line by the third baseman. But no runs would come off his efforts.
A double play for the Tar Heel defense put an end to the Hokie offense in the top of the fourth, but the Carolina bats continued to struggle against Virginia Tech slinger Sean Keselica.
A double by Virginia Tech’s Logan Bible put Thornton under pressure once again in the fifth inning with two men on base and no outs. But the sophomore displayed tremendous tenacity, escaping the inning with no damage.
The top of the sixth inning produced some more trouble for Thornton. This time, an error and a stolen base put runners on both corners with one out. And matters got worse when Keselica was walked to load the bases.
Thornton could not go unscathed to this challenge, surrendering two runs that gave the visiting Hokies the 2-0 advantage.
Adam Pate’s leadoff hit in the bottom of the sixth spurred on an offensive explosion from the Tar Heels with walks and base hits aplenty. The Virginia Tech first baseman dropped the ball on a chance for a double play. The Tar Heels cashed in with two runs to tie the game at 2-2.
Trevor Kelley replaced Thornton on the mound in the seventh inning, delivering some stress-free innings of work with the game hanging in the balance.
Pate once again found his way first base to open proceedings in the bottom of the eighth. Russell followed with a double, his sixteenth of the season.
The Tar Heels grabbed the 3-2 lead thanks to another blown chance at a double play for the Hokies.
Kelley was relieved of his pitching duties by Reilly Hovis in the ninth inning. Hovis closed out the tight contest in style to the delight of the Tar Heel faithful in attendance.
The Diamond Heels are coming in to their matchup with the Hokies off a much needed Wednesday victory over an in-form Liberty team ranked No. 30 in the nation.
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Virginia Tech, meanwhile, is in desperate need of success. The Hokies are on the outside looking in right now in the ACC race. Only the top ten squads in the league standings make the ACC Tournament in Greensboro. The Hokies sit in eleventh position while the Tar Heels check in at No. 8.
One of the keys to deciding this weekend’s series will be Carolina’s run support for its pitching staff.
Head Coach Mike Fox says UNC’s offensive catalyst runs through the hard working Michael Russell.
“He started off a little slow – just trying a little bit too hard. He’s kind of settled in and is playing with a lot of confidence. He’s such a hard worker and very detailed-oriented. He wants to win,” Coach Fox says.
Coach Fox says freshman slinger Zac Gallen’s struggles from the mound this year are surprising considering how well he performed in the lead-up to the 2014 campaign.
“What’s funny about Zach is that in the fall, he didn’t walk a batter. He was the best strike thrower on our team. He’s hit a little rough patch there where he hasn’t had the command,” Coach Fox says.
Carolina’s up-and down season may have a lot to do with the extreme youth and inexperience on the roster. But Coach Fox and the players aren’t making any excuses.
Coach Fox says his guys have to be fired up and ready to compete at the highest level every outing, especially due to the name on the front of their jerseys.
“Us being the state school and obviously our history, we got a target on us no matter what. If you don’t like Carolina, you generally dislike Carolina. That’s the case. But I think once the game starts, it’s just kids competing against one another,” Coach Fox says.
The Tar Heels will have another opportunity to defend their home turf this weekend for what is shaping up to be a beautiful three days at Boshamer Stadium.
Carolina leads the all-time series with Virginia Tech 64-23-2 and has not lost to the Hokies since way back in 2007.
No. 1 UNC Baseball Takes Six-Game Winning Streak On the Road
CHAPEL HILL – The No. 1 UNC baseball team returns to the road this weekend to take on Virginia Tech in a three-game ACC series beginning Friday evening.
The Tar Heels extended their winning streak to six on Wednesday with a 7-5 win over Liberty. The Hokies are coming off the same decision, but in ten innings against Longwood. Prior to that Virginia Tech had some trouble against No. 25 N.C. State dropping all three after an 8-7, 14-inning decision opened the series.
The Hokies have struggled in-conference this season as they sit 7-8, a game ahead of the Coastal Division’s last place Miami Hurricanes. The Tar Heels have held on to the ACC’s best record at 12-2 and are one game ahead of Virginia in the Coastal.
Junior Kent Emanuel will get the start for Carolina on Friday; he’s 6-1 on the season with a 1.30 ERA.
First pitch Friday night is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. WCHL will join the contest in progress after the WCHL Evening News with Aaron Keck.
No. 1 UNC Baseball Tops Liberty With Help From Colin Moran Grand Slam
CHAPEL HILL – The No. 1 UNC baseball team blew past Liberty with a grand slam by its homerun leader to take win number 31 on the season, 7-5 Wednesday night at the Bosh.The Flames are one of just a few teams to have an early lead on the Tar Heels this season, but that lead didn’t last long. The 1-1 tie after three was taken over by Carolina in the fifth when junior Colin Moran hit his team-leading eighth homerun, a grand slam that batted in freshman Landon Lassiter, junior Brian Holberton, and freshman Matt Campbell.
The Tar Heels added a security run in the sixth and one in the seventh, and despite four runs by the Flames in the top of the ninth, took the 7-5 decision.
With the win, North Carolina improved to 31-2; Liberty fell to 18-16.
The Tar Heels return to ACC play this weekend with a three-game series against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia beginning Friday at 5:30 p.m. That contest will be joined in progress at 6:00 p.m. immediately following the WCHL Evening News with Aaron Keck.
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