Dramatic Tar Heel Rally Falls Inches Short

A relentless offensive attack on the young UNC pitchers in the early innings was enough for the Davidson Wildcats to hold on in the ninth for an exciting 12-11 win over the 22nd ranked Tar Heels, sending Coach Mike Fox’s club to their fifth loss in their last seven games, and an overall record of 12-8. Davidson continues to head in the opposite direction, improving to 10-5 and earning their fifth win in six games.

Falling behind by ten runs is usually a death sentence for any baseball team, but the Tar Heels fought valiantly after finding themselves in that position at one point, scoring nine runs in the last three innings to bring themselves within one.

With the game on the line in the bottom of the ninth and two outs, an incredible leaping catch at the left-field wall by Davidson outfielder Ty Middlebrooks robbed Logan Warmoth of a walk-off hit, and prevented a comeback for the ages.

Ty Middlebrooks' leaping grab prevented a Tar Heel comeback for the ages. (UNC Athletics)

Ty Middlebrooks’ leaping grab prevented a Tar Heel comeback for the ages. (UNC Athletics)

“All I could do was just put the ball in play and just hope the best happened,” Warmoth says, “Obviously, it didn’t, but it’s alright, we kept on battling the whole game, which really shows what this team is all about.”

Unfortunately, pitching woes right from the get-go sank the Tar Heels yet again.

Carolina’s mid-week games have presented plenty of challenges related to pitching depth, exposing one of the team’s major problems through the first third of the 2015 campaign. Since the big arms reserved for the weekend (Benton Moss, JB Bukauskas, Trent Thornton, Zac Gallen) aren’t typically available to provide long innings during the week, the bullpen depth is counted on to step up their production in these kind of games.

Desperately looking to get out of their recent funk, the Tar Heels turned to sophomore AJ Bogucki to come through on the mound against the Wildcats, in just his second start of the season.

“We gotta get somebody that can start a game in the middle of the week and give us some innings,” Coach Fox says, “Some of those other guys have gotta step up and give us more than two innings or we’re gonna fight like that in every mid-week game.”

Coach Fox went with AJ Bogucki starting on the mound. (UNC Athletics)

Three at-bats ended up being all it took, though, for Davidson to jump out to an early two-run lead.

A one-out error in center-field by Adam Pate, who was filling in for Skye Bolt, allowed Davidson’s Ryan Lowe to get all the way to third base, which set up the RBI chance for first baseman David Daniels.  Daniels’ singled to score the first run, and then he would end up scoring himself later in the inning on a sacrifice fly by Sam Foy.

After setting the side down in order in the top of the second, Bogucki (0-2) again found trouble in the third. A base-hit and a walk put two Wildcats on base with no outs, just good enough to earn the hook from pitching coach Scott Forbes, who placed the ball in the hands of Spencer Trayner.

Davidson right-fielder Lee Miller seemed to be just fine with that decision, crushing a two-run double that extended the lead for his team, and ended Trayner’s day just as quickly as it began. The next man up out of the Tar Heel bullpen was 6’6″ freshman Jason Morgan, who met a similar fate, surrendering a three-run double to Alec Acosta, before he was able to record the last two outs and stop the bleeding.

It was all Davidson at the beginning. (UNC Athletics)

The onslaught continued into the fourth inning, as David Daniels added to his RBI total with a two-run bomb to left-field off of Morgan. Then Acosta drove in another off of lefty Nick Raquet, burying UNC in a ten-run hole, that could have been described at the time as about “six-feet deep.”

Not until the freshman shortstop,Warmoth, hit his first career home-run, a solo shot in the bottom of the fourth, did the crowd at Boshamer Stadium have anything to cheer for.

Brian Miller knocked in the second RBI for the Tar Heels in the next inning when his single scored second baseman Elijah Sutherland, and closed the gap to just eight runs.

Teammates rejoice with Alex Raburn after his three-run homer in the ninth. (UNC Athletics)

Teammates rejoice with Alex Raburn after his three-run homer in the ninth. (UNC Athletics)

Davidson added a couple more runs of their own in the seventh–drawing a pair of bases loaded walks against reliever Hansen Butler, before the Tar Heels answered in their half with three more tallies on a two-run double from first baseman Zack Gahagan and a follow-up RBI single by Warmoth.

It was just too little, too late, as the Wildcats held on by the skin of their teeth in the final inning to take home the win.

Alex Raburn hit a three-run homer, Brian Miller drove in his second run of the day, and Zack Gahagan hit a two-run single, all in the bottom of the ninth, to pull Carolina within one with two outs on the board, and give them a chance to pull out a miraculous win.

Wildcats’ closer Cody White then saw Warmoth step in to the batter’s box and the rest is history.

“It’s a crazy game, I’ve seen some crazy things happen on the field,” says Coach Fox, “And that would have been something if that ball would have gone out or gone off the wall and we’d have won right there. We probably wouldn’t have deserved to, but I give our kids credit for battling.”

Up Next:

The Tar Heel baseball bus is off to Atlanta for a tough three-game ACC road series with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, who are tied for first in the Coastal Division with a 4-2 conference record thus far.

Game Notes: 

  • Davidson starting pitcher Ryan Lowe also hit second in the batting order, going 1-3 on the day, unusual in college baseball because the designated hitter rule is used to prevent pitchers from having to hit.
  • Freshman Brian Miller, a walk-on out of Raleigh, provided a bright spot for UNC, playing solid in left-field and going 4-5 at the plate with a walk and two RBI. He’s batting .450 on the year.
  • Fellow Tar Heel freshmen Logan Warmoth and Zack Gahagan combined for 6 RBI. (Warmoth -2, Gahagan- 4)
  • Of the eight pitchers used by UNC in the game, four are freshmen (Morgan, Raquet, Butler, Williams) and three are sophomores (Bogucki, Trayner, Rice).  Chris McCue was the lone upperclassman to make an appearance on the mound.



Struggling Diamond Heels Play Host to Davidson Tuesday

The Diamond Heels return home Tuesday for a midweek test at Boshamer Stadium with an in-state foe, the 9-5 Davidson Wildcats.

Uncharacteristic losses in four of the past six games have dropped Coach Mike Fox and his UNC baseball squad to 22nd in the polls and left Carolina with a less than spectacular 12-7 overall record, to go with an average 3-3 mark in the ACC.

Inefficiency from the bullpen, along with a mix-and-match infield struggling to play solid defense behind the pitchers, has doomed the Tar Heels in recent weeks, especially with injuries to closer Reilly Hovis, starting pitcher Benton Moss and shortstop Wood Myers.

Alex Raburn has played three different infield positions this year at times. (UNC Athletics)

Alex Raburn has played three different infield positions at times this year. (UNC Athletics)

One bright spot over the past few games for the team has been senior reliever Trevor Kelley, who has been Carolina’s “savior” recently, Coach Fox says. Kelley has made appearances in eight consecutive games out of the bullpen, often coming in to escape tight jams. In 27 innings pitched this year, the most on the team by any pitcher, the Wilmington native has allowed just three earned runs.

The Wildcats, on the other hand, come in to Tuesday’s contest having won four of their last five games and are led by a lineup that includes five starters batting .300 or better, which should provide another interesting look for the Tar Heel pitching staff.

Starting pitchers for the game are yet to be determined. First pitch is scheduled for 3 P.M.


The Carolina-Kentucky Cold War

Here in Chapel Hill, during basketball season, the motto has always been that championships are won by playing “The Carolina Way.”

A phrase coined by legendary coach and hall of famer Dean Smith, “The Carolina Way” came to be revered as a national model for how to run a successful college basketball program. Players came to school to stay in school. They played for the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back. Championship teams were built with integrity over the long haul. The legends knew they would be revered as local heroes forever.

The national title-clinching jumper by a freshman named Michael Jordan, Eric Montross going to the foul line with blood flowing down his forehead, Danny Green soaring over Greg Paulus for a dunk that silenced Cameron Indoor; they’re all moments that are etched in Tar Heel lore, but moments that feel oh so long ago.

The game simply doesn’t work that way anymore. Times have changed.  Nowhere will that be more evident than noon-time this Saturday at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky.

Heard of this guy? (hoyabasketball.com)

Heard of this guy? (hoyabasketball.com)

The instituting of the NBA’s age limit kicked off the “one and done” era of college hoops, and no school has used that rule to their advantage as much as coach John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats. A revolving door for the top prospects in the nation year in and year out, Kentucky is not a college basketball team. They are a professional basketball factory that churns out NBA players on an assembly line. These guys come to campus to become all-stars, not scholars, and certainly not college heroes.

This season, on the way to the top national ranking and an unblemished 10-0 record, the Wildcats have demolished opponents by an average of 30 points a game, with nobody coming closer than 10 points. Analysts can’t stop gushing about their “platoon system.” Five guys come in and five guys come out every four minutes. Of their ten rotation players, nine were high-school All-Americans. Only one player is smaller than 6’6”. Their coach claims they don’t have substitutions, just reinforcements. With a national title in 2012 and an appearance in the championship game just last season, Kentucky has proven to the nation that, for better or for worse, titles these days seem to come “The Kentucky Way.”

Five Kentucky players check in (Kentucky.com)

Five Kentucky players check in (Kentucky.com)

The Tar Heels (6-2) will come in to this matchup as huge underdogs, just like Rocky Balboa against Ivan Drago in Rocky IV.  Rocky went into the fight as the champ, but he was past his prime and on the down-side of his career. Carolina will arrive in Lexington with a great past filled with history and championships, but also not quite at its peak.

Kentucky, on the other hand, comes in looking like a mirror image of Drago, a beefed-up super-human ready to crush anything in its path.

Rocky and Drago served as symbols for the United States and the Soviet Union, much as UNC and Kentucky each represent their own “way” of program-building. With the tides already beginning to shift in college basketball, Calipari and his boys are looking to validate their methods by making a statement against a Tar Heel squad that has looked shaky in recent weeks. Don’t be surprised if you catch UK’s 7 foot center Willie Cauley-Stein staring down Kennedy Meeks at tip-off by saying “I must break you.”

How Kentucky has looked so far this year (MGM)

How Kentucky has looked so far this year (MGM)

UNC coach Roy Williams came away from his team’s loss last week to Iowa in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge questioning his players’ effort level. Players lazily went through the motions on offense, often times stopping to watch as Marcus Paige hoisted yet another contested jumper from deep. Shot after shot clanged off the rim en route to shooting below 30 percent. While Coach Williams has also proclaimed this to be one of the best offensive rebounding squads he’s ever had, it’s become very clear to opponents that outside shooting is this team’s Achilles (Tar)Heel. There just simply isn’t enough shooting talent on this team.

The battle on the boards becomes crucial if Carolina’s outside shooting woes continue.  Forward Brice Johnson, coming off a 19-point, 17-rebound performance in a win over East Carolina, will need to find a way to crash the offensive glass for put-backs against a much larger Wildcat frontcourt. Even with his offseason weight-loss, Kennedy Meeks’ stamina will be seriously tested against the platoon system, so it may become crucial for UNC to find another source of rebounding off the bench, such as Joel James or Isaiah Hicks.

Marcus Paige has often struggled creating space against big guards like Kentucky’s Andrew and Aaron Harrison, however, he remains the Tar Heels’ only respectable threat from the three-point line to this point in the season.  It remains to be seen what kind of consistent offensive contributions will come from freshmen Justin Jackson and Theo Pinson, but as defenses continue to pack the paint and force UNC to shoot from outside, any production they provide from outside could be the key to not only this game, but the entire rest of the season.


Brice Johnson reacts with Joel James against ECU (Todd Melet)

Brice Johnson reacts with Joel James against ECU (Todd Melet)

At a time when it’s clear that college basketball has changed forever, this game between two of the top three winningest programs of all-time will be a portrait of two different eras, the old and the new. Kentucky will play at home as heavy favorites against a Carolina team that has been plagued not only by effort and the recent academic scandal, but also by a refusal to make changes to its sacred “Carolina Way.”

Even Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski has adapted his style of recruiting to appeal to “one and done” type prospects in order to re-enter the national title competition after long refusing to change his own program’s once sacred ways.

The truth is, though, as we all remember, Rocky beat Ivan Drago. When he did, he won the support of the Russian crowd by declaring, in that thick Sylvester Stallone voice, that “If I can change, and you can change, everybody can change!”

For the Tar Heels to rise from their recent dark spot, they may just need to take a lesson from the Champ. It may be time for Carolina to change its Way.


Game Notes: UNC won last year’s meeting 82-77 at the Smith Center, and holds a 23-13 lead in the all-time series between the two teams. UNC has been to 18 Final Fours (most all-time), while UK has been to 15 (T-3rd all-time). Kentucky has the most wins in college basketball history, while Carolina is 3rd on that list.



Underdog Tar Heels Take On Top-Ranked Wildcats

The No. 21 North Carolina men’s basketball team, 6-2 on the season, faces its toughest test of the season Saturday afternoon inside Rupp Arena. The No. 1 and undefeated Kentucky Wildcats are a force to be reckoned with.

***Listen to the story***

The head-to-head series between the winningest and third-winningest college basketball programs continues with the 33rd meeting this weekend.

UNC head coach Roy Williams says Brice Johnson’s dominant play on the boards will need to become a consistent feature of the team if the Tar Heels are going to take down elite opponents like Kentucky.

Johnson will need to physical Saturday (Todd Melet)

Johnson will need to physical Saturday (Todd Melet)

“We need Brice and Kennedy [Meeks] to rebound the ball like that. We still got to do a better job rebounding and boxing out. We were into it mentally. We’ve got to have that same kind of attitude every night,” Coach Williams says.

Coach Williams says he really got upset at Johnson for his poor play before his explosive game against ECU last weekend. But he says, at the end of the day, it’s Johnson who needs to demand more out of himself than anybody else.

“I’m getting to be old. I can’t stay mad all the dadgum time. He’s got be able to do that himself. His rebounding today [vs. ECU] was really impressive. He rebounded the ball in a crowd and didn’t act like a little wimp. He did better things defensively too. It does gnaw at me, but I want it to gnaw at him. If it gnaws at him, the results are a whole heck of a lot better,” Coach Williams says.

One talented player who still appears to be waiting in the wings is sophomore Isaiah Hicks. Coach Williams says he needs more from the 230-pound forward.

“I think he [Hicks] listened when I was telling those guys on the bench that we don’t need big guys to shoot jump shots. He took the ball to the basket. We need Isaiah to be a big-time player for us,” Coach Williams says.

Many have discussed the possibility of a smaller UNC starting lineup that would include two de facto point guards – Nate Britt and Marcus Paige. Would the Tar Heels ever consider such a lineup?

Assistant coach C.B. McGrath doesn’t rule it out.

“We talk about all those kind of things. Whether Nate’s played well enough to go into the starting lineup and move Marcus to the two, I don’t know. If the game’s on the line, Nate’s playing well and Marcus is shooting the ball, we’ll probably have Nate and Marcus in the game at the same time,” McGrath says.

Coach Williams isn’t opposed to applying the heat to his players. He’s continually called out the big men on UNC’s roster, pleading for them to step up.

“I’ve said the big guys have to step up. When they step up and be really big-time players, we’re really a good basketball team. That’s putting a lot of pressure on guys, but heck, it’s college basketball at the highest level. If you want to be good, your best players have to step up and play,” Coach Williams says.

John Calipari and Cauley-Stein (Chris Reynolds)

John Calipari and Cauley-Stein (Chris Reynolds)

The Tar Heels will definitely have their hands full against UK head coach John Calipari’s uber-talented roster that rivals an NBA team for size and length.

Coach Calipari has so much depth he employs a ‘platoon system’ that consists of shuffling alternate lineups on and off the floor to wear down opponents and get all of his potential NBA draft picks a chance to shine for scouts.

UNC junior forward Brice Johnson says juggling final exams doesn’t make the preparation any easier, but he’s confident his teammates will be fired up for the showdown Saturday.

“I have all week to prepare for these tests, and we have all week to prepare for Kentucky. We just have to even them out as much as we can, but put a little more into the academic side than the basketball side. By Saturday, we’ll be ready for it,” Johnson says.

UNC leads the all-time series 23-13 and won the most recent encounter, 82-77, in 2013.

But this time around, the up-and-down Tar Heels will be playing a part they’re not too familiar with – as heavy underdogs against the near-consensus national championship pick.


Meeks, Defense Dominate As Tar Heels Handle Davidson

It may be early in the season, but the North Carolina men’s basketball team’s defense already has the makings of being something quite special.

It sure looked that way on Saturday afternoon as the No. 6 ranked Tar Heels handled Davidson 90-72. at Time Warner Cable Arena.

UNC improved to 3-0 by holding the Wildcats to a shade below 34 percent shooting overall and taking a double-digit lead in the first half that was never really threatened by Bob McKillop’s team, which fell to 2-1.

“I thought it was our best defensive game of the season,” Tar Heels coach Roy Williams says. “I was very pleased with their effort.”

Coach Williams reacts (Todd Melet)

Coach Williams reacts (Todd Melet)

Peyton Aldridge sizzled in the early going, however, netting eight of his game-high 25 points in the first 4:15 of the contest as the ‘Cats took a 12-7 lead.

The Tar Heels then started to exert command, going on an 8-0 run punctuated by a Marcus Paige layup and Theo Hinson dunk for a 15-12 advantage.

Jordan Barham’s layup brought the Wildcats within 18-16 near the midway point of the opening half, but the Tar Heels went on a 28-16 run to take a 46-34 lead into the break.

Kennedy Meeks was the key component to the Tar Heels success, dominating down low with three layups in the stretch while the Wildcats settled for mostly outside jumpers.

Meeks had a monster game in finishing with 19 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and two steals and two blocks. He was joined in double-figure scoring by Justin Jackson (18), Marcus Paige (13) and J.P. Tokoto (10).

Jackson says defense came first, despite his individual scoring outburst.

“Our biggest thing was to cover the three-point line since that was their game plan,” Jackson says. “We kept after it and didn’t pay attention to the scoreboard either.”

Aldridge had little help from his Wildcats teammates as Tyler Kalinoski dropped in 12 points but shot just 4 of 18 from the field. Fellow guard Brian Sullivan really struggled, missing all eight of his three-point attempts.

The Tar Heels maintained a double-digit lead throughout much of the second half, despite Aldridge’s terrific shooting. He drilled  a pair of consecutive treys to bring Davidson within 52-44 about five minutes into the second half.

It was all UNC from there, with a Paige three-pointer and Jackson jumper making it 61-46 with 12:16 remaining. Williams was able to draw from his reserves in the closing minutes, as 12 Tar Heels saw action.

Nate Britt, who scored five points in 14 minutes said it’s important everyone contribute for the Tar Heels to continue being successful.

“I think the most impressive thing about our team so far is how much depth we have,” Britt says. “We have a lot of people who can play a lot of different positions.”

And play those positions well too, judging by the early results. Next up for the Tar Heels comes a game against Butler in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas starting Wednesday.



UNC Volleyball Climbs Four Spots After Classic Sweep

The UNC volleyball team jumped four spots in this week’s national rankings after sweeping its opponents in the Carolina Classic over the weekend.


Click to enlarge

The AVCA Coaches’ voted the Tar Heels into the No. 13 spot after a hard-fought meeting with then-No. 16 Kentucky opened the weekend. The Tar Heels, then ranked No. 17, pulled off the five-set victory with a 16-14 final set. The Wildcats took sets two and three in dominating fashion (25-15 in each), but the Heels answered with a 25-13 set four to force the deciding set.

The weekend’s remaining games was a breeze comparatively as Carolina swept Georgia Southern and VCU on double-header Saturday.

UNC is 7-1 on the season and on a five-match winning streak after its 3-0 loss to Illinois in the Illini Classic on August 30.

The Tar Heels remain home this weekend for the ACC-Big 12 Classic. Oklahoma comes to town Friday, and Carolina hosts West Virginia on Saturday. Both matches begin at 6:00 p.m.


UNC Men’s Soccer Takes Over No. 1 In CSN Poll

The UNC men’s soccer team surpassed the only team it has fallen to this season and now sits in the top spot in the nation, according to a recent poll.

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 11.21.45 AM

Click to enlarge

College Soccer News ranked North Carolina No. 1 in the nation Monday after its 3-0 ACC win against Pittsburgh on Friday in Chapel Hill.

That win propelled the Tar Heels past the former No. 1, UCLA Bruins, who the Heels lost to, 1-0 in the Carolina Nike Classic on August 31.

The Bruins’ recent scoring woes helped contribute to the shift: UCLA is coming off a pair of 0-0 ties to Santa Clara and Cal Poly over the weekend.

Notre Dame held the No. 2 spot before Monday’s poll but fell to No. 4 after a 1-0 loss to Kentucky last Monday. Washington sits in the No. 3 spot, moving up two; Virginia rounds out the top five falling one spot.

The Tar Heels are back on the road and out of conference play Tuesday against William and Mary. That game can be seen on NSCAATV with the kickoff scheduled for 7:00 p.m.


UNC Men’s Basketball Schedule Released

The UNC men’s basketball team eases into its 2014-15 campaign, but the newly released schedule is highlighted by some high-level opponents.

View the Schedule

The new 15-member Atlantic Coast Conference is stacked with talent bringing Louisville to the mix this year after Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame joined last year. The Tar Heels face the Cardinals in a home-and-home conference series this season; Carolina faces Syracuse and Notre Dame in the Smith Center and will travel to Pittsburgh.

Only one of the UNC-Duke matchups is scheduled to be carried on both ESPN and the ACC Network this year. The rivalry is the only contest carried by two networks. The ACC Network could very well still pick up the season finale in Chapel Hill on March 7.

Out of conference, the Tar Heels travel to Lexington, Kentucky to face the Wildcats in mid-December. Last year, Kentucky traveled to Chapel Hill where Carolina handed out the 82-77 defeat of Wildcats.

McAdoo Emerges as ‘Giant Killer’ Carolina Edges Kentucky 82-77

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, UNC travels to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis. Carolina opens the tournament on Paradise Island against Butler and will face two other opponents out of the group of Oklahoma, UCLA, UAB, Florida, Georgetown, or Wisconsin.

Those dying to get to basketball season, you’ll be happy. Late Night with Roy comes three weeks earlier this year. The unofficial season tipoff is October 3.

Tar Heel Take: Late Night with Roy

The ACC officially announced the 2014-15 schedules Wednesday.


Tar Heel Baseball Roll Continues with Midweek Davidson Stroll

The No. 15 North Carolina baseball team downed Davidson 10-3 Wednesday at Boshamer Stadium to record it seventh straight win and improve to 8-3 on the year.

With the loss, the Wildcats fell to 3-6 on the season.

UNC sophomore Reilly Hovis earned his second win of the season with three scoreless and hitless innings, striking out five.

The Tar Heels blew the game open in the bottom of the sixth when Davidson struggled to find the plate with its pitches and Carolina scored four runs off an Adrian Chacon RBI, a sac fly, wild pitch and a Wildcat error.

Carolina led 6-1 and would go on to tally four more runs to secure the comfortable midweek victory.

Skye Bolt went 1-2 for UNC with a trio of walks and a run scored. He also made a diving grab at the wall to steal extra bases from Davidson in the eighth inning.

Next up for the Tar Heels is an ACC opening series against ACC newcomer Pittsburgh. First pitch is scheduled for Friday at 3 p.m.

Final Box Score


Tar Heel Baseball Takes On Davidson Wildcats In Final ACC Tune-Up

The No. 16 Tar Heel baseball team, 7-3 on the season, faces a midweek test Wednesday for a 3 p.m. first pitch at Boshamer Stadium against the 3-5 Davidson Wildcats.

Carolina comes into the contest off a series sweep of North Florida, where the Tar Heel pitching staff carried the day. Sophomore ace Trent Thornton threw 7.2 scoreless innings while freshman Zac Gallen recorded his first career collegiate win.

WCHL will chat with UNC’s Thornton Friday morning at 7:20 a.m. during the Morning News.

Davidson is coming off a 2-1 series loss to Miami (OH) and will be looking to rebound in Chapel Hill. The Wildcats narrowly missed out on an upset victory over No. 8 N.C. State earlier in the season.

Wednesday’s game will be the final tune-up for the Tar Heels before embarking on their ACC campaign against Pittsburgh this weekend.