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.
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.