UNC Baseball: Tar Heels continue hot ACC start

Feb 14, 2017; Port St. Lucie, FL, USA; a general view of a baseball bat and glove on the field during New York Mets spring training workouts at Tradition Field. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 14, 2017; Port St. Lucie, FL, USA; a general view of a baseball bat and glove on the field during New York Mets spring training workouts at Tradition Field. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

The Diamond Heels were back in action at the Bosh this week, at continued their nice start in ACC play.

Before the Heels three-game set against the Miami Hurricanes, they visited non-conference rival, the East Carolina Pirates.

The Pirates, who have had a nice start to their season in their own right, came into the game ranked No. 25 in the country.

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Following the game against the Pirates, the Heels hosted Miami, who despite their recent success, has struggled to get off the blocks this year.

Miami came into the series with a 10-11 record, and only 3-3 in ACC play.

With a series win against Miami, the Heels opened up their season with three straight series wins in ACC play.

Considering how rough ACC play was last year for Carolina, they are looking much better this year!

East Carolina

UNC 6, ECU 2

The Heels began their week in Greenville, North Carolina this week, getting a win over ECU, 6-2. The nationally-ranked Pirates gave the Heels their best shot, but in the end, the UNC bats were too much.

Right-fielder Brandon Riley was incredible at the plate for the Heels. Riley was 3-for-4 at the plate, driving in four runs, and scoring twice himself. Riley was the only Tar Heel who had multiple hits on the day, but they did get hits from four other guys.

The Tar Heels pitching staff was by committee on Wednesday. They went with three guys, but nt guy went more than 4.2, and that was Rodney Hutchison. Hutchison has been a do-it-all guy in the bullpen.

They have used him as a setup guy, or they have used him to get big innings on days the starter has struggled.

Hutchison got the win for the day, giving up two hits in that 4.2 innings. Hutchison moved to 3-1 on the year. Closer Josh Hiatt also was strong for the Diamond Heels.

He had 1.1 innings of perfect baseball, getting his eighth save of the young season.

Miami (FL)

Game One: UNC, 7 Miami 2

Game one of the Miami series was the JB Bukauskas show. Bukauskas kept the train rolling, moving on to 4-0 on the year with another great start. Bukauskas went 7.0 innings, surrendering only three hits, and no runs. He has been the unshakable force for the Heels this season on the weekend.

The bats were also alive and well for the Diamond Heels in game one. The team combined for ten hits, spread out over six guys. DH Ashton McGee led the team with three hits, one RBI, and a run scored. Brandon Riley also collected a pair of hits, and a pair of RBI’s on Friday night.

One thing the Heels could improve upon is their timely hitting. They left fourteen guys on base in the first game, something the Heels have struggled with so far this year. Catcher Cody Roberts left five guys on by himself.

The Heels used four guys in the bullpen on Sunday also. The bullpen only gave up two hits combined, but also both of the runs.

Still not a bad day from the relievers, who have proven to be extremely reliable for the Heels this season.

Game two: UNC 6, Miami 3

The bullpen was the story for the Diamond Heels in game two. Reliever Brett Daniels made an early appearance in the fifth inning, after Lucas Dalatri’s day was cut short after allowing nine hits and three runs.

Daniels stepped in and did a terrific job, going 3.2 innings and giving up only one hit. Hewas huge because he stabilized the pitching staff on a day where the starter struggled out of the gates.

Josh Hiatt also appeared out of the bullpen and got his ninth save of the season. He has been incredible.

On the offensive side, the Heels were fortunate to muster up six runs. Luckily for UNC, every single one of the four hits was an extra base hit. Miami had ten hits, the Heels had four, and still won the ball game.

Brandon Riley had another good game for the Diamond Heels. Riley, despite going 1-for-4, had two clutch RBI’s for the team. Warmoth, Roberts, and Miller also collected hits for the Heels on Saturday.

It is a great sight to see when the Heels still win, despite being out-hit, and their starter struggling out of the gates. This game feels like a stolen win for the Diamond Heels!

But they all count!

Game three: Miami 6, UNC 2

The Tar Heels struggled right out of the gates and never were able to recover on Sunday. Starter Cole Aker had an extremely quick outing, facing only two batters. Aker did not even record an out.

Rodney Hutchison was incredible again in relief, going five innings and only giving up one run. Austin Bergner was the pitcher who came in next and never really able to get going. Bergner also recorded no outs, giving up four hits, and four runs.

The Heels went through a total of six pitchers. Taylor Sugg posted a solid day in the bullpen, he went three innings, while only giving up one hit.

At the plate, Brian Miller and Brandon Riley both had great days, collecting a combined six hits, but neither recorded an RBI. Warmoth, Lynn, and Roberts also were good for a hit a piece on Sunday.

The lack of production from DH Ashton McGee hurt the Heels. McGee went 0-for-5 on Sunday. This is no indictment on McGee. McGee has been incredible all season long, but just could not get a hit on Sunday.

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The Heels struggled yet again, trying to get a timely hit. They left a total of eleven runners on base. In games one and three of the series, the Heels combined to leave 25 runners on base.