Last Week's Results: Def. NC A&T 10-0, lost to Coastal Carolina 2-3(11); Won series vs Wake Forest 9-0, 4-3, 5-6
Record Last Week: 3-2
Record This Season: 21-15, 9-9 ACC
Schedule This Week: 4/15 vs NC State(at DBAP), 4/16 vs Elon, 4/18-4/20 at Virginia
This past week was a mix of good and bad. After throttling NC A&T on Tuesday, UNC lost to Coastal Carolina 3-2 in 11 innings on Wednesday. This is problematic since Coastal is 205th in the RPI and UNC is sitting at 84th. That is a precarious position for the Tar Heels' NCAA Tournament hopes and taking a 200+ loss is a worst case scenario kind of deal. The issue for UNC was leading 2-1 going to the ninth then giving up the tying run on a sacrifice bunt. In the 11th UNC came apart with a hit by pitch followed by a dropped foul ball which then led to a single putting a runner on third with no one out. Coastal pushed the run across to take the lead and then the game.
With the Heels reeling a bit, UNC got back to winning baseball by taking two of three from Wake Forest. Michael Russell swung a hot bat all weekend and in the Heels 9-0 win in the series opener on Friday, the Tar Heels shortstop walked, stole second and third and then scored on a passed ball. Trent Thornton was impressive tallying 10 strikeouts and giving up just two hits in eight shutout innings. Freshman Tyler Ramirez made his first home run as a Tar Heel a memorable one with a grand slam in the fifth to break open the game.
On Saturday, Michael Russell's sacrifice fly in the seventh plated pinch runner Adam Pate to put the Heels up 4-3. Reilly Hovis made it stand up giving up just one walk and striking out three in the final two innings. Three of UNC four runs came on a pair of sacrifice flies and a ground out. Benton Moss started for the Heels and went 6.1 innings giving up six hits and three runs.
In the series finale, Wake Forest got to freshman starter Zac Gallen early then held on for a 6-5 win. Gallen lasted just four innings giving up six runs but only four of them earned. The combination of Zach Rice, Spencer Trayner, Trevor Kelley and Taylore Cherry limited the Demon Deacons but the damage was already done. Russell went 3-6 with an RBI and Skye Bolt 4-4 with two runs scored. However UNC left 14 runners on base including leaving the bases loaded twice.
At 9-9 in the ACC, UNC sits tied for 4th in the ACC Coastal Division and if the ACC Tournament started today, the Heels would be one of the ten participants. The biggest issues facing UNC now is the schedule. The Tar Heels will play nine of the final 12 ACC games against Virginia, FSU and Miami. Two of those series will be on the road with the Heels hosting FSU.
Given UNC's NCAA Tournament positioning, there is almost no room for error in the mid-week non-conference games which includes Tuesday's tilt with NC State at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. UNC needs every win they can get outside of the ACC schedule then find a way to scratch out victories versus some very good teams. Winning the series or even sweeping Virginia Tech in two weeks is a must. If there was ever a time for Skye Bolt and Landon Lassiter to return to 2013 form, now would be it. Michael Russell is playing up to par and currently ranked 5th in the ACC in batting. UNC also has a good shot at one win every weekend with the way Trent Thornton has been pitching.
UNC has not missed the NCAA Tournament since 2001 and has a lot of work left to ensure it doesn't happen in 2014.