Carolina started the baseball season 3-0 with a sweep of Seton Hall this past weekend. Carolina showed remarkable offensive balance, averaging more than 8.5 runs per game. Perhaps more impressive, the Heels' hitter showed remarkable patience at the plate, drawing 13 walks during the series. Working pitchers this way will be critical to success in a very deep ACC this season. Carolina's pitchers with the exception of Reilly Hovis had an excellent weekend, holding the Pirates to 6 runs across 26 innings. In the final inning of game three Hovis allowed 4 Seton Hall runs, hopefully just a sign of rust for the projected UNC closer.
Friday: UNC 7 Seton Hall 1
Tyler Ramirez got the Heels off to a great start to the season, homering in his first at-bat of the season. Joe Dudek followed Ramirez's efforts in the bottom of the second, hitting a solo shot. These would end up being the only two home runs of the weekend. Seton Hall was dealt a big blow for the day when starter Luke Cahill left with an injury after throwing only 1.1 innings. This loss was slightly mitigated by the entrance of Sam Burum, who went the rest of the way, throwing only 82 pitches in the process. Burum allowed the Pirates to save the rest of their arms for the Saturday double header.
The Heels' staff stayed solid, allowing only run the entire game although the Pirates actually out-hit the Heels. Carolina benefited from excellent clutch pitching throughout the game, a trend fans hope continues throughout the rest of the season.
Saturday Game One: UNC 10 Seton Hall 4
UNC starter Benton Moss pitched very well for 5 innings, holding hall to 4 hits and only two runs. Moss displayed a nice fastball, with his velocity topping out at around 94 mph. Meanwhile the bats were lively throughout the first few innings, culminating in a 7 run 3rd where the Heels couldn't miss if they tried. After that inning the Heels' bats were silent for most of the rest of the game. The Heels did get into a little bit of trouble in the top of the seventh, when the Pirates strung together a few hits and scored again, but reliever Trevor Kelly settled down, getting a strike out, after allowing an RBI single to get out of the inning with minimal damage.
The Tar Heels scored again in the bottom of the seventh when Seton Hall's third baseman bobbled a simple grounder allowing Adam Pate to score from third. Seton Hall scored their third run when Alex Falconi singled into left, scoring D.J. Ruhlman from third. Ruhlman had reached base after being hit by a Brett Daniels pitch. The Heels capped off their 10-4 win with a nice inning from Freshman Nick Raquet. Raquet allowed a single to right but struck out two and drew a flyout to center to end the game.
Saturday Game Two: UNC 9 Seton Hall 5
Carolina gave the ball to Freshman J.B. Bukauskas (#33 prospect in the nation last year according to Baseball America) to start the second game. In his first game as a Carolina player, Bukauskas came out throwing fire, hitting 96 mph frequently and keeping his fastball in the 95-96 mph range. Bukauskas struck out two but conceded an unearned run when Zack Weigel scored. Weigel led off for the Pirates and reached on a throwing error from Carolina second baseman Alex Rayburn's error. In the bottom of the first the Heels were held hitless as Seton Hall pitcher Anthony Pacillo threw 14 pitches while getting the Heels out one-two-three. Bukauskas was much more even in the second inning, hitting 97 mph on his fastball and recording another strikeout as the Pirates went three up three down.
The Heels made a bit of noise in the bottom of the second before Joe Dudek hit into a double play to end the inning. Carolina got their first hit of the game in the bottom of the third with an Alex Rayburn single. The Heels almost hit Rayburn around but a diving catch by Seton Hall first baseman stopped Wood Myers hard hit ball to right field and ended the inning. Bukauskas gave up two singles, including a bunt single, in the top of the fourth but he struck out his fifth batter of the game to get the Heels out of the jam. Seton Hall left runners on second and third to end that inning.
The bottom of the fourth saw the Heels score their first runs. Joe Dudek his a double to left center to score Adrian Chacon from second and Logan Warmoth from first. The bottom of the fifth saw the Heels load the bases with one out after Skye Bolt walked. This forced a Seton Hall pitching change to Zach Prendergast who promptly gave up a single to Tyler Ramirez, scoring two Carolina runs.
Bukauskas was pulled after the 5th inning, he threw 82 pitches, allowing four hit and one unearned run in his first start as a Tar Heel. Zac Gallen replaced Bukauskas on the mound. Gallen induced three ground-outs from the Pirates, who went three up three down. The Heels scored again in the bottom of the 6th. Landon Lassiter singled to left to drive in Alex Rayburn. Rayburn hit a lead off double before being bunted to third by Korey Dunbar. Gallen retired the side in the top of the 7th to keep the score at 5-1.
Carolina scored again in the bottom of the 7th on a Joe Dudek single to really put the game beyond Seton Hall's reach. Chris McCue acted as the set-up man, pitching the 8th inning as Seton Hall went three up three down again. Skye Bolt drew another walk with the bases loaded to give the Heels their 7th run. The Heels scored two more times in the bottom of the 8th to have the score at 9-1 going into the final inning. Reilly Hovis came in to close the game... but things did not go as smoothly as planned. Hovis loaded the bases on two walks and a hit batsman before Tyler Boyd hit a double over Adam Pate's head to score three runs. Hovis calmed down a bit to end the game, Boyd scored on a single from Ryan Ramiz but Hovis responded with two strikeouts to end the game.
The Heels converted 32 hits into 26 runs across the three games. That trend probably is not sustainable unless Carolina hits for more power in the future. Otherwise expect the run production to drop off a bit, on average, a team needs about 2.3 hits per run a ratio the Heels were nowhere neat this weekend.
Logan Warmoth started all three games for Carolina at third, he was the only Freshman position player to start.
Skye Bolt drew 4 walks in 13 plate appearances, so although he only hit .222 on the weekend his on base percentage was still 0.462. That Bolt is patient still is important, it shows he's not trying to rush it in his return from an injury plagued campaign last year.
J.B. Bukauskas appears to be very much the real deal. Last year's #33 prospect hit 96 mph repeatedly in his first college start on a cold and windy day. Players have said he's hit 98 in practice. Bukauskas possesses the tools to be one of the best college pitchers in the country this year, while still only a freshman.