In a tale of three walkoffs the #20 Diamond Heels beat the #13 Oklahoma State Cowboys 2-1 on Friday, 7-6 in ten innings on Saturday and 4-3 on Sunday. Carolina won all three games with the final swing of the bat as Kyle Datres, Brian Miller and Eli Sutherland all had game ending hits. The team is now ranked #12 in the nation according to Baseball America after starting the season unranked. The Heels have played their first six games against top 25 competition and get a bit of a break this week with Winthrop before a weekend home series against Fairfield.
Friday's Game: #20 Carolina 2 #13 Oklahoma State 1
Zac Gallen allowed his first run of the season with a second inning home run by Garrett Benge. Gallen was still excellent on the day, with nine strikeouts on 107 pitches. Gallen has been one of the best pitchers in the country through his first two starts and should give the Heels a great shot to win every Friday this year. The Diamond Heels used A.J. Bogucki and Hunter Williams out of the bullpen. They each held the Cowboys scoreless and Williams allowed the only hit of the two relievers. Bogucki went 0.2 innings and recorded a strikeout and Williams threw 1.1 innings with two strikeouts. Neither reliever allowed a walk. The bullpen has been a strength of the team this season and Carolina only allowed two runs after the third inning all weekend.
The Heels' offense was kept in check all day by the Cowboys' pitching staff. Tyler Ramirez kept up his stellar start to the season with an RBI double in the first inning to score Brian Miller. Ramirez also hit another single and drew a walk. Ramirez has played like Carolina's best player so far this season and he is a big part of the team's strong start. Brian Miller and Kyle Datres were the other standout players on Friday. Miller scored both runs on Friday and went 2-4 while recording one walk. Datres went 2-5 and hit the game ending double, a standout performance from the freshman. Adam Pate also had two hits, going 2-3.
Saturday's Game: #20 Carolina 7 #13 Oklahoma State 6 (Ten Innings)
Carolina won Saturday's game with their bats. Carolina scored twice in the first inning and again three times in the second. The team put 18 men on base in the game and kept the pressure on the Cowboys the entire time. The standouts for the Heels were Brian Miller, Tyler Ramirez and Cody Roberts who all reached three times. Miller had two singles and a walk for the Heels and he scored once. Ramirez failed to record a hit, but he showed excellent patience at the plate, drawing three walks and getting across the plate once himself. Roberts led the team with three hits and two RBIs. It was a balanced effort from the Heels as each run was scored by a different player.
The Carolina pitching staff had a rough start to the game. Starter J.B. Bukauskas only lasted 2.1 innings and allowed a grand slam to Dustin Williams in the top of the first. But from there the bullpen took over. Spencer Trayner, Hunter Williams, A.J. Bogucki, Hansen Butler and Cole Aker came in to slam the door shut for the Heels. Only Butler allowed an earned run of the relievers and everyone lasted at least an inning. The big issue for Bukauskas seemed to be his command. He could not bring his fastball under control and was forced to rely on off-speed pitches for strikes. Dustin Williams sat on an off-speed pitch for his first pitch and hit it over the fence. The bullpen was a lot better as they all threw strikes and were able to get outs much easier than Bukauskas. Nine of the twenty-two outs the bullpen recorded were strikeouts and they made relatively short work of the Cowboy hitters for the rest of the game. The bullpen is the strongest part of the team so far and this bodes well for conference play and the postseason beyond that.
Sunday's Game: #20 Carolina 4 #13 Oklahoma State 3
Role player Eli Sutherland received his first start of the season and hit a two run single in the bottom of the ninth to give the Heels the sweep. Sutherland came through in the Heels' worst offensive effort of the season. Carolina only recorded five hits for the entire game with two of them from Ramirez. Ramirez is the clear star of the team and he had one of Carolina's two extra base hits and an RBI. The Heels' other standout on offense was Datres, who scored two runs on the day. Datres and Cody Roberts, who bunted the winning runs on to second and third, played excellently all weekend and have been outstanding considering that they are only freshmen.
The bullpen was excellent again for the Heels holding Oklahoma State scoreless again. Zach Rice, A.J. Bogucki, Spencer Trayner, Hunter Williams and Hansen Butler all performed well for the Heels out of the bullpen. They did not record a large number of strikeouts but the bullpen has had results in every appearance so far this season. The one red flag for the Diamond Heels out of the bullpen is that they are using a few pitchers every game. Bogucki, Williams and Butler seem to be the main arms that the Heels are relying on so far. The Heels are a bit vulnerable to injuries and overusing their bullpen arms. The only other area of concern is that the Heels have not yet gotten consistent production from their starters outside of Gallen. However, this early in the season there is not much to worry about and the Heels have played ranked teams so far this season. With a midweek came against Winthrop before a home series against Fairfield, the Heels get a break this week from the tough schedule they have had so far. The team has had a very strong start to the season and are now ranked #12 in the nation. This team already looks better than they were expected to look preseason and could very well become a super-regional outfit if they play this well for the entire season.
Wednesday: Winthrop--Home @ 3:00 PM
Friday: Fairfield--Home @ 3:00 PM
Saturday: Fairfield--Home @ 2:00 PM
Sunday: Fairfield --Home @ 12:00 PM