Carolina baseball came into this past weekend badly needing a series win against the #9 Louisville Cardinals but dropped the rubber match on Sunday to give the Cardinals their first away series win all year. The Heels are still trying to figure out who their third starter is on Sundays and they have not won a Sunday game since March 20th against Duke. Carolina now needs to win each of their last two series--against Notre Dame and State--if they want to have a shot at the postseason tournament.
Friday Game: #9 Louisville 6 Carolina 0
The Heels were only able to scrounge up four hits on Friday against a dynamite Louisville pitching performance from Brendan McKay and closer Zack Burdi. The Heels had seven runners on base all day and never really threatened the Cardinals. McKay had nine strikeouts in 7 innings and Burdi recorded four of his six out at the plate. Brian Miller, Logan Warmoth, Tyler Ramirez and Tyler Lynn had the Heels hits. Zack Gahagan and Logan Warmoth each reached base twice.
The Heels' lackluster offensive performance wasted a good outing from Zac Gallen. Gallen allowed only three runs, two earned, in 7.2 innings. Gallen struck out six, allowing six hits and only one walk. The bullpen allowed the game to get away from the Heels as Louisville tacked on 3 runs in the top of the ninth against Hunter Williams and Spencer Trayner to move the scoreline to a more comfortable 6-0.
Saturday Game: Carolina 3 #9 Louisville 2 (10 innings)
Logan Warmoth hit a walk off solo home run in the bottom of the tenth to give the Heels a win over the Cardinals. The Carolina offense was aided by six walks from the Louisville pitchers to go along with eight hits. Warmoth, Adam Pate and Brandon Riley led the way for Carolina. Riley had two hits--including a triple--and an RBI. Pate had two hits and Warmoth had two RBIs, adding a sacrifice fly to his walk-off homer. Tyler Ramirez and Zack Gahagan each walked twice for the Heels.
J.B. Bukauskas was incredible on Saturday, going 8.1 innings while allowing two runs--one earned--with eight strikeouts, 9 hits allowed and only one walk conceded. A.J. Bogucki came in after Bukauskas to get the win in ten innings. Bukauskas' development has been the highlight of Carolina's season this year as he has turned into a dominate force on the mound. Carolina's one-two punch of Gallen and Bukauskas is the only reason why this team is still hanging around for postseason consideration at this point in the season. If Bukauskas and Gallen each perform at this level for the Heels' final two series, then the Heels have a real shot at two series wins and the postseason.
Sunday Game: #9 Louisville 10 Carolina 6
Jason Morgan got the start for the Heels on Sunday but he only lasted three innings, allowing two runs on four hits and a walk with no strikeouts. The bullpen took the rest of the game with five other pitchers seeing time. Bogucki came in to relieve Morgan, in his inning of work he allowed three hits and a run. Brett Daniels came in next, and after throwing a scoreless fifth inning he got only one out in the sixth as the Cardinals scored 4 runs, three earned. Spencer Trayner took over and allowed two runs before Hansen Butler allowed an unearned run without recording an out in the seventh. Cole Aker was the best pitcher for the Heels Sunday. Aker relieved Butler, finishing the final 2.2 innings with a quality outing. Aker had two strikeouts and only allowed a single base runner on a single.
Unfortunately, the poor pitching performances came on a day when the Heels had their offense wake up. on Zack Gahgan led the way on Sunday with three hits, three RBIs and hit a home run to pace the Heels. Brian Miller, Adam Pate and Tyler Ramirez each had two hits of their own. Pate recorded an RBI and Logan Warmoth had only one hit but two RBIs for the Heels. However, the Heels could not sustain offense up and down the lineup to be able to match the Cardinals as Brandon Riley, Kyle Datres, Cody Roberts, Eli Sutherland and Tyler Lynn combined to go 1-16 on the day.
It's hard to overstate how much the Heels need to win each of these final two series--Notre Dame at home and State in Raleigh--if they want to make the postseason. In fact, the Heels probably need to go 5-1 in their last 6 league games to feel comfortable about getting an at large bid in the NCAA tournament. They need to find offense to win, the Heels have had way too many games where they get nothing offensively from three or more spots in the lineup. It's nearly impossible to win ACC games with that type of impotence on offense despite herculean pitching on Fridays and Saturdays. If something does not change they probably lose the season ending series at State and get de facto eliminated from the postseason in Raleigh.
Tuesday: ECU at home at 6:00 PM
Weekend: Notre Dame at home (Friday on ESPN3 @7pm, Saturday on ESPN3 @6pm, Monday on ESPNU @7pm)