There was a lot of hype going into the top-five match-up between the Clemson Tigers and North Carolina Tar Heels and the series certainly lived up to it. The series had it all: good pitching and defense, clutch hitting, late game rallies, and even a walk-off victory. The Tar Heels had to come from behind in all three games on their way to sweeping the Tigers this past weekend. UNC improved their record to 36-9 overall and 19-5 in the ACC.
Let’s take a look back at each of the games:
North Carolina - 5, Clemson - 1
If you are a Tar Heel baseball fan, Friday was just another typical outing that you have come to love and expect from J.B. Bukauskas. He pitched seven strong innings, gave up only one run, and struck out seven batters on the way to earning his 8th victory of the season (8-0). Bukauskas also lowered his ACC-leading ERA to 1.51.
The only run that Bukauskas gave up was a home run to Clemson’s Chris Williams in the 6th inning that gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead. Clemson’s pitcher, Charlie Barnes, was just as dominant as Bukauskas, having not allowed a run through the first six innings.
However, the Heels got to Barnes with two outs in the 7th inning, as they put up five runs in the bottom half of the inning to take a commanding 5-1 lead. After a wild pitch from Barnes led to UNC’s first run of the game, it was a bases-clearing double from Michael Busch that gave them a 4-1 cushion. Brian Miller added a base hit to score Busch and stretch the lead out to 5-1.
That would be all the runs that the Tar Heels would need, as Coach Mike Fox went to his closer, Josh Hiatt, for the last two innings. Hiatt closed the game out with a strikeout, and UNC took the opening game of the series.
North Carolina - 5, Clemson - 4
Similar to Friday night’s game, Clemson once again struck first, as the Carolina offense struggled to get anything going against the Tigers’ starting pitcher. In the 2nd inning, the Tigers strung together a couple of hits on UNC’s starting pitcher, Luca Dalatri, to build a 3-0 lead. The Tar Heels answered back in the bottom half of the inning with a Tyler Lynn RBI double that cut the lead to 3-1.
Dalatri and Clemson pitcher, Alex Eubanks, each settled in and didn’t allow runs through the next five innings. Clemson finally got to Dalatri again in the top of the 8th inning by adding another run to increase their lead to 4-1. However, relief pitcher, Brett Daniels, entered the game to limit the damage and keep the Heels within three runs.
The middle of UNC’s lineup had a good game at the plate and helped produce another rally in the bottom of the 8th inning. The Tar Heels were able to get two runners on with one-out singles and put the pressure on the Clemson defense and bullpen. Carolina tied the game up at 4-4, after Kyle Datres, Brandon Riley, and Cody Roberts each added RBI singles. After loading the bases, Zack Gahagan helped complete the comeback by hitting a sac-fly to left field that gave the Tar Heels their first lead of the game at 5-4.
Coach Fox once again went to his closer, Hiatt, to close out the game, and similar to the night before he finished it off with a strikeout. Hiatt earned his 13th save of the season in the victory. Dalatri, despite giving up four runs, continues to show that he has the makeup of a Friday starter in the years to come.
North Carolina - 3, Clemson - 2 (10 innings)
After falling behind 2-0 in the top of the first inning, the Tar Heels were once again going to need to mount a comeback in order to get a victory.
The UNC bullpen (Brett Daniels, Rodney Hutchison Jr., and Hiatt) would do their part by throwing seven shut-out innings to keep Clemson off the scoreboard.
UNC’s left fielder, Tyler Lynn, was the star and hero of the game as he provided all of the offense for the Tar Heels. Lynn finished 3-5 and had three RBI, including the game-winner. He cut the Clemson lead in half in the 4th inning and tied it up in the 6th with an RBI single.
The game was tied at 2-2 after nine innings and headed into extras. After Ashton McGee got on base to start the bottom of the 10th inning, Lynn came through once again for Carolina with an infield single that scored McGee and gave the Tar Heels the sweep over the Tigers.
Here is a video of the walk-off (thanks to UNC Baseball and GoHeels TV for the video):
Nothing like a walk-off in extras!— Carolina Baseball (@DiamondHeels) April 30, 2017
Watch Tyler Lynn give the Heels the Sunday W pic.twitter.com/N8vmFX8RmH