Last night’s game against Davidson was disappointing but things were different in the Elimination Game on Saturday afternoon. The Tar Heels turned it around to eliminate Michigan from the Tournament and stay alive for another day. Things weren’t really looking good for them until the fifth inning, when things took a turn thanks (in my mind) to the intervention of Remington the bat dog.
One thing that was better was the pitching. After J.B. Bukauskas struggled on the mound yesterday, right-hander Gianluca Dalatri pitched a beautiful seven innings, allowing one run—a Drew Lugbauer home run in the second—on five hits and two walks while striking out six. It was exactly the kind of performance the Tar Heels needed to keep Michigan quiet and give UNC time to find their bats. Brett Daniels and Jason Morgan each pitched an inning of their own to silence the Wolverines late in the game.
The offense didn’t seem to wake up until halfway through the game, and then it unleashed a fury that had been lacking all weekend. Behind, once again, in the fifth inning, the Tar Heels were as hapless as ever. Then Remington, the Good Boy who picks up the team’s bats—who is not allowed on the field during the NCAA Tournament—ran out onto the grass anyway. Everyone in Carolina Blue applauded and cheered at that moment and something changed in the stadium. Suddenly the Tar Heels could hit.
Things started off innocuously enough thanks to Michael Hendrickson’s loss of control. Left fielder Tyler Lynn was hit by a pitch, then DH Adam Pate reached on a fielder’s choice, erasing Lynn from the bases. Catcher Cody Roberts was hit and a passed ball allowed both runners to advance. Center fielder Brian Miller walked to load the bases and Logan Warmoth walked to force in a run and tie the score. Second baseman Ashton McGee then finished off the rally with a two-run single to make it a 3-1 game.
They struck again in the sixth when Michigan decided to trot Hendrickson out again to start the inning. He served up another walk to right fielder Brandon Riley before being pulled in favor of Ryan Nutof. With a new pitcher in, the Tar Heels were relentless. Zack Gahagan singled to put two on and Lynn doubled down the left field line in order to knock in another run.
Nutof was quickly pulled in favor of Mac Lozer, who walked Roberts and allowed another run from a fielder’s choice off the bat of Miller. Warmoth popped one out to shallow right field, which was only caught because Wolverines second baseman Ako Thomas made an impressive dive, however, the play allowed the runner on third to tag up and score to make the score 6-1.
They weren’t done yet, as Lynn singled in the top of the seventh. Michael Busch, who had previously hit for Pate, was hit by a pitch to put two runners on. Roberts then doubled to knock in two more runs and put UNC ahead 8-1.
By the end of the day, every Tar Heel had been on base. Leading the way was Lynn with three hits and an RBI, McGee with a hit, walk, and two RBI, catcher Cody Roberts with a hit, two walks, and two RBI, and third baseman Kyle Datres, who had a hit and two walks.
Now that the Tar Heels have won a game, they will stick around for another day. They will face the loser of the Davidson vs. Florida Gulf Coast game later tonight. This game will take place tomorrow at 1:00 PM. Hopefully Remington will be around.