The North Carolina Tar Heels are in first place in the ACC and all is right with the world. After their sweep of NC State, the Heels are hitting their stride with just two conference series left before the ACC Tournament.
With that sweep of the third-ranked team in the country, here are where the Tar Heels stand in the polls:
- D1Baseball.com Top 25: 6
- NCBWA: 5
- Baseball America: 5
- USA Today Coaches Poll: 6
- RPI: 4
Here are the latest results:
UNC Baseball Results - Week 11
|4/27/2018||at NC State||W 6-5||29-13|
|4/28/2018||at NC State||W 8-6||30-13|
|4/29/2018||at NC State||W 5-4||31-13|
|5/1/2018||vs. UNCA||W 11-5||32-13|
On Friday, NC State opened the scoring with a two-run second inning. In the fourth with the bases loaded, Brandon Riley’s sac fly scored Dallas Tessar who beat the throw from right field. Two batters later, Ashton McGee’s nailed one past State’s second baseman and knocked in both Kyle Datres and Michael Busch.
The Wolfpack got one back in the bottom half to tie the game, and added one more in the fifth to lead 4-3.
With the bases loaded in the eight, an Ike Freeman gapper to right-center scored Datres and Busch. During that scoring sequence, an ill-advised throw and and error on the attempted catch scored Riley to push the Carolina lead to 6-4.
In the bottom of the eighth with two outs, Brett Daniels got in a jam and loaded the bases. Joey Lancellotti came in relief, and after walking in one run, struck out Brett Kinneman with his bat on his shoulder. The Wolfpack left three on base and could not buy a run with one of the top hitters in the country at the plate.
Lancellotti went the distance to earn the save, and the Heels hung on for the 6-5 victory.
In game two, the game was scoreless until Busch and Datres hit back-to-back solo shots in the fourth to put Carolina ahead 2-0. Later in the inning, Riley stole third and a wild toss by the State catcher allowed him to score. In the bottom half of the fourth, NCSU got two back to narrow the gap to 3-2.
In the sixth, the teams traded runs. Cody Roberts hit another solo home run for the Tar Heels, while the Wolfpack responded with one of their own.
With the bases loaded in the seventh, Tessar beat the tag at the plate after a NC State wild pitch to increase the Carolina lead to 5-3. However, this game was far from over.
After a scoreless eighth, the ninth would be worth the price of admission. With the bases loaded, another NC State miscue on a passed ball allowed Zack Gahagan to score. The Wolfpack infield was in with runners in scoring position when Riley punched a ground ball up the middle that scored Datres and Busch to make it 8-3.
Lancellotti, coming in to close again, could not replicate his performance from the previous evening. He allowed two home runs in the bottom of the ninth. Brett Daniels came in relief with no outs and gave up another home run to make it 8-6 Carolina. However, Daniels settled down to earn the save.
Austin Bergner got the win, and pitched eight innings, allowing three runs on five hits and striking out 11.
Carolina started the scoring on Sunday on a play that has caused much upheaval among the lunatic fringe in Raleigh, including NC State head coach Elliott Avent. Unfortunately due to Avent’s comments after his team was swept, this play needs to be examined in detail.
You can view the play in real-time in the video below starting at the 21 second mark or see the screenshot of the moment of contact below. An errant throw by the second baseman after the catch caused the NC State catcher to go up the baseline and go low to stop the ball. Contact between Busch and the catcher was made at least ten feet away from the plate up the third baseline.
At the very worst, this was a baseball play in which each player may have done slightly more to avoid or ease the contact. It is clear Busch attempts to slow at the very last moment as his running stride changes and his hands go up to brace for impact.
Perhaps Busch could have jumped, spun, or sidestepped outside the baseline to avoid contact. He was certainly too far away from home plate to slide. But if that is expected of the baserunner in the basepath, then a similar expectation should be of the catcher who chasing a bad throw up the line. The catcher started at home plate, and by moving towards third base to chase the ball knew he was being pulling away from the plate. Perhaps he could have backed out of the baseline, or at least not put himself in a vulnerable position by lowering his head to the waist of the baserunner.
Most baseball fans can be objective and see this for what it is: a legal baseball play with no malicious intent on either side.
Others, of course, do not. From his interview with WRAL after the game, this is what Avent had to say:
I didn’t think it was a bang-bang play, I thought it was an absolutely terrible call. I think he should’ve been called out and thrown out of the ball game.
It is not clear what baseball game Avent was watching, but his propensity for being a hothead and playing the victim was on display both during and after the game. Perhaps him charging the Carolina dugout after the play, causing his players to follow suit and clear the dugouts, and putting his hand on a UNC player was more of a cause for ejection, but I digress.
Later in the first, as was a common theme during the series, a passed ball allowed Carolina to tack on another run.
State got one back in the second, but Carolina added another one in the third. Freeman’s line drive to center scored Busch and UNC was ahead 3-1.
In the fifth, Freeman earned another RBI on a groundout. Then pitcher Ben Casparius, in to pinch hit, scored Riley on a chopper up the middle. NC State responded with two runs of their own in the bottom half of the fifth and UNC led 5-3.
After two scoreless innings, State added a run in the eighth to set up a dramatic finish in Raleigh. In the bottom of the ninth, Casparius retired the first two batters in order on a ground out and fly out.
However, Casparius lost some control and walked the next three batters. NC State could not pay for a better situation to avoid the sweep. Yet, with two outs and the bases loaded, the Wolfpack was snakebit, and a fly out to right ended the game and completed the series sweep.
This was the first sweep over NC State since 2006, and the first one ever in Raleigh.
Against UNC Asheville on Tuesday, the game was gridlocked until the fifth inning. UNCA got on the board first with two runs. Carolina responded with 10 runs in the bottom half of the inning to put the game away.
The first three Carolina runs were scored as the bases were loaded, two from walks and one from a hit batter. Riley knocked in two runs on a single to right, followed by a Roberts RBI single to left. Brandon Martorano drove in two on his double to left. A walk scored another run, and then a score off a passed ball gave the Tar Heels ten.
Busch added to his RBI total with one in the seventh, and the Tar Heels cruised to a 11-5 victory.
The Carolina offense continues to roll during conference play:
Since the start of ACC play, the Tar Heel bats have been . pic.twitter.com/IsZlfGoOrE— Carolina Baseball (@DiamondHeels) May 2, 2018
Here are the individual leaders for the Heels:
- Batting average: .350 - Kyle Datres (5th in ACC)
- Slugging percentage: .544 - Michael Busch (9th in ACC)
- Home runs: 11 - Michael Busch (T-7th in ACC)
- RBIs: 48 - Michael Busch (T-1st in ACC)
- Hits: 63 - Kyle Datres (T-2nd in ACC)
- Runs: 48 - Kyle Datres (1st in ACC)
- On-base percentage: .456 - Michael Busch (4th in ACC)
- ERA: 1.74 - Ben Casparius (minimum 10 innings pitched)
- Strikeouts: 62 - Tyler Baum and Austin Bergner
- Innings pitched: 55.2 - Austin Bergner
- Wins: 6 - Brett Daniels (6-0) (T-3rd in ACC)
- Saves: 3 - Josh Hiatt
The Tar Heels are now first overall in the ACC. Their sweep over NC State knocked them out of the Atlantic Division lead, and Carolina stands one game ahead of Clemson for the overall lead. UNC is 2.5 games ahead of Duke in the Coastal.
Current ACC Standings
Josh Hiatt has been suspended by the team:
Bad news for North Carolina: preseason All-America closer Josh Hiatt has been suspended indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the team. Obviously he’s a vital part of the bullpen. No more details available.— Aaron Fitt (@aaronfitt) April 26, 2018
The Tar Heels saw how this suspension hurts the team. In the finale against State, Carolina did not have many options from the bullpen with just four relief pitchers available.
UNC will not have a weekend series due to the exam break this week. The Tar Heels return to action next week against Richmond (22-19) and at Coastal Carolina (31-14).
UNC Baseball Upcoming Schedule
|5/8/2018||6:00 PM||vs. Richmond|
|5/9/2018||6:00 PM||at Coastal Carolina|