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Sunday January 17th

North Carolina baseball team swept for second consecutive ACC series, first time since 2001

<p>Brian Miller swings and misses in the Tar Heels' Saturday game against UVa.</p>
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Brian Miller swings and misses in the Tar Heels' Saturday game against UVa.

The North Carolina baseball team came into its final regular season series, against Virginia, with the hopes of avoiding a play-in game in the upcoming ACC Tournament. 

In its previous ACC series against Notre Dame, the Tar Heels were swept for the first time on the season. Going into the three-game clash with Virginia, UNC hoped to reverse its fortunes. 

But after an abysmal offensive performance and inconsistent work from both its starting pitching and bullpen, North Carolina was swept once again by Virginia, marking the first time the team had been swept in back-to-back ACC series since 2001. 

Among the most glaring issues for the Tar Heels was the inability to hit runners in. During the three game stretch, UNC went 1-for-20 with runners in scoring position, something Coach Mike Fox said has been an issue all season. 

"We're just not good," he said. "It comes down to the pitcher and the hitter. The pitcher is going to dial it up a little bit because they don't want to give up a run, so you gotta do that as well."

Things looked promising in game one Thursday for North Carolina, as sophomore pitcher Zac Gallen worked the first eight without allowing a run. But after giving up a double to freshman Pavin Smith, Gallen was relieved by Trevor Kelley, who proceeded to let Virginia tie the game at one on the next at-bat. The Tar Heels would eventually lose in 10 innings, 2-1. 

Thursday's game proved to be the last time the Tar Heels would see a lead in the series, as UNC's Friday and Saturday starters allowed UVa. to jump out early in both contests. 

Friday's game saw the Cavaliers jump out to a 5-0 lead after just two innings, a deficit that proved too tall a mountain to climb for the struggling UNC offense, who were held at bay by UVa. pitchers for the majority of the series.  

"I have to give credit to Virginia's pitching staff. They made some big pitches in some big spots," said right fielder Tyler Ramirez. "We need to be tougher as a team with runners in scoring position." 

Saturday saw more of the same, as Virginia jumped out to an early 2-0 lead off of Benton Moss and Kelley. Ramirez was able to tie the game in the fifth with a two-run home run, but the Cavaliers would score five runs the next inning en route to an 8-2 win.  

Despite their poor performance, several Tar Heels chose to stay optimistic about the team's form headed into the postseason, including Moss. 

"I think we're gonna be just fine," he said. "We have the talent to do it; we just have to put it together."

Fox was more hesitant, however. Asked what he was going to tell his team after Saturday's loss to get his team ready for the ACC Tournament, Fox said he just wasn't sure. 

"I've gotta walk in and take a deep breath and figure out the next 72 hours," he said. "It's the end of the year, and I've got a lot of things to think about.

"There's just not a whole lot to say at this point."

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