The No. 9 North Carolina baseball team snuck past Radford, 2-0, on Friday afternoon at Boshamer Stadium. UNC junior Brian Miller’s two-run home run in the bottom of the eight broke a scoreless game and gave North Carolina a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
The Tar Heels (5-0) and the Highlanders (1-4) were scoreless for the first seven innings. North Carolina junior righty J.B. Bukauskas was locked in a pitching battle with Radford’s Zack Ridgely.
Sophomore pitcher Rodney Hutchison Jr. relieved Bukauskas — who had a heroic effort with 11 strikeouts — in the eighth inning and kept the Highlanders scoreless.
Radford stuck with Ridgely — who was still relatively fresh — in the eighth. The Highlanders pitcher was still boasting a shutout, but he wouldn’t have that accolade for much longer.
In the bottom of the eighth, sophomore Cody Roberts advanced to second base off a sacrifice bunt from teammate Utah Jones. Miller was up.
On the third pitch of his at-bat, he made contact. The ball sailed toward right-center field and split the American and UNC flags right behind the fence. Gone.
The Tar Heels then brought in their third pitcher of the game, redshirt first-year Josh Hiatt, to close it out in the ninth. Radford looked to have life with a runner on third, but Hiatt delivered his third and final strikeout of the inning to secure a victory and pick up his fourth save of the season.
Who stood out?
Bukauskas’ final tally of 11 strikeouts was just two off his career high of 13, which he set last year against Virginia Tech.
When Bukauskas left the game, the next two Tar Heel pitchers picked up where he left off. Hutchison and Hiatt combined for four more strikeouts and kept the shutout intact.
When was it decided?
It was a game of missed scoring opportunities — UNC left five men on base and Radford left six. Miller’s home run, which was his first of the season, was the break North Carolina needed for a win.
Why does it matter?
The one-win Highlanders gave North Carolina all it could handle in a close, gritty game — the Tar Heels couldn’t muster more than a 2-0 lead.
UNC must capitalize on on-base opportunities in the future, especially as it begins to take on tougher opponents.
Where do they play next?
The Tar Heels will continue their three-game home series against Radford tomorrow at 2 p.m.
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