As Bukauskas garnered 11 strikeouts in seven innings — two shy of his career high — Jason Morgan paid close attention. As Saturday’s starting pitcher, it was his duty to fill out a pitching chart. He tracked the details of all 109 of Bukauskas’ pitches: their type, their location, how the hitter reacted.
Luca Dalatri was equally attentive. He was scribbling in a notepad, soaking up everything he could. Dalatri, a first-year righty, was slated to start on Sunday.
These notes weren’t required — they were for him. Two days later, they paid off.
In the last game of the No. 9 UNC baseball team’s series against Radford on Sunday, Dalatri threw 15 strikeouts on 99 pitches in a 7-5 win to complete the weekend sweep. It was the most strikeouts by a Tar Heel pitcher — not just first-year pitchers, but all pitchers — since former MLB All-Star Matt Harvey in 2010.
“I’m glad I was there to watch that,” head coach Mike Fox said. “I’ve seen a lot of games. I haven’t seen one just dominated like that.”
Sunday’s game was Dalatri’s second start of the season for the Tar Heels (7-0). His first came against Kentucky last week, when he allowed four runs in seven innings to the Wildcats.
The 6-foot-6 pitcher had five strikeouts in that game. He tripled that number on Sunday.
“That’s one of the best pitching performances I’ve ever seen, by far,” reliever Josh Hiatt said.
Four of the first six batters Dalatri faced went down swinging. Radford (1-6) went three up, three down in its first two innings as the first-year fanned batter after batter in front of the Boshamer Stadium spectators.
“It definitely helps me out a lot being able to pitch with the crowd behind me,” Dalatri said.
He held onto a no-hitter until the fourth inning, when Radford’s Danny Hrbek hit a single to left field. Dalatri didn’t allow another until the eighth, when Richard De la Cruz capped off four Highlander hits with a two-run single.
Fox was still impressed.
“That was about as complete of a pitching performance as you’ll see,” he said.
Dalatri isn’t used to losing — the New Jersey standout went 30-0 in his final three seasons of prep ball, and he’s now 2-0 this season.
But don’t even think about comparing his performance to Bukauskas’. He’ll admit without hesitation that he isn’t anywhere close to his teammate, who was named a preseason All-America by Baseball America.
“Whatever J.B. does, I don’t even try to duplicate,” Dalatri said. “His stuff is unreal ... It’s near impossible to do that.”
The two pitchers combined for 26 strikeouts over the weekend series. Despite their dominant performances, UNC only won those two games by a combined four runs.
The team itself isn’t perfect, but its record — seven wins and zero losses — still is.
“Right now, we’re just very relaxed,” Dalatri said. “We’re having a great time — it’s easy to do when you’re winning, obviously.”