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Monday January 24th

UNC baseball wins seventh straight ACC series

<p>North Carolina pitcher J.B. Bukaukas (38) prepares to throw out the season opening pitch against Kentucky on February 17.</p>
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North Carolina pitcher J.B. Bukaukas (38) prepares to throw out the season opening pitch against Kentucky on February 17.

The accolades just keep piling up.

Three days removed from an unexpected 5-2 loss to Liberty, the No. 3 North Carolina baseball team took on Pittsburgh in a road series at Cost Field.

The Tar Heels (31-9, 16-5 ACC) won two of three games, securing their seventh ACC series win in as many tries. UNC reached the 30-win plateau for the 20th consecutive season and secured its first winning conference record since 2013.

North Carolina also clinched its spot in the 2017 ACC Baseball Championship in Louisville, Ky., next month. Here are three takeaways from the team’s trip to Pittsburgh, Pa.

Friday and Saturday starters deliver

When the Tar Heels’ bats are cold, they’ve relied on strong pitching to keep them in games.

That same strategy worked against the Panthers. Junior righty J.B. Bukauskas continued his stellar season in Friday’s 5-2 win, improving his record to 7-0.

Bukauskas tallied eight strikeouts in 6.2 innings. Pittsburgh had five hits on him but only two runs.

Gianluca Dalatri followed up his teammate’s performance on Saturday. The first-year righty experienced his first true pitching duel in a 3-1 win.

The game started with seven scoreless innings as Dalatri and Pittsburgh’s Josh Falk controlled the game. Dalatri pitched a career best 8.2 innings, garnering five strikeouts and allowing three hits.

Bats cool down

UNC went through a lucrative stretch earlier this season, scoring 68 runs in a four-game stretch against Boston College and South Carolina.

North Carolina has now gone five consecutive games without double-digit runs — and three of those five games have been losses. Ironically, UNC’s highest scoring game in its series against Pittsburgh was its 11-9 loss on Sunday.

The Tar Heels had 14 hits on Friday, including three each from sophomore right fielder Brandon Riley and senior left fielder Tyler Lynn. But UNC left 12 runners on base.

As it’s done in many close games this season, North Carolina used a burst of runs in an inning to build a lead. The Tar Heels find themselves in scoring position every game, but they must capitalize on their opportunities, especially against sub-.500 teams.

Hiatt climbs the list

Among all the words on a baseball box score, “save” has to be the most positive. It’s a stat that’s always positive. It reflects security. Dependability.

Josh Hiatt had saved North Carolina 10 times entering this weekend. He added two more to his growing résumé by series’ end.

The redshirt first-year relieved Bukauskas and pitched 2.1 scoreless innings. His workload was much lighter on Saturday — five pitches instead of 35 — but a save is a save.

Hiatt is now tied for fifth on UNC’s all-time single-season saves list. He’ll need eight more saves to break Michael Morin’s record of 19 saves in 2012.


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