It’s safe to say the No. 2 North Carolina baseball team enters this week’s 2017 ACC Championship with plenty of momentum.
The Coastal Division-champion Tar Heels (44-11, 23-7 ACC) will begin play on Wednesday. Here’s everything to know from an eventful week leading up to North Carolina’s postseason-play opener.
Seriously good in series
On May 19, North Carolina saw its season-long streak in jeopardy yet again.
In the first game of its final ACC series, UNC was doubled up by Duke in an 8-4 loss on May 18. The Tar Heels had a season-low three hits, and they were shut out before and after a four-run fourth inning.
Although UNC already locked itself in as a top-two seed in the ACC tournament last week, its players weren’t ready to see their ACC series perfection — nine wins in nine series — blemished.
So they stepped up.
It took 10 innings, but Tyler Lynn’s walk-off single gave his team a Friday win against its rival and kept the chance of ten straight series wins alive. Having stud pitcher J.B. Bukauskas (four hits allowed and eight strikeouts in seven innings pitched) back on the mound helped, too.
Here's your walk-off folks! Tyler Lynn gets it done in the 10th pic.twitter.com/NoVsVp5GjJ— Carolina Baseball (@DiamondHeels) May 20, 2017
That confidence carried over into Saturday’s 9-7 win. UNC quickly built up a 7-1 lead, and four relievers helped close out the Blue Devils after first-year Gianluca Dalatri, who struggled last week, pitched five strong innings.
North Carolina ended its regular season with a school-record 23 ACC wins and stayed perfect in ACC series play for the first time ever.
ACC recognizes Tar Heels
A dominant regular season usually means a slew of postseason awards. And for UNC, that was exactly what happened.
Bukauskas, a junior, was voted the ACC Pitcher of the Year. He was the definition of consistency all year for North Carolina, and his stats prove it. He went 8-0, tallied 106 strikeouts and had a conference-low 1.87 ERA in 82 innings of work. Bukauskas is the fourth UNC pitcher to win the award.
The ACC Freshman of the Year award went to Ashton McGee. McGee led UNC with a .339 batting average and had six home runs and 39 RBIs. He had a number of highlight plays this year, like an 11th-inning walk-off against East Carolina and a diving catch versus Elon.
And teammate Logan Warmoth made sure everyone remembered that McGee graduated a year early to come to UNC — in terms of age, the Pikeville, North Carolina, native should be a high-school senior right now.
Warmoth (team-high nine home runs), Brian Miller (team-high 80 hits) and Josh Hiatt (13 saves) joined Bukauskas on the All-ACC First Team. McGee was joined on the All-ACC Freshman team by Dalatri, who also was voted to the All-ACC Third Team.
This week in Louisville
This year’s ACC Championship format has been totally redesigned.
Four pools of three teams will compete from Tuesday to Friday. The winner of each poll will advance to Saturday’s semifinal, and the champion will be decided on Sunday.
Thanks to Louisville’s dominance, UNC missed out on the top seed in the tournament. But the No. 2 spot is a great consolation prize. And regular-season results against the teams in its pool add plenty of confidence, too.
Wednesday’s opponent is No. 11 seed Boston College (25-26, 11-19 ACC). When the Tar Heels visited the Eagles this season, the results were eye-popping — a school-record 47 hits and 48 runs in the three-game sweep.
And a Friday match-up against in-state rival and No. 7 seed N.C. State (33-22, 16-14 ACC) is a chance for revenge. The Wolfpack came into Chapel Hill and ended UNC’s chance at three consecutive ACC sweeps.
With a combined 5-1 record against its two opponents, UNC enters Louisville Slugger Field this week as one of the teams to beat.
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