The last two games have been a mixed bag for the North Carolina baseball team.
UNC (9-8, 1-2 ACC) has only allowed one run in its past two games for a cumulative 0.50 earned run average. However, in these two games, the Tar Heels have also only been able to score one run of their own.
UNC’s offensive struggles continued on Wednesday as the team lost 1-0 in a home meeting with Gardner Webb (11-7), its second loss to the Bulldogs in program history.
While North Carolina struggled to put runs on the board, the team wasn't without opportunities. In the first inning, the Tar Heels had the bases loaded with two outs and shortstop Ike Freeman at the plate. Freeman connected on the first pitch for a routine groundout to end the inning.
“I don’t know what Ike Freeman’s thinking, going up there swinging at the first pitch that’s down and away,” head coach Mike Fox said. “When the bases are loaded, all of the pressure is on the guy on the mound. Sometimes you gotta wait for a little bit better pitch than that. We let them off the hook.”
UNC had plenty of other opportunities to score, but the team just couldn’t put enough hits together to get a runner home. With a man on second and only one out in the third inning, first baseman Michael Busch and third baseman Kyle Datres hit back-to-back line drives to left-center field, but both were snagged by an outfielder.
Two innings later, Datres was at the plate again with a runner on second base. This time he launched a ball to deep left field, but it died at the wall and was caught by the left fielder on the warning track.
“That’s just how the game works,” Datres said. “You are going to square a ball up and get out and hit one off the end of the bat, and it will fall in for a hit. It will come around, hopefully sooner than later, but just keep pushing and trying to get better each day.”
The Tar Heels had one more opportunity in the seventh inning when team RBI-leader Busch came to the plate with runners on first and second. Busch swung at a first-pitch changeup, and sent a ground ball to the pitcher, ending the inning.
The problem for UNC wasn’t getting runners on base; North Carolina left ten runners on base throughout the game. The Tar Heels just couldn’t get a clutch hit whenever someone was in scoring position.
“We got to be better at putting multiple hits together,” Datres said. “We hit some balls hard, but we’ve got to be more consistent throughout the lineup. It’s not going our way lately, but we just have to be better as a team.”
Fox attributed the team’s hitting woes to a variety of factors, but he said that they need to fight through them.
“We’re not doing a lot of things well,” Fox said. “We’re not getting the leadoff man on. When you don’t get the leadoff man on in the inning, it’s tough to score. A lot our guys are hitting with two strikes. I think some kids are fighting themselves a little bit, and some of our better guys lost their confidence a little bit.”
The Tar Heels’ next game is on Friday night when they host Pittsburgh in the team's first ACC series at Boshamer Stadium this year. North Carolina will look to get its struggling hitting back on track against the Panthers.
“We’ll be in here early tomorrow and working at it,” Datres said. “There’s not much we can do now about these last two games, just move past it and try to get better tomorrow.”
@DTHSports | firstname.lastname@example.org
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.