In the top of the seventh inning, after a bases-loaded walk, an audible groan was heard around the press box as head baseball coach Mike Fox made his fourth trip to the pitcher’s mound to make a change.
It is not typical for the North Carolina baseball team (19-7, 4-5 ACC) to use five pitchers in a weekend series game, but during midweek games, anything is on the table. In UNC’s 4-2 win over Campbell (14-10, 5-1 Big South) on Tuesday, that was evident.
In addition to using five pitchers, the Tar Heels used three pinch hitters. In a long, ugly baseball game, all hands were needed.
“We were extremely lucky to win,” Fox said. “... How they only scored two runs, I don't know, I’ll have to go back and watch it.”
Fox was surprised the team won because the Tar Heels walked eight batters, hit four others by pitch and committed three errors. For a team that relies on pitching and defense, it was not a stellar game.
Despite those mistakes, UNC allowed just one earned run. Junior Andrew Grogan led the way, pitching 3.1 innings and allowing one hit.
“I just felt like I was really relaxed out there, really calm," Grogan said. "I stayed focused on my breathing and let the results happen instead of trying to make them happen.”
In midweek games, UNC pitchers, and starters in particular, are on tighter leashes than usual. Sophomore Joey Lancellotti started the game for the Tar Heels and lasted just 2.1 innings. He walked two batters, hit two more and allowed one unearned run.
“If you don’t throw the ball over the plate I’m coming to get you, it’s as simple as that," Fox said. "You’ve got to throw strikes.”
While the pitchers were weathering the storm, the UNC bats scored all four of their runs in the first three innings. First-year Danny Serretti was responsible for three of the runs.
He came up clutch in the first inning with two outs, two strikes and runners on second and third. Serretti laced the ball back up the middle for a single that brought both runners in to score.
“I was just bearing down and when there were two strikes I was just trying to see the ball up and do damage,” Serretti said.
The switch hitter padded his stats from the right side of the plate again in the third inning with another two-out single. One runner came in to score, which gave the Tar Heels an early 4-1 lead.
“We’ve always thought he was better from the left side but we’ve been facing a lot of left-handed pitching,” Fox said. “... He’s really swinging the bat good from the right side, which is good to see.”
After a high scoring start, the lineup mustered just two hits the rest of the game.
“That’s probably what I’m most disappointed in,” Fox said. “We just kind of gave away some at bats. I don't know whether our guys think we had the game won, I don't know, just give credit to their relievers.”
Campbell also had all hand on deck for this midweek game. The Fighting Camels used six pitchers and all five of their relievers shut the Tar Heels out.
Although Fox was unimpressed, a win is a win, especially in a midweek game.
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