The Daily Tar Heel

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Saturday December 3rd

UNC baseball loses first game of season, ending a 26-game home winning streak

Brandon Martorano (4) and Dylan Harris (3) celebrate after a home run by Michael Busch in UNC's 11-8 loss over VCU on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019.
Buy Photos Brandon Martorano (4) and Dylan Harris (3) celebrate after a home run by Michael Busch in UNC's 11-8 loss over VCU on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated how many low-scoring games the team had in a row. The team started with three high-scoring games and then had five low-scoring games. The story has been updated with the correct information. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error. 

After eight straight straight wins to start the year, the No. 5 North Carolina baseball team found its groove at the plate on Wednesday, but also fell flat on the mound. 

The team lost its first game of the season to VCU, 11-8, as young pitchers gained invaluable experience, but ultimately came up short.

The North Carolina (8-1) pitching staff had to battle the VCU hitters right from the start. Starting pitcher Josh Dotson pitched 3.2 innings and gave up five runs. Six Tar Heels pitched after Dotson, but each was unable to quiet the Rams.

The UNC attack kept pace with VCU in the game's opening stages. After the first five innings of the game, North Carolina led, 7-5. Even though the UNC pitching staff gave up more runs than it has to any other opponent this season, the offense seemed ready for a high-scoring battle.

Of the seven UNC players to take the mound, four were first-years: Dotson, Bennett Nance, Nik Pry and Connor Ollio. Both Nance and Kyle Blendinger took the mound for the first time this season. 

In addition to the first-years, two sophomores, Caden O’Brien and Blendinger, took the mound against VCU. The only upperclassman to make an appearance was redshirt senior Hansen Butler. 

As these pitchers gained experience, they also faced adversity along the way.

In the sixth inning, UNC allowed five runs, all coming with two outs in the inning. Three different North Carolina pitchers appeared in the inning; Pry began the inning, but hit the first batter before being replaced by O'Brien. All five runs crossed the plate with O'Brien or Blendinger on the mound.

In that frame, VCU earned four hits, and nine hitters appeared at the plate.  

“You gotta tip your cap to VCU," center fielder Dylan Harris said. “They came out absolutely swinging, and I mean, that's baseball. You're going to have those days where you play a team that is absolutely hot, hitting the ball where you're not."

After the sixth inning, VCU led North Carolina, 10-7. Through the remainder of the game, two other pitchers took the mound for the Tar Heels. Although the pitching staff combined to only give up one more run, North Carolina could not bounce back. The Tar Heel hitters were unable to find their groove.

The 11 runs and 12 hits North Carolina gave up were both season highs. Prior to this game, the Tar Heels had not allowed more than three runs in any contest.

"Our pitching up to this point has been really good," first-year right fielder Caleb Roberts said. "Our bullpen has been outstanding. They were a little off their game today, but I mean it's baseball. We started out 8-0, and we will bounce back this weekend."

Still, managing eight runs has to feel good for a team that hadn't eclipsed five in any of the previous five games.

“It was good to see us score some runs today because they have been hard to come by,” Fox said. “We've won some games lately, but they've been very low scoring because we pitched well. So it was nice for us to see us score some runs today. That's part of baseball, right? We finally score eight runs in a game, and we give up 11.”  

Although this loss ended the Tar Heels' 26-game home winning streak, and is a blemish on their otherwise perfect record, Fox says they gained something from the loss. 

“Some guys were on the mound today that never pitched before in a college game,” Fox said. “I tell our kids all the time, experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want. We didn’t get a win, but we gained some experience by getting some guys out there. We will move on.” 


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