“That’s kind of the pitcher I am,” Grogan said. “I’m not going to blow you out of the water with velocity or stuff, so I’ve got to really command the ball low in the zone.”
His numbers support his words. Of the 28 Chanticleers (24-17-1, 9-8 Sun Belt) he retired, 11 grounded out, demonstrating his tendency to draw weak contact and keep the ball on the ground when he is on his game.
In his first season out of junior college, Grogan hasn’t had quite the success he expected. Before Tuesday, his longest outing was 4.2 innings against UNC-Wilmington in March, and he had a 4.50 ERA on the season coming into the game. But he is turning the corner at the right time.
In his last two outings, Grogan has thrown 8.4 innings, giving up just six hits and one run. The transition to Division I baseball hasn’t been easy for Grogan, but he said it wasn’t because of skill.
“The academic side is the biggest change; baseball is really kind of the same,” he said. “People think there is a big gap in talent, but really if you go out and pitch your game, the baseball is the same. It’s definitely starting to feel better.”
Despite Grogan’s strong start, Coastal Carolina’s first-year starter Nick Parker was almost as good out of the gate, allowing just one run in the first four innings. But in the bottom of the fifth with UNC up 1-0, the bottom of the Tar Heel batting order struck.
First, right fielder Ashton McGee turned on a 1-1 pitch, launching a moonshot into the netting past right field. On the next pitch, catcher Brandon Martorano smacked one up and out over the left field fence. Two batters later, Dylan Enwiller had blazed around the base paths and scored on a throwing error by the catcher.
All of a sudden North Carolina led, 4-0.
“It’s been huge,” said Fox, of production from the bottom of the lineup. “That’s baseball, you need guys one through nine to help you.”
With the comfort of a four-run lead, Grogan continued to pitch effectively and efficiently. He pounded the strike zone throughout the game, throwing 71 strikes on 90 pitches before he was pulled in the eighth inning.
That control helped Grogan to navigate a heavy-hitting Coastal Carolina lineup without allowing hits to turn into runners in scoring position. It's why the North Carolina coaching staff recruited Grogan. After walking six batters in his first three outings of the season, he has walked just seven over his last 10 appearances.
With the regular season winding down, the Tar Heels will look to more superb outings from Grogan and the rest of the pitching staff heading toward the postseason.
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