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Monday June 14th

Three takeaways from No. 12 UNC baseball's 5-2 loss to South Carolina

<p>Junior Michael Busch (15) hits a two-run RBI to give UNC the lead early in its 12-4 win over Davidson on April 10 at Boshamer Stadium.</p>
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Junior Michael Busch (15) hits a two-run RBI to give UNC the lead early in its 12-4 win over Davidson on April 10 at Boshamer Stadium.

The North Carolina baseball team competed against South Carolina in the fourth annual game in Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday night.

Playing in the home ball park of the Charlotte Knights, the Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, the Gamecocks took down the Tar Heels at BB&T Park for the first time in the series' short history, 5-2.

Thanks to scoring runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings, South Carolina (22-15) was able to open up a four-run lead that was too much for UNC (27-11, 10-8 ACC) to overcome in the loss. Here are three takeaways from the game before North Carolina embarks on the last stretch of the regular season.

UNC's road woes continue

North Carolina has been one of the scariest teams in the country at Boshamer Stadium this season, posting a 21-2 mark in its home park. Away from Chapel Hill, though, UNC has mustered just a 6-9 record. That road split does not bode well for the Tar Heels as they move forward in the season. Fortunately for North Carolina, the team plays just three of its last 17 games away from Boshamer Stadium to finish the regular season. 

UNC will likely host an NCAA Regional for the third straight year, but if the team is able to advance further into the NCAA Tournament, its record on the road will need to improve to make it back to the College World Series.

Busch continues to heat up

As a sophomore last season, Michael Busch exploded onto the scene as one of the top players in the ACC. The first baseman hit .317 with a team-leading 13 home runs and 63 RBIs to earn a second-team All-ACC selection. 

Coming into the 2019 season, Busch was named a Baseball America first-team All-American and was a projected first-round pick in the MLB draft. Yet after 19 games, Busch was hitting just .271 with three home runs on the season. 

Since that point, Busch has been on a tear and posted the same level of production he did as a sophomore. Over his last 19 games, Busch has hit seven home runs and knocked in 27 RBIs. 

On Tuesday night, Busch hit a home run in his third consecutive game and he now has a team-leading 10 home runs on the season. Seeing Busch's bat heat up is a welcome sign for a UNC team that still is yet to face No. 14 East Carolina before ending the season with a three-game series against No. 11 N.C. State.

Bullpen strong again

One of the big reasons for UNC's success last season was a formidable bullpen led by Brett Daniels, Caden O'Brien and closer Josh Hiatt. With Daniels and Hiatt both departing after the 2018 season, there is now a large gap in North Carolina's rotation.

Thanks to some unfamiliar faces, North Carolina's bullpen has been strong again this season and that trend continued on Tuesday night. In six innings of relief, UNC's pitchers combined to allow just one run and strike out five batters. O'Brien, the man expected to lead UNC's bullpen, has struggled at times this season, but the play of Ben Casparius, Austin Love and Joey Lancellotti has more than made up for it.

Casparius, a sophomore, pitched two scoreless innings against the Gamecocks and he now has a 2.30 earned run average in 15.2 innings on the season. 

Love, a redshirt first-year, ranks second on the team in wins (five) and first on the team in saves (three) in 21 appearances this season. He pitched a scoreless inning and struck out one batter against South Carolina.

Lancellotti, a sophomore, allowed a run in two innings against South Carolina. On the season, though, he has been perhaps the team's most consistent reliever and he holds a 2.66 earned run average in 23.2 innings of work to go along with 24 strikeouts.


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