On an unseasonably cold Sunday afternoon in Chapel Hill, N.C., the Boston College baseball team (22-21, 9-14 ACC) exited the diamond in perfect tune with the chilly weather. Looking to build upon its five-game winning streak coming in to the weekend, BC hit an unyielding Carolina blue wall in the form of the No. 21 North Carolina Tar Heels (28-15, 13-10 ACC). Previously hot Birdball bats were stymied by UNC pitching to the tune of one run scored in a three-game weekend series sweep. Even with a winter of epic proportions in the rear view mirror, the Eagles hadn’t been this cold all year.
Friday night’s opener produced the most tightly contested matchup of the weekend as a pitcher’s duel broke out between BC’s Mike King (1-3) and UNC’s Zac Gallen (3-3). In a showcase of dominance from both team’s starters, King and Gallen each finished what they began. King tossed his second consecutive complete game (eight innings), allowing only one run on five hits, while Gallen threw a complete game shutout, striking out eight and surrendering a stingy three hits. The only run of the game came in the second inning, as King walked Tar Heel shortstop Logan Warmoth with the bases loaded. Small mistakes usually come back to haunt you in baseball, and King’s bases-loaded walk was no exception. After the second inning walk, King only allowed three more hits, spreading them out to one apiece in the fifth, sixth, and eighth innings, but that one slip up was all UNC would need.
“It was a tough one for us.” King said of the team’s performance. “I battled, I tried. The defense really helped me out. We just had a tough one at the plate.”
On most days, King’s strong effort would result in a BC victory—Warmoth, however, didn’t let that happen. Warmoth dominated the first eight innings, allowing only two hits. The ninth inning was dicey for Warmoth and the Tar Heels, as a Blake Butera single sandwiched in between two walks gave the Eagles life, if only for a moment. Donovan Casey almost notched a game-tying single, but was robbed by Tar Heel first baseman Joe Dudek, cementing the UNC win as well as the shutout for Warmoth.
In a weekend without many positives for BC, Saturday at least saw the Eagles score a run. This run, however, was the team’s lone run of the series and was not nearly enough to earn a victory. Another stellar Tar Heel start by JB Bukauskas (4-1) set the tone for UNC, as the right-hander threw seven scoreless innings of three-hit baseball, while striking out eight. The game remained scoreless through four innings, until BC starter John Gorman finally cracked a bit in the fifth, allowing Dudek to score Landon Lassiter on a single to center field. The Tar Heels pushed across another run off Gorman, and broke the game open with three more as Geoffrey Murphy and Nick Poore took the mound. The Eagles’ lone run of the series came in the top of the eighth, down 5-0, as third baseman Jake Palomaki scored. This run, however, was scored on a throwing error, meaning that Tar Heel pitching did not allow one earned run throughout the entire three-game weekend series. In the bottom of the eighth, UNC tacked on an insurance run, and took game two, 6-1.
Game three was an all-around sloppy affair for the Eagles. Perhaps it was the light drizzle falling in Chapel Hill that contributed to the team’s defensive woes, but regardless, the Eagles committed too many errors to remain competitive with a team like North Carolina. BC’s four-error afternoon tied its worst defensive performance of the year, when the team also lost to Nebraska-Omaha. Eagles’ starter Jesse Adams fell to 2-3 on the season, as his five-inning effort saw six runs (three earned) light up the scoreboard thanks in large part to the team’s defensive struggles as well as a two-run homer from Korey Dunbar. With the way the Eagles’ bats had performed the prior two games, being down 5-0 after three innings was nothing short of a death sentence.
In what has to feel like deja vu at this point, UNC’s starter turned in a dazzling performance, silencing the Eagles. This time, the dominant start came as no surprise. UNC senior Benton Moss has been the Tar Heels’ ace all season long, sitting at an unblemished 5-0 record coming into the afternoon matchup. Moss’s strong fastball and sharp curve mowed down Eagles bats all afternoon, as the tall right-hander allowed only two hits in eight innings of work and cruised to his sixth win of the year.
As the Eagles’ weekend in North Carolina came to a close, the team had to be happy to get away from Chapel Hill and pitchers like Moss. The team fell to 0-14 all-time at Boshamer Stadium, so there should be some comfort in knowing that it won’t be back for a while. Streaks are bound to happen throughout the course of a baseball season, so it isn’t shocking to see a team win five straight and immediately drop three. It’s how the Eagles respond to a losing streak that will define the team’s season.
Sophomore relief pitcher Justin Dunn echoed this statement after the game on Sunday. “This whole weekend as a whole was a rough one,” Dunn said. “I mean, it’s baseball, you’re going to fail. You’re not always going to have the best weekend. As long as we rebound for this and keep fighting like we were against Georgia Tech and the weekends prior, we’ll be fine.”
Photos Courtesy of Katie Williams / The Daily Tar Heel