CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Pitching and rain dominated the weekend for USF baseball in Chapel Hill, as No. 6 North Carolina (7-0) completed a series-sweep of USF (3-4).
After having their Friday game postponed due to rainy conditions, the Bulls and Tar Heels played all three games of the series within 24 hours, with the first game beginning Saturday at 6 p.m., the second Sunday at 10 a.m. and the third shortly after 1 p.m.
“We’re a little upset right now — a little tired,” coach Billy Mohl said after USF’s 5-2 loss in game two of a Sunday doubleheader. “But, [we’ll] get ready for the next week.”
Two-run first inning costs Bulls in first game of doubleheader
USF couldn’t muster much against North Carolina starting pitcher Tyler Baum in game one, as the Tar Heels defeated the Bulls 2-1. Baum struck out a career-high 12 batters over seven innings, surrendering just one run.
Alec Wisley made his second start of the season, going 4.2 innings, allowing two runs on three hits and walking five and striking out five.
The two runs Wisley surrendered were both in the bottom of the first inning when a walk, double and hit batter led to a bases loaded, nobody out situation. A wild pitch and a sacrifice fly drove in both Tar Heel runs in the inning, but Wisely escaped further damage thanks to two strikeouts in the inning.
“I thought Wisley didn’t have his best stuff,” Mohl said. “I thought he competed. I thought he started off rough in that first inning and then settled in, still pitching to contact more.”
USF’s lone run of the game came in the third inning when Kyle Phillips drove in Jordan Santos with an RBI single.
That would be it for scoring in game one as pitching really took over from there. Logan Lyle took over for Wisley with two outs in the fifth inning and faced the minimum — 10 batters — the rest of the way for the Bulls.
Similarly, North Carolina’s Joey Lancellotti, in relief of Baum, shut down USF’s bats. Lancellotti went two innings, striking out two. The only two base runners he allowed came on walks in the eighth and ninth innings, respectively, which USF eventually stranded.
The loss was USF’s second straight loss by one run after losing to North Carolina on Saturday 3-2 in 10 innings.
Eighth-inning costs Bulls in second game of doubleheader
A costly sequence in the eighth inning cost USF a chance at salvaging a game in the series.
With the score tied at three and two runners in scoring position with only one out, Joe Genord lifted a fly ball to center field. Attempting to score on a tag-up was Jordan Santos, the runner on third. The throw beat Santos to the plate and, rather than sliding, Santos reached home standing up.
The inning, and USF’s chance to take an eighth-inning lead was over, but that wasn’t the worst of it for the Bulls. Santos was ejected from the game for failing to slide, in a rule designed to avoid home-plate collisions.
“[Santos] made contact with the catcher with the no-slide, but the thing was — [North Carolina catcher Brandon Martorano] was blocking the plate, which you’re not allowed to do,” Mohl said. “Umpire didn’t see it that way and that was the call.”
Then, in the bottom of the eighth, Ben Koff allowed a lead-off walk before surrendering a two-run homer to North Carolina’s Ike Freeman giving the Tar Heels a lead they didn’t surrender.
Junior pitcher Dylan Burns made his first-career start in game two of the doubleheader. The right-hander went four innings, allowing two earned runs on three hits and striking out three North Carolina batters before being relieved by Connor Eason in the fifth inning.
“I thought [Burns] was ok,” Mohl said. “He’s basically our fifth or sixth starter and we threw him out there because we’ve got some injuries and I thought he competed well. I thought he kept us in the game. He did what we asked of him.”
At the end of the day, while the Bulls may have been swept, they only lost by a combined four runs over the three games.
“We faced two really good arms today,” Mohl said. “We’ve just got to compete. We’re a pitch here or there from sweeping the series — instead, we get swept. So, it’s baseball for you.
“It’s on to Tuesday night against [No. 13] Florida State and Western Michigan this weekend.”