Persistence Pays Off

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Zac Gallen needed just 112 pitches to notch his first career complete game in North Carolina’s 2-1 victory over rival N.C. State on Friday night.

Inconsistency has at times plagued Gallen during his sophomore season. In his eight appearances (six as a starter), Gallen has recorded a 2-2 record and a 2.92 ERA.

In a Friday start against Duke back on March 6, Gallen turned in a strong performance by tossing seven innings of four-hit ball to go along with a career-high 12 strikeouts.

In his very next start, however, the young righty got shelled by Pitt. Against the Panthers, Gallen surrendered eight earned runs on six hits before being pulled in the fourth inning.

Against the Wolfpack, Gallen resembled the starter that took the mound against Duke. For the game, the Gibbsboro, N.J. native gave up one run (unearned) on six hits, while striking out five and walking just one.

“The story for us was Zac Gallen,” UNC head coach Mike Fox said. “It is a great credit to him. I thought he was in control from begging to end, and was strong at the end.”

Even though he posted strong numbers, things weren’t easy for Gallen. Four times in this game, the right-hander put runners in scoring position.

Yet, other than the unearned run that came as a result of a Zack Gahagan error, Gallen was able to pitch his way out of difficult situations.

“It’s tough in those situations,” Gallen said. “… I just told myself to limit the damage and keep it to one run, and we’d be ok.”

Perhaps the most important out of the game came in the top of the seventh inning. With a runner on third and two outs in a tie ball game, N.C. State second baseman Logan Ratledge knocked a ball down the left field line that would have scored the go-ahead run.

Instead, the ball fell just left of the chalk foul. On the next pitch, Gallen got Ratledge to ground out to second, as the capacity crowd at Boshamer Stadium breathed a huge sigh of relief.

“I knew I missed a pitch and got lucky there,” Gallen said. “He missed that one and it gave me new life to make a better pitch.”

Offensively, UNC was far from stellar, tallying just two runs on three hits. Even though the offense struggled to produce hits, a Tyler Ramirez RBI single and a clutch solo home run from Skye Bolt in the seventh inning gave Gallen all the runs he would need to pick up the win.

“When you see a guy like Zac do what he did tonight, it gives you confidence,” Bolt said. “He got down one run early after the throwing error, but that is the competitor he is. He keeps you in the ball game.”

In a game and a series in which North Carolina needed a quality outing, Gallen was able to provide the type of start that carried his team and set up this pitching staff for the rest of the weekend.

“He’s such a hard worker, he’s pitched great,” Fox said. “Except for that one start at Pitt, he’s been really good. That start (tonight) helps us and our staff for the next few days.”

Photo by Joe Bray

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