CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina relied on superb pitching and great defense in securing a gritty 1-0 win over Boston College on Friday night. Runs were at a premium at Boshamer Stadium and so the Tar Heels played to the foundational philosophy that head coach Mike Fox built his program on – an efficient arm on the mound backed up with quality defensive play.
In the bottom of the third inning, the Tar Heels loaded the bases with one out and shortstop Logan Warmoth drew a four-pitch walk that scored the lone run of the game.
“It was tough they were good pitches,” Warmoth said after the game. “I was watching the zone in the first and second inning and thought it was a pretty tight zone back there… I just tried to be patient and find a pitch to drive, but he didn’t give me one.”
Even though the offense left runners on base, that one run would be all starting pitcher Zac Gallen would need to secure a victory.
The right-hander has also been positively lights out this season when taking the bump at home. In his 30 innings at Boshamer Stadium, Gallen is 3-0 having allowed just three runs (only one of them earned) to go along with 33 strikeouts.
Against Boston College, the sophomore starter turned in another terrific outing. By nights’ end, the Gibbsboro, N.J. native had thrown a complete game shutout, surrendering just three hits and striking out eight.
“I wish we could play at home every game,” Gallen said. “It’s a comfortability thing….(for me) it’s about trying to keep us in the game and protect the lead.”
Gallen’s defense was near flawless and did not commit an error. Whether it was Elijah Sutherland snagging a grounder from his knees at second or Skye Bolt laying out for a drive hit to right center, Carolina defenders were making plays all over the field.
“Warmoth made a great play at the plate, and Skye made a great play, and that is what you need to do to get a shutout,” Fox said. “We made some sensational plays, so it probably ranks right up there.”
There were two plays in particular that secured the victory.
The first came in the top half of the sixth inning. Eagles designated hitter Scott Braren led off the inning with a single. Braren moved over to third following a sac-bunt and a wild pitch, respectively.
With one out and a runner on third, shortstop Johnny Adams knocked a hard-hit grounder to the left side of the infield. Warmoth fielded the ball cleanly and came up firing to nail Braren at the plate and end the threat.
“It’s funny, we had some confusion,” Warmoth said. “Coach Fox said to come half way in, but then he said, ‘if he’s halfway home, throw him out.’ But, I was able to make a nice play.”
The most important play of the game came in the closing moments of the contest. With the bases loaded and two out in the top of the ninth inning, Boston College right fielder Donovan Casey smacked what looked like a sure fire single toward the gap on the right side of the infield that would have likely given the Eagles the lead.
UNC first baseman Joe Dudek, however, was able to make a sprawling stop on the ball, as he sprung up and barely beat Casey to the bag for the game’s final out.
“To end the game like that was pretty cool,” Dudek said. “With two strikes he was just going to try to put the ball in play, so I’m glad I made the play… With a 1-0 win, making the big plays sure helps.”
Given that there is a massive logjam in the middle of the ACC standings, this victory was an important one for the Tar Heels. Both UNC (11-10 in the ACC) and Boston College (9-12) are vying for a top-six seed in the ACC Tournament to avoid a play-in game.
UNC improved to 18-2 against Boston College since the Eagles joined the ACC in 2005-06.
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