CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – No. 18 North Carolina received dominant performances from all three starting pitchers against Boston College in securing its first ACC sweep of the season.
“The last three days we’ve pitched really, really well,” UNC head coach Mike Fox said after Sunday’s 6-0 win. “I am trying to think of a weekend where we’ve pitched a whole weekend without giving up an earned run, and I can’t think of one. Sensational by all three of those guys.”
On Friday, sophomore Zac Gallen continued his home dominance by throwing a complete game shutout, allowing just three hits and striking out eight. The right-hander is 3-0 at Boshamer Stadium this season and has allowed just three runs (one earned) and struck out 33 hitters in 30 innings of work.
Gallen also provided his fellow starters a blueprint for how to stay ahead of the Boston College hitters for the remainder of the series.
“It’s inspiring to see,” Sunday starter Benton Moss said. “When they pitch well, you also get to see how to attack the hitters.”
Due inclement weather, Saturday afternoon’s game was moved up to 10 a.m. The early start time didn’t seem to bother freshman J.B. Bukauskas, who tossed seven scoreless innings. Like Gallen, Bukauskas surrendered just three hits and struck out eight.
The young starter has turned in a tremendous freshman campaign. After his effort on Saturday, the Ashburn, Va. native improved to 4-1 and dropped his conference ERA to 3.19. In ACC play, opposing batters are hitting just .198 against him in 48 innings.
In the series’ finale on Sunday, Moss overcame some control issues early to pick up his sixth win of the season. Against Boston College, the Tar Heel ace looked much improved compared to his previous two starts.
After the Heels’ offense spotted him a 5-0 lead early in the game, the right-hander was able to settle in and throw eight innings of shutout baseball.
Sunday’s outing was Moss’s second start of the week (he threw 4.2 innings in UNC’s 8-3 win over Campbell University on Tuesday). Between the two games, the veteran allowed three runs on 10 hits while striking out eight in 12.2 innings.
“The last two starts I’m 100 percent back from my elbow injury, but against Campbell I felt a little rusty,” Moss said. “In this one I felt I was locked in and could hit my spots. Today, I felt like I could throw it in a tea cup.”
Moss also joined a select company of pitchers by becoming just the fourth Tar Heel to throw 300 strikeouts for his career.
“I didn’t know until now, but that’s pretty exciting,” Moss said. “Hopefully there will be more to come.”
Both the players and coaches agree that there needs to be a greater level of consistency on the mound. But based on how well this trio executed against Boston College, there is certainly a case to be made that this group has the potential to close the season as the class of the ACC.
By the end of the weekend, UNC starters had compiled 24 innings of work and allowed just a single run (unearned) on eight hits, striking out 22 hitters.
The sweep of Boston College capped an excellent week for the Tar Heels. UNC has won six straight, four of which were conference victories. UNC (13-10 in conference play) is currently in fourth place in the ACC standings with Clemson (12-11) and Notre Dame (12-12) close behind.
The Tar Heels will play one more game on Tuesday (home against UNCG) before getting a week off for final exams. While Fox lamented having to take time off in the middle of a winning streak, Moss believes that the break is a good opportunity for the team to bond and refocus for the stretch run.
“It’s my favorite part of the year because you get to be with the people that matter most - your teammates,” Moss said. “We do a lot of stuff at a team. It’s going to be good for guys to finish up their finals and then have nothing on their plate but playing ball.”
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