CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – After an 18-2 start to the season, No. 13 North Carolina has lost 10 of its last 17 games and finds itself on similar footing to last year’s team that ultimately missed the postseason for the first time in 15 years.
“We’re just an average team right now,” UNC head coach Mike Fox said following his team’s 6-3 loss to No. 16 Coastal Carolina on Tuesday.
The Tar Heels are 12-9 against the RPI Top-50 – only Louisville and N.C. State have more Top-50 wins nationally – although the boys in blue are 3-8 against Top-50 opponents over the last four weeks. The Diamond Heels fell to 25-12 with Tuesday’s loss, which dropped them to 5-8 in April with seven games left before finals break. Last year, UNC entered the break at 29-16.
“We haven’t had a good month,” Fox said. “If we don’t get some wins here this week and next week, these games in May may not matter.”
UNC is 9-9 in the ACC – the same record it had this time last year – with 15 games against current RPI Top-50 opponents remaining, including conference series with No. 5 Louisville and No. 8 N.C. State.
“It’s getting down to that time where you need wins,” Fox said. “We’ve just been so inconsistent in the month of April. We haven’t been (scoring). We didn’t get guys on, for one, but when we did, somebody’s got to step up.”
Timely hitting hasn’t been the only problem for UNC. While Saturday starter J.B. Bukauskas (6-1, 2.91 ERA) has been lights out of late – his 79 strikeouts lead the ACC – Friday starter Zac Gallen (4-3, 2.47 ERA) has lost three of his last four starts and Sunday starter Jason Morgan (2-2, 4.04 ERA) has been inconsistent.
“I still believe in this team,” Fox said. “I really like the character and the make of our team, they really think they’re going to win until the very last out.”
Of course, in baseball, anything can happen, and that’s what players like Zack Gahagan are betting on.
“Obviously we came out hot, and recently we haven’t been producing, but that’s the game of baseball,” Gahagan said. “It’s going to come back soon, and I’d rather it be now than later. We’ll see how it goes. We’ll get those kinks out soon.”
For now, however, UNC just needs to stay afloat until exam week arrives.
“We’ve got some guys banged up and I think we need a break,” Fox said. “Sometimes a break’s good, maybe that’ll help us, and then the 12 games in May are going to determine which way we’re going.”