UNC, State sweeps, Jarrett homers highlight state college baseball weekened

ECU and UNCW also earn series wins while Duke sees its NCAA tournament hopes take a major hit with two close losses at Notre Dame

Charlotte athletic communications photo—Charlotte athletic communications photo
Zach Jarrett

North Carolina and Clemson came into the weekend both ranked No. 3 nationally in different college baseball polls. It’s a disagreement the Tar Heels settled on the field by completing an impressive three-game sweep of the Tigers that helped them put a stranglehold on the ACC Coastal Division race and all but wrap up a high national seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament. Coach Mike Fox’s team is now 36-9 overall. At 19-5 in the ACC, it holds a five-game lead on second place Virginia in the Coastal and is a half game ahead of Atlantic Division leader Louisville for the best record in the league. UNC got the weekend started in typical fashion, with ace J.B. Bukauskas holding Clemson’s hard-hitting lineup to just one run over seven innings. And yet, the Tar Heels trailed 1-0 into the seventh before freshman Michael Busch smacked a three-run double to put them ahead. Saturday’s 5-4 win also saw UNC come from behind, this time with four runs in the eighth to rally for the victory. Brandon Riley scored the winning run on a sacrifice fly by teammate Zach Gahagan. The Tar Heels completed the sweep when Tyler Lynn beat out an infield grounder for his third hit of the game to score the winning run in the bottom of the 10th for a walkoff 3-2 victory. Freshman closer Josh Hiatt got the win in the extra inning game. He also picked up his 12th and 13th saves of the season in the first two games on his way to earning ACC Pitcher of the Week honors. Not far down the road in Raleigh, NC State also earned a sweep of its weekend ACC series by winning three straight from Virginia Tech behind a pair of senior pitchers in unfamiliar roles. Johnny Piedmonte responded to his first Friday night start of the season by giving up only four hits and striking out seven over 6⅔ innings to help the Wolfpack to a 5-2 win in the series opener. Joe Dunand hit his league-leading 16th homer of the season and Stephen Pitarra had a tiebreaking two-run single in the sixth to lead the State offense. Senior Joe O’Donnell closed out the game to earn only his second save of the season. He also got the final outs of Saturday’s 8-6 win to earn his second save in as many days, as the Wolfpack rallied to score the tying and go-ahead runs in the seventh on a Dunand sacrifice fly and a Brett Kinneman single. State (25-20, 11-13 ACC) then made things easy for starter Brian Brown on Sunday by pounding out a 14-2 win behind a 5 for 6 effort from Josh McLain and four RBI from Evan Mendoza. Coach Elliott Avent’s team won all five games it played last week, outscoring its opposition by a 46-10 margin while hitting .358 and pitching to a 1.80 earned run average. Dunand was a major cog in that offensive effort. He was named the ACC’s co-Player of the Week for going 9 of 15 with 13 RBI, eight runs scored and four homers. While the Wolfpack was enhancing its NCAA tournament chances, Duke saw its postseason hopes take another hit by losing two of three at Notre Dame. The two losses were especially tough, with both coming by one-run margins. The Irish scored the winning run in the first game of Friday’s doubleheader in the bottom of the ninth as the Blue Devils (23-23, 9-15) wasted a three RBI performance from Michael Smicklas. Then Saturday, Notre Dame squeaked out a 3-2 victory on a walkoff triple in the bottom of the ninth that negated a strong eight inning start from pitcher Ryan Day. Duke got its win in the second game of Friday’s doubleheader when Smicklas, Kennie Taylor and Zack Kone all hit homers in a 14-1 victory that featured a 10-run rally in the top of the eighth. Wake Forest (30-13, 13-8) had the weekend off. Outside the ACC, Charlotte got a record-setting performance from Zach Jarrett to win its Conference USA series at UAB. Jarrett, the son of NASCAR great Dale Jarrett, hit three homers, scored five runs and went 4 for 4 on Saturday to lead the 49ers to a 17-5 victory. Reese Hampton drove in two runs with RBI groundouts in Sunday’s 3-0 win that was shortened to six innings because of rain. Charlotte (27-17, 14-7 CUSA) had its eight-game winning streak snapped in the series opener on Friday with a 3-2 loss to the Blazers. In Greenville, East Carolina (24-21, 4-11 AAC) won its second straight American Athletic Conference series after starting the league schedule with nine straight losses. Travis Watkins had a homer and four RBI while Bryant Packard also drove in four runs in Friday’s 15-8 victory against Tulane while Eric Tyler and Wes Phillips had two RBI apiece to back a solid