By R.L. Bynum
CHAPEL HILL — On a night when No. 18 Carolina finally got the sort of excellent outing from a starting pitcher that the Tar Heels have lacked lately, a bullpen that recently has been reliable quickly wasted it.
To make it worse for UNC, it continued recent failures on offense with the bases loaded only to see No. 20 Boston College produce in that situation.
The Eagles’ Cameron Leary homered for the second consecutive night, an eighth-inning grand slam to center field, to help power a 9–4 win Saturday night at Boshamer Stadium to clinch their first series win over UNC in program history.
The chances of Carolina (25–14, 9–9) being an NCAA regional host are falling with each loss unless the Tar Heels can put together an impressive run to finish the regular season. Meanwhile, BC (26–12, 11–9), which tacked on four runs in the ninth inning, has righted itself after losing back-to-back ACC series.
In the last three games, Carolina is 0 of 17 (with a walk and a hit batsman) with the bases loaded, including leaving them loaded in the ninth inning to do it three times Saturday night.
“You get that many baserunners against a good team, somebody’s got to step up and capitalize, and we didn’t get it done and they did,” UNC coach Scott Forbes said. “The team that gets it done in the biggest situations wins the game; it’s that simple.”
Forbes said that with a 2–1 lead in the eighth inning, his team had to find a way to win.
“Same thing [Friday] night,” Forbes said of the 9–8 10-inning loss. “We had a lot of opportunities, and you have to make a run. And, to have a great season, you’ve got to be better in those situations. As a hitter, if you’re hitting .320, but you’re hitting .220 when it matters most, you’ve got to get better at that.”
Leary’s blast came off UNC freshman right-hander Cameron Padgett, who came in after two relievers each failed to retire their only batter. That wasted right-hander Connor Bovair’s magnificent 7⅓ innings, an impressive rebound after a pair of tough starts.
Part of the reason it got wasted is that starter Max Carlson only lasted 2⅔ innings on Friday. That meant heavy work in that game from the Tar Heels’ best relievers — Dalton Pence, Matt Poston and Kevin Eaise — who were unavailable on Saturday.
Forbes said Bovair (top photo) will shift to starting on Friday, and Carlson (6.57 ERA) will move to the bullpen. He hasn’t determined who will start on Saturdays.
Bovair cruised after giving up a first-inning sacrifice fly, giving up five hits, one run and one walk against three strikeouts over 99 pitches. He retired 11 consecutive Eagles before loading the bases in the sixth inning, but got Nick Wang to pop up to end the threat.
Forbes said Bovair was “out of gas,” and took him out after hitting Travis Honeyman in the back with one out in the eighth.
“His last fastball was 87 [mph], and he was giving it all he had, and that fastball — he tried to throw as hard as he could to Honeyman,” Forbes said. “I’ve been doing it long enough to know this kid’s giving it everything he’s got, and somebody’s got to come in and get the job done, and nobody did.”
Left-hander Nelson Berwich came in and gave up a single, then right-hander Nik Pry walked a batter before Padgett gave up the blast to Leary. Padgett had been sharp of late but gave up two hits and four runs in one inning.
It was Bovair’s second-longest career outing after going eight innings with 108 pitches at Notre Dame on April 2, with three hits and eight strikeouts in a 5–2 win. He became the first starter to go at least seven innings since Carlson did it at Georgia Tech on April 6 in an 8–1 victory.
“When he stays in his delivery, he throws three pitches, he can keep you off balance, and he can give you a quality start,” Forbes said.
UNC squandered a bases-loaded, no-outs chance in the bottom of the first inning. However, thanks to Jackson Van De Brake’s walk, the Heels got something out of a bases-loaded, one-out chance in the second inning to tie the game.
In the fifth inning, Tomas Frick’s sacrifice fly to deep center field scored Vance Honeycutt, who had singled, to give UNC a 2–1 lead.
After the eighth-inning grand slam, the Eagles padded their lead in the ninth inning with Honeyman’s two-run double to left off Padgett and Sam McNulty’s RBI double off left-hander Will Sandy.
Honeycutt hit a two-run homer 412 feet to left-center field in the ninth inning.
NOTES —Carolina right-hander Jake Knapp (3–3, 5.45 ERA) starts Sunday’s noon finale as the Tar Heels try to salvage a game from the series. The game will stream on ESPN3. … Carolina had won four of the previous six ACC series before losing this series to BC. … UNC leads the all-time series with BC 31–5. … After the Saturday game originally was scheduled for 2 p.m. and moved to 6 p.m. because of the weather forecast, the start was delayed by rain until 7:35 p.m.
No. 20 BC 9, No. 18 UNC 4
|17||Friday||10–8 L||Seton Hall||Home||0–1|
|18||Saturday||11–2 W||Seton Hall||Home||1–1|
|19||Sunday||4–2 W||Seton Hall||Home||2–1|
|24||Friday||6–5 L||No. 15 East Carolina||Greenville||4–2|
|26||Sunday||6–5 L||No. 15 East Carolina||Home||4–3|
|4||Saturday||7–5 W||Stony Brook||Home||8–3|
|5||Sunday||15–4 W||Stony Brook||Home||9–3|
|8||Wed.||15–5 W||Penn State||Home||11–3|
|10||Friday||7–3 L||No. 11 Virginia||Home||11–4,|
|11||Saturday||8–4 L||No. 11 Virginia||Home||11–5,|
|11||Saturday||6–0 W||No. 11 Virginia||Home||12–5,|
|15||Wed.||16–2 W||High Point||Home||14–5|
|17–7 W||Pittsburgh||Pittsburgh||15–5, |
|21||Tuesday||6–4 W||N.C. A&T||Home||16–5|
|23||Thursday||6–3 W||Duke||Home||17–5, |
|24||Friday||8–5 L||Duke||Home||17–6, |
|25||Saturday||5–3 W||Duke||Home||18–6, |
|28||Tuesday||12–7 L||No. 9 Coastal Carolina||Home||18–7|
|31||Friday||10–8 W||Notre Dame||South Bend, Ind.||19–7, |
|2||Sunday||5–2 W||Notre Dame||South Bend, Ind.||20–7, |
|2||Sunday||9–1 L||Notre Dame||South Bend, Ind||20–8, |
|4||Tuesday||5–0 L||South Carolina||Charlotte||20–9|
|6||Thursday||8–1 W||Georgia Tech||Atlanta||21–9, |
|7||Friday||10–6 W||Georgia Tech||Atlanta||22–9, |
|7||Friday||8–4 L||Georgia Tech||Atlanta||22–10, |
|13||Thursday||5–4 L||No. 8 Miami||Home||23–11, |
|9–8 W, |
|No. 8 Miami||Home||24–11, |
|15||Saturday||4–3 L||No. 8 Miami||Home||24–12, |
|Boston College||Home||25–13, |
|22||Saturday||9–4 L||Boston College||Home||25–14, |
|23||Sunday||6–2 L||Boston College||Home||25–15, |
|28||Friday||7–0 L||Virginia Tech||Blacksburg, Va.||26–16, |
|29||Saturday||12–8 W||Virginia Tech||Blacksburg, Va.||27–16, |
|29||Saturday||13–7 W||Virginia Tech||Blacksburg, Va.||28–16, |
|2||Tuesday||6–5 L||No. 11 Campbell||Home||28–17|
|3||Wed.||2–1 W||No. 15 East Carolina||Greenville||29–17|
|11||Thursday||9–8 W||N.C. State||Home||31–17, |
|12||Friday||9–3 W||N.C. State||Home||32–17, |
|13||Saturday||12–2 W||N.C. State||Home||33–17, |
|16||Tuesday||8–6 L||No. 9 Coastal Carolina||Conway, S.C.||33–18|
|18||Thursday||14–7 L||No. 3 Clemson||Clemson, S.C.||33–19, |
|19||Friday||5–4 L||No. 3 Clemson||Clemson, S.C.||33–20, |
|20||Saturday||3–1 L||No. 3 Clemson||Clemson, S.C.||33–21, |
|23||Tuesday||11–5 W||Georgia Tech||Durham||34–21|
|25||Thursday||10–2 W||No. 11 Virginia||Durham||35–21|
|27||Saturday||10–4 L||Semifinal vs.|
No. 3 Clemson
|Terre Haute Regional|
|2||Friday||5–4 L||Iowa||Terre Haute, Ind.||35–23|
|3||Saturday||5–0 W||Wright State||Terre Haute, Ind.||36–23|
|Iowa||Terre Haute, Ind.||36–24|
Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics Communications