Reliable Dalatri leads UNC past Michigan 8-1 in elimination game
North Carolina’s combined six runs in the fifth and sixth innings helped the Tar Heels chase Michigan’s starter, Michael Hendrickson, and first reliever, Ryan Nutof off the mound as the Tar Heels beat the Wolverines 8-1 to keep their season alive.
A incidental interruption by Tar Heel therapy dog, REMINGTON, timed out with the start of North Carolina’s nipping at the Wolverines’ heels.
“It definitely loosened the crowd up a little bit, but so did us getting on base,” Tyler Lynn said.
“That happened so fast,” UNC head coach Mike Fox said. “Our fans helped us big time right there. I got the sense a little bit that we were coming there.”
It was UNC’s patience at the plate -- which it took a few innings to find -- that made the difference as Hendrickson lost command on the mound.
“I think it was (tough to be patient) early,” Fox said. “But you have to be careful about telling them to take pitches. You have to take advantage of what the other team gives you.
“You can’t control what they give you, but when they start walking you and getting rattled, you have to take what they give you and make them pay.”
Hendrickson started the fifth with a K, then hit Lynn. Adam Pate stepped to the plate next.
Two pitches into his at-bat, the Tar Heels’ canine mascot ran a small circle in front of the dugout, evoking more of a positive response from the UNC fans than came from Boshamer Stadium until that point.
Pate reached on a fielder’s choice, then Hendrickson completely lost the strike zone, putting Cody Roberts on after hitting him with a pitch, then walking Brian Miller with four straight balls, while allowing runners to advance on a wild pitch. The junior lefty threw four more balls to Logan Warmoth, forcing Pate home for the 1-1 tying run.
Ashton McGee’s two-RBI single made it 3-1 before the end of the inning.
“I think the big thing was taking advantage of our opportunities with teams making errors or walks,” McGee said. “It was a defensive swing. Going off earlier and yesterday, I struck out a couple times. I was just trying to attack and throw the bat out there.
“It was a big thing getting a lead, I think we needed that to play positively. It gave everybody a deep breath.”
Hendrickson started the sixth inning by walking Brandon Riley, then reliever Nutof replaced the Michigan Man on the mound. Zach Gahagan singled off the second pitch Nutoff threw, then the Wolverines replaced Nutof with Mac Lozer, who got pinch hitter Michael Busch to fly out.
Tyler Lynn doubled in Riley for a 4-1 lead, Miller scored Gahagan with a fielder’s choice, then Warmoth’s sacrifice fly RBI made it 6-1 before the end of the sixth.
“Obviously it does help, with so many players who haven’t been in this (postseason) situation, to get a lead and then add into it the next inning,” Fox said.
Roberts added a pair of insurance runs in the seventh inning with a double down the left field line.
Freshman Gianluca Dalatri carried Carolina through seven complete innings, allowing only one run (a solo homerun in the second inning) and five hits.
“When our pitcher is out there pitching well, our offense feels like it is just a matter of time,” Fox said.
“In the beginning, I felt like I ran all four pitches for strikes,” Dalatri said. “For all seven (innings), I felt like I did a decent job of keeping them off balance.”
Dalatri’s mind stayed set on the “next pitch,” despite (NAME) sending a ball over the center field wall. Fox insists that’s more than just jargon for the freshman and the proof was in the strong postseason performance.
“All year long, he’s gone pretty deep into games,” Fox said. “We were certainly hoping that was going to be the case. He’s pretty mature, that’s really how he thinks.”
Brett Daniels took over in the eighth and Jason Morgan threw in the ninth, closing out the game without allowing so much as a late hit.
UNC plays at 1 p.m. against either FGCU or Davidson. Fox “would be surprised,” if freshman RHP Tyler Baum does not get the start.
“The good news is (that) we’ve got everybody available, except for two guys,” Fox said. “I tried to tell them early, ‘Please don’t look at this as an elimination game, don’t define it as that. That’s a negative term.’
“Just us getting our first NCAA win, we’ll see how that helps us.”