On the night UM baseball coach Jim Morris was honored for a pair of milestones that represent how he keeps on winning in his 35th year as a head coach at the Division-I level, his current Hurricanes showed they keep on winning against ranked Atlantic Coast Conference opponents.
With Morris being presented a pair of framed jerseys pregame for 1,500 career wins and 1,000 as coach of the Canes – marks that were reached separately each of the past two weekends – third-ranked UM won the opener of a critical ACC Coastal series against No. 9 North Carolina 10-4 on Friday night at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field.
The Canes (21-4, 8-2) continue to romp in the ACC after taking five of six against ranked conference foes Clemson and Louisville the previous two weekend series. They’ve now come away victorious in 16 of their last 18 overall and have earned seven wins against ranked opponents this season.
“It seems like every weekend, every game we’re playing someone nationally ranked, and you’ve got to play good if you’re going to win in those situations,” Morris said.
He acknowledged postgame that several different people helped him achieve his two recent milestones. It was also a similarly collective effort from his offense on Friday.
Zack Collins, Brandon Lopez and Willie Abreu each had two RBI and six players had multi-hit games. UM went 7 for 15 as a team with runners in scoring position and collected 15 hits.
Starting left-hander Thomas Woodrey recorded his first win in nearly a month and got his ERA down nearly a full point to 4.53. He allowed just one unearned run on three hits through seven against UNC (20-5, 6-4) before getting pulled after allowing the first two men he faced in the eighth to get on.
“A slow start to the season, but your goals shift. My goal when I go out there now is to just get a win, to compete for my team, and I was able to do that tonight,” said Woodrey of his bounce-back effort. “I was just able to throw strikes early in the game, let my defense work behind me.”
Woodrey retired 12 consecutive batters at one point before loading the bases with two outs in the fifth but coming out of it unscathed getting leadoff man Brian Miller to fly out harmlessly to left.
Morris said location was the key for his finesse pitcher.
“He hit his spots, he got ahead of the hitters. He threw a lot of low strikes, and that’s his game,” Morris said.
UM broke open a 1-1 tie against UNC starter Zac Gallen with four runs in the fifth. Collins drove in a pair of runs with a double off the center-field wall. Jacob Heyward then drove in Collins and Johnny Ruiz did the same for Heyward with back-to-back singles.
“We’ve been swinging well lately,” Collins said. “I think we left too many men on base at the beginning of the game but we came back and scored a lot later.”
Gallen surrendered five earned runs on a career-high 11 hits in his shortest outing – 4 2/3 innings – of an otherwise stellar season, entering with a 1.49 ERA.
Woodrey’s final line after the two eighth-inning batters he put on came around to score: seven-plus innings allowing three runs – two earned – on four hits and three walks while striking out two.
The Hurricanes added three extra runs in the sixth when Christopher Barr scored on a wild pitch and Brandon Lopez hit a two-run single. Abreu hit a two-run double in the eighth.
UNC scored first when Brandon Riley doubled to right to score Miller, who led off the game reaching on an error.
Abreu gunned down Riley with a highlight throw from deep right field to end the inning as Riley tried to tag from second to third. It jumpstarted Woodrey into his streak of retired batters.
The Tar Heels did not score again until the eighth inning when they plated two and got one more in the ninth.
UM got that first UNC run back in the second when a Carl Chester infield single allowed Edgar Michelangeli, who had doubled, to score.
The second game of the series is set for 7 p.m. on Saturday night. The 2001 national championship UM baseball team will be honored before the first pitch.