UNC-Walters State Scrimmage Notes

Tar Heels turn in all-around performance against Senators

Five North Carolina hitters had multi-hit games and nine pitchers combined to allow only five hits as the Tar Heels defeated junior college powerhouse Walters State 12-2 in a 13-inning scrimmage Saturday at Boshamer Stadium.

Coming off a 2020 fall season in which UNC was unable to scrimmage against any opponents due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Tar Heels welcomed the Senators back to Chapel Hill for the third time in four years. Because NCAA rules limit teams to two fall scrimmages and Scott Forbes’ squad is set to host national runner-up Vanderbilt on Oct. 15, UNC and Walters State played an extended game that featured a lineup switch after seven innings.

Below are a few notes from the scrimmage.

Listen to Saturday’s broadcast

Play of the day

Third-year sophomore Tyler Causey has primarily played first base since joining the Tar Heels before the shortened 2020 season. But with UNC looking to replace MLB draft picks Caleb Roberts and Justice Thompson in the outfield, Causey has seen extensive playing time in left field this fall and started Saturday at the position.

The Fort Mill, South Carolina had only had one ball hit his way when, in the top of the sixth inning, Walters State’s Alex Balisteri hit a tailing fly ball down the left-field line. The ball seemed destined to drop in for a hit, but Causey got a good jump on the ball and used every inch of his 6-foot-6 frame to make a diving grab – one that could very well give him some extra confidence as he pursues a starting job.

Five who stood out

Patrick Alvarez: Another third-year sophomore, Alvarez started at second base and led the Tar Heels offensively, going 2-for-4 with two doubles and four RBIs. He’s now 8-for-17 in UNC’s five scrimmages – including four intrasquad games – and continues to look the part of a key contributor.

Colby Wilkerson: Although he mostly made his mark with his defensive versatility as a true freshman last season, Wilkerson showed some promise at the plate, highlighted by a four-hit game against Duke. After entering Saturday’s game at shortstop in the eighth inning, he went 2-for-2 with two RBIs and a sacrifice fly.

Brandon Schaeffer: The WVU Potomac State College transfer has done nothing but impress so far, and that was no different Saturday, as he came on in the third inning and struck out one batter in two perfect frames. The lefty threw 14 of his 17 pitches for strikes – including 11 in a row at one point. That’s not all that surprising for a pitcher who issued just four walks over 47 2/3 innings last season.

Davis Palermo: Although he’s occasionally struggled with his command, walking 23 over 26 2/3 career innings, there’s an argument to be made that Palermo has the best stuff of any UNC pitcher. His electric arsenal was on display in a perfect 12th inning Saturday, as he painted a 95 mph fastball on the outside corner for strike three to a right-hander and struck out the next hitter – a lefty – swinging on a splitter away.

Will Sandy: The lefty continues to be one of the biggest standouts of the fall. He pitched a perfect 13th, striking out two.

Other observations

  • UNC’s coaches keep raving about the strike-throwing ability of this staff after the team struggled with walks for much of last season. The nine pitchers who appeared Saturday issued five walks and retired 12 straight at one point.

  • The Tar Heels had at least one runner in scoring position in all 13 innings.

  • The lone home run of the day came in the bottom of the 13th and final inning, when freshman Dylan King launched a 3-1 pitch over the right-field wall for a two-run blast. King’s homer came immediately after Hunter Stokely just missed one on a long two-run double to center field.

  • Tomas Frick reached base in all three of his plate appearances, singling twice and drawing a walk. He also scored two runs.

  • Siena transfer Connor Bovair started Saturday’s game and allowed one hit over two scoreless innings, striking out four and walking two. The righty showed great feel for his slider – which induced a 48% whiff rate last season, per Baseball America.

  • Fellow transfer Shaddon Peavyhouse – who came to UNC after four years at Coastal Carolina – didn’t allow a hit over two scoreless innings. He struck out one and walked one while showing a fastball that topped out at 94 mph.

  • Watching Nik Pry field his position never gets old. Upon entering the game in the 10th, the fourth-year junior induced a grounder that he fielded near the mound. He then sprinted to first base to get the first out in a perfect inning.

  • Other defensive highlights included a pair of nice plays by Angel Zarate and Reece Holbrook in center field. Zarate’s came in the third, when he made a sliding grab to rob Walters State’s Caleb Marmo of a hit. Then, in the 10th, Holbrook did a good job tracking a fly ball hit directly over his head.

  • Saturday’s scrimmage was a reunion of sorts for former Senators Gage Gillian, Alberto Osuna and Max Riemer. Gillian struck out one in a perfect seventh, Osuna went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles and Riemer was hit by a pitch in his only plate appearance. After the game, the three players took a picture on the field with their former coach, David Shelton.