Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Kentucky Wildcats 4 at North Carolina Tar Heels 5 (NCAA Baseball) - February 19, 2017


On Sunday afternoon, Sharpy and I returned to Chapel Hill to see the UNC baseball team close out their season-opening series against Kentucky. If this were a basketball game, there would be 20,000 fans here, but college baseball doesn’t receive that kind of coverage until the College World Series. Which is good as it makes the experience far more relaxing than an overhyped hoops game.



The Diamond Heels play in Boshamer Stadium, located on the eastern edge of campus along Ridge Road. For evening and weekend games, free parking can be found in the Raleigh Road lot, from where the diamond is about a ten-minute stroll. It was a beautiful day with temperatures exceeding 70 degrees (that’s 20C for the rest of the world), absolutely perfect for the my first ballgame of the 2017 season.



The stadium was opened in 1972 and is named for Cary C. Boshamer, a 1917 grad whose donation allowed the new stadium to be built. After 35 years, it was torn down and rebuilt for the 2009 season, forcing the team to play the 2008 campaign in nearby Cary. Outside the main gate are a couple of panels, including one displaying all former players that was funded by the Steinbrenner Family as part of the rebuild. George Steinbrenner's daughter is a UNC alum and he had the Yankees play some spring training games here between 1977-81.



Like most NCAA ballparks, Boshamer Stadium is a simple, unpretentious design. Tickets are $7 to sit between the bases, and $5 down the lines. This place was nearly full and so if you want a good seat, I would recommend spending the extra $2 rather than risk getting kicked out several times.



Inside, the large concourse is mostly under a roof, and standing tables are provided all the way around for those who want to stay out of the sun, as the entire seating bowl is uncovered. I spent most of the game standing on the concourse as a full afternoon in the sunshine after hibernating for winter is not good for pasty white guys like myself.



Dimensions are 335, 400 and 340 feet, with the left-center field backdrop the Ehringhaus Residence Hall.



The highlight here is the Hall of Honor above 3rd base. It contains memorabilia from the program, which has been quite successful in its own right, though overshadowed by hoops in basketball-mad North Carolina. Like the basketball museum, a draft board is here and you can see Russ Adams here, who never did much as a Blue Jay.



Another interesting artifact is a schedule from 1955 for the Big 5 (below), the schools in the area, which included Davidson back then. Some fans actually watch the game from here, but on this day, there was no reason not to be outside.



There are also historical touches along the concourse, such as past national players of the year...



... and small signs commemorating other events and players above each section entrance.



Concessions are basic, but there are specials posted on TV screens around the concourse, so check those before purchasing. On this day, peanuts and Cracker Jacks were $1 each, a nice touch harkening back to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”.



Overall, Boshamer Stadium is another wonderful NCAA ballpark, nearly perfect in its simplicity. If only they could replace those infernal aluminum bats, this would be the purest game out there.



The Game

The ninth-ranked Diamond Heels had taken the first two games and were looking to sweep behind Luca Dalatri (drafted by Colorado in the 40th round last season), a freshman making his first career start. The Wildcats replied with sophomore Justin Lewis (19th round draft pick by San Diego in 2014), also making his first career start, and he gave up a solo shot to Logan Warmoth in the first, and a 2-run blast to Tyler Lynn in the second as North Carolina took a quick 3-0 lead. In the third, the Wildcats tied it up when Riley Mahan (40th round, San Francisco, 2014) hit a 2-run homer after Connor Heady had doubled home a run, but right away the Heels added another two spot, helped by a couple of balks from Lewis, who was soon replaced by Logan Salow.



The Wildcats added a run in the fourth to narrow the margin to 1, and with the game two hours long after just four innings, it looked like we might have to leave early to get back to Raleigh in time for the Leafs game. But after that Dalatri was strong, completing seven innings, while Salow kept UNC off the board during his five frames of relief. The final frame was tossed by Josh Hiatt who retired all three batters he faced as the Heels completed the sweep 5-4 in a game that took 3:11, giving us plenty of time to return to Raleigh.



Notes

A Toronto connection as Dalton Pompey's brother Tristan (31st round, Minnesota, 2015) is a freshman for Kentucky and managed a couple of hits. He is considered one of Canada's top baseball prospects and is shown below.



I'm including draft positions for those players who were drafted but chose to attend school instead of spending time in the minors. Scholarships are probably better than minor league salaries anyway, and most of these guys are long shots to reach the majors, so it makes sense that they hone their game while also getting an education. Will be interesting to see if Pompey ends up getting drafted again in a few years. Will be even more interesting to see if Dalton can finally spend the entire season with Toronto.

Best,

Sean

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