ASHEVILLE, N.C. - The UNC Asheville baseball team finishes the regular season at Greenwood Field starting on Thursday with a critical three-game Big South Conference series vs. Gardner-Webb. Game times on Thursday and Friday are 3 p.m., followed by Saturday's finale at 1 p.m. All three games are scheduled to be video-streamed at www.uncabulldogs.com. Saturday's game will be Senior Day.
The Bulldogs (24-26, 11-10 BSC) are in a three-way tie for fourth place in the league standings with Radford and Charleston Southern. The Runnin' Bulldogs (28-25, 10-11 BSC) are just a half-game back in seventh place. Everyone is jockeying for position for next week's Big South Conference championship to be held at High Point (May 22-26).
Asheville has lost two straight entering the Gardner-Webb series but is playing pretty good baseball. The Bulldogs took the first two games of a three-game series at Southern Conference juggernaut College of Charleston this past weekend before falling in the finale 11-6. On Tuesday, Asheville hosted #6 UNC Chapel Hill at McCormick Field and fell to the powerful Tar Heels, 10-4.
"I'm really excited about this weekend coming up as we have a chance to improve our position in the league standings," stated third-year Asheville coach Tom Smith. "However, Gardner-Webb has got a pretty good ballclub. They've beaten North Carolina and Appalachian State this season. They can really swing the bats. We're going to have to be at our best to win this series."
Asheville is being led at the plate by senior third-baseman Cody Buch. He has a hit in 12 of the last 13 games and is hitting a team-high .312. Freshman Thomas Bess is at .306, followed by junior Billy Creighton at .301.
The Bulldogs are scheduled to start sophomore right-hander Dean Roland (5-4, 3.53 ERA) on Thursday, followed by senior right-hander Ryan Dull (5-4, 3.21 ERA) on Friday and sophomore Brian Connolly (5-4, 4.64 ERA) on Saturday. Roland and Dull have been especially effective the past few weeks and both earned wins last weekend over a strong-hitting College of Charleston squad.
The Big South Conference championship pairings will be announced Saturday night by the Big South Conference at the conclusion of play.
"I don't even want to speculate where we could finish and who we could play next week," declared Smith. "We just need to try to win Thursday and then we'll worry about the next game on Friday. Our guys just need to focus on one game at a time and what we can control."
Asheville's 24 wins is the most by a Bulldogs team since the 2008 team went 24-35. One more win and it will be the most since the 2006 team won a school-record 28 contests.
Senior right-hander Ryan Dull leads the Big South in strikeouts with 77. He is 10th nationally in strikeouts-to-walks ratio at 7.00. Dull is moving up the Asheville career list in several categories. He enters this weekend tied for second all-time in strikeouts (231) with Josh White, fifth in wins (16), fourth in innings pitched (315.1), third in complete games (10) and tied for second with Judson Ballard in games started (49). Ryan has also won four straight decisions.
Sophomore right-hander Dean Roland is second in the Big South in innings pitched with 86.2
Patrick Koontz is third in the Big South in home runs with eight.
Asheville is 6-5 in one-run games and 5-3 in two-run contests.
The Bulldogs are 16-4 in games they hit a home run in.
Asheville is 23-12 when it scores three or more runs.
The Bulldogs are 3-2 in extra innings.
Asheville is 20-0 when leading after six innings and 18-0 after eight innings. The Bulldogs are 2-21 when trailing after six innings and 0-22 when trailing after eight innings.
The Bulldogs lost to North Carolina Tuesday night 10-4 but did have some hitting accomplishments against the powerful Tar Heel pitching staff. The four runs were the most UNC has allowed in six games and the 10 hits recorded by Asheville were the most in six games, as well.
Asheville has 11 Big South Conference wins which is the most by a Bulldog team since the 2004 season. The school-record for league victories is 13 set by the 2003 squad.