Hovis Gets Nod vs. NCSU

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina closer Reilly Hovis will start against N.C. State in the ACC Tournament play-in game on Tuesday, head coach Mike Fox announced on Monday.

Midweek starter Taylore Cherry (2-2, 3.13 ERA) was initially penciled in to start in Pool B's 7-10 game at NewBridge Bank Park in Greensboro, N.C. That changed Monday morning.

"For us, the coaches, I think we all woke up with the same gut feeling," Fox told reporters at Boshamer Stadium. "And the more you look at video and see what State's strengths are, it just seemed to be the right move for us."

Hovis, who was unaware of the final decision during his media interview, heard about the possibility early Monday.

"[Fox] texted me this morning and said, ‘you might start, but don't tell anybody,'" Hovis said.

Hovis, who started four games in 2013, began the season in middle relief before Chris McCue's shoulder issues (blood clot) forced him into the closer's role. The Gastonia, N.C. product is 7-1 with a 1.80 ERA in 31 appearances this season, including six saves.

"He's been one of our better pitchers all year long," Fox said. "He's fresh. He's started before, last year and in the summer. Controls the running game. He might be a better matchup in a number of factors, but that being one of them…

"We just think he's our best option at this point."

Hovis has gradually increased his workload in recent weeks to allow for extended outings. His longest outing of the year (4.1 IP) came in UNC's 5-4 win over Florida State on May 11.

"At Virginia I threw four innings and the Florida State weekend I threw 82 pitches, so I've been stretched out lately," Hovis said.

It also helps that UNC hasn't had to lean on the sophomore righty in recent weeks.

"He's really, really fresh, if you go back and look at the last three weeks," Fox said. "I think he's thrown 40 pitches in the last seven days and prior to that he threw to one batter there at Elon, so he's had a lot of rest."

A Thursday washout in Miami combined with 34 innings on Friday and Saturday have limited UNC's bullpen against the Wolfpack. So much, in fact, that Friday night ace Trent Thornton (7-3, 2.02 ERA) may be counted on to reprise his closer role from a year ago.

"We're going to have to rely on freshmen in Spencer Trayner and Zach Rice to get us through maybe the middle-to-late innings of the game," Fox said. "We think it's important to keep the score close, just in case."

N.C. State head coach Elliott Avent had not announced a starter as of Monday afternoon, although he wouldn't cross out ace Carlos Rodon during his ACC teleconference call on Monday morning.

When asked if he expected to see Rodon on the mound, Fox replied: "At some point, yes."

The UNC-NCSU winner will advance to Pool B and open round robin play against No. 2 seed Florida State on Wednesday (7pm).


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