North Carolina outfielder Dallas Tessar was frustrated.
After starting in 31 games as a sophomore and leading off, the now junior had been used this season mostly as a defensive specialist.
He missed the fall with shoulder injuries and was struggling at the plate. In 41 games during the 2019 regular season and 27 at-bats, he had four hits. He also had five walks and was hit by a pitch twice.
Tessar said he was faced with a decision to make.
“I’m one of the leaders and when you don’t see your name in the lineup every day, you’ve got to take a step back and look in the mirror and say, ‘I’m not in every day, what can I do?” he said. “Should I sulk and pout about it, or should I set an example for these younger guys and go to work, and when my name is in the lineup, be ready to go?”
Tessar decided for the latter, and it paid off.
He finally got his chance in the ACC tournament.
UNC coach Mike Fox said he and the staff decided to start Tessar to help on defense.
“He’s one of our best outfielders and he’s saved us in games before,” Fox said, “and we felt like right field at Durham Bulls Athletic Park is a tough position to play there.”
Turns out, they got more than they asked for.
Tessar started all four games on the way to the Tar Heels’ ACC title, and recorded more hits in the tournament than he had all season. He batted 5 for 15 and had three RBI’s. His batting average increased from .148 to .214 in a week. In some games, Tessar’s hits helped start rallies, players and coaches said, particularly in the semifinal and finals.
“He practices hard, and is never overwhelmed with the situation,” Fox said. “It just kind of worked out.”
Tessar, a 6-foot, 175-pound outfielder, batted .231 last season with two home runs and 10 RBI’s. He injured both shoulders and had to undergo multiple shoulder procedures.
The procedures kept him out during the fall and slowed his progress.
But he said he decided to control his attitude and work hard. As a result, he has come on at the right time in the postseason. Tessar’s hitting has bolstered the bottom of the order in UNC’s batting lineup, making the Tar Heels a tough team to beat from top to bottom.
In the bottom of the second inning of Friday’s Chapel Hill Regional game against UNC-Wilmington, Tessar hit a two-run home run over the left field wall. His home run gave the Tar Heels an early 3-0 lead. Tessar finished the game 1 for 3 with the home run and a walk.
UNC eventually won 7-6, but it was Tessar’s home run that got things started.
“It’s unbelievable,” UNC infielder Ike Freeman said when asked what he thought of Tessar’s play during the postseason. “It doesn’t surprise me at all though. Very high-character kid. He’s always itching to get out of the dugout when he’s not playing. He always wants the ball hit to him, or he wants to be up in a big situation and he definitely came up big today.”