In its opening weekend of ACC play, the North Carolina baseball team was defeated by the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 8-5, in Chapel Hill on Friday afternoon.
The Tar Heels (10-5) turned to junior Joey Lancellotti on the mound, who had not given up a run in his last two starts. The Fighting Irish (8-2) ended this streak with a solo home run in the second inning and followed that up with three more runs in the third to extend their lead to 4-0.
With the team collecting only one hit through the first three innings, the Tar Heels’ offense showed signs of life in the fourth, opening up the frame with a single and double from Aaron Sabato and Lancellotti, respectively. Following an RBI groundout, senior outfielder Dallas Tessar ripped a single to left to trim UNC’s deficit to 4-2.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Tar Heels had an opportunity to tie the game, putting runners on second and third with only one out, however, they were unable to generate any runs as a pop up to second and strikeout ended the inning.
Trailing 5-2 in the bottom of the seventh, the Tar Heels were gifted a base runner via a throwing error to first base. The next batter, Sabato, made the Fighting Irish pay for their miscue, as he unleashed a mammoth 436-foot home run into the parking lot beyond left field. With two innings remaining, the Tar Heels now only trailed by one.
After this surge from the Tar Heels, the Fighting Irish were able to swing the momentum in their favor once more, adding a run in the eighth and two more in the ninth. Heading into the bottom of the ninth, they led 8-4.
With one out remaining, Sabato made things interesting, sending another home run deep to left field, but the deficit proved to be too large to overcome, and the Tar Heels ultimately fell, 8-5.
Who stood out?
Despite the slow start, the UNC offense ended up putting together a solid showing, finishing the game with eight hits. The offensive charge was led by Sabato, as his two home runs allowed the Tar Heels to hang in the game. His home runs were his third and fourth of the season.
Redshirt sophomore outfielder Angel Zarate continued his hot hitting, eclipsing the .400 mark for the season with his two hits on the afternoon.
When was it decided?
After the Fighting Irish jumped out to an early lead, the Tar Heels had multiple chances to flip the narrative of the contest.
Once the Tar Heels closed the gap on a number of occasions, the three late runs scored by the Fighting Irish gave the team a comfortable lead, which they held onto en route to their victory.
Why does it matter?
With the loss, the Tar Heels saw their brief three-game winning streak come to an end, dropping them to 10-5 on the season.
Despite opening ACC play with a loss, it's not unusual for the Tar Heels to struggle to open conference play. Last year’s team lost four straight ACC games to begin the season before going on a run to win the ACC Tournament.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will look to get back on track Saturday when they take on the Fighting Irish in game two of the series. The game will take place at Boshamer Stadium at 2 p.m.
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