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UNC baseball opens weekend series with 3-2 win over No. 2 Virginia

UNC redshirt sophomore starting pitcher Austin Love delivers a pitch during Carolina's 8-1 season-opening victory over James Madison at Boshamer Stadium, Feb. 19, 2021.
Buy Photos UNC redshirt sophomore starting pitcher Austin Love delivers a pitch during Carolina's 8-1 season-opening victory over James Madison at Boshamer Stadium, Feb. 19, 2021.

The North Carolina baseball team (5-0, 1-0 ACC) defeated Virginia (3-2, 0-1 ACC), the No. 2 ranked team by Baseball America, 3-2 at Boshamer Stadium for its first ACC victory of the season in the first of a three-game series.

What happened?

North Carolina started pitcher Austin Love, a redshirt sophomore who was named ACC Pitcher of the Week last weekend. Love had a strikeout in the first inning and held Virginia hitless in the opening frame. 

At the bottom of the first, after sophomore Caleb Roberts hit a single and stole second, sophomore Justice Thompson hit a double that gave Roberts a run and made the score 1-0, UNC.

At the top of the second, Love held Virginia scoreless, but North Carolina couldn’t add to its lead. Love continued to prevent Virginia from scoring throughout the third inning, while Virginia pitcher Andrew Abbott did the same. 

Love allowed Virginia to walk to first in the fourth inning, but a North Carolina double play forced Virginia off the field. In the bottom of the fourth, Thompson bunted for a single, then stole second, but the Tar Heels struck out before they could add to their lead. 

In the fifth inning, Love found a rhythm when he notched two strike outs. When the Tar Heels took over to bat, Johnny Castagnozzi knocked a homer to expand the Tar Heels' lead to 2-0. 

Love threw two strikeouts to start the sixth inning and Thompson hit a home run to bring the score to 3-0. Love allowed his first base hit of the season when he allowed Virginia to hit a single in the seventh inning. Two more outs, however, meant Virginia was held off the board once again.

Virginia started the eighth inning with a double and advanced to third on a wild pitch. After the Cavaliers got a single and stole second base, they scored runs on consecutive plate appearances to narrow the UNC lead to 3-2. The Tar Heels switched out Love for first-year Shawn Rapp on the mound after Virginia first scored, then put in first-year Connor Ollio after the second Cavalier run.

In the bottom of the eighth, redshirt sophomore Angel Zarate hit a single and advanced to second, but then the inning ended on a Virginia double play.

Ollio stayed on the mound for North Carolina in the ninth inning and shut the door to seal the victory for the Tar Heels. 

Who stood out? 

Love held Virginia scoreless for seven innings and totaled six strikeouts. In the field, Thompson and Roberts also both had impressive catches during the game that were significant plays for the Tar Heels.

Thompson also hit a double that Roberts scored off of, and Thompson knocked a home run, while Castagnozzi added one of his own. 

When was it decided?

The Tar Heels kept a comfortable lead up until the eighth inning, scoring runs in the first, fifth, and sixth innings. In the eighth inning, though, they allowed Virginia to gain momentum with two back-to-back runs. Ultimately though, North Carolina held Virginia off in the final inning to take the victory. 

Why does it matter?

This was North Carolina’s first ACC test, which it succeeded in even after a late-game momentum shift. This win gives the Tar Heels confidence as they look toward the next game of the series, with the defeat of a top-10 team under their belts. For a pitching staff that struggled at points last season, it has been an excellent start to the campaign. 

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels will face Virginia again Friday at 3:30 p.m. in Boshamer Stadium for the second matchup of the three-game series.  

@madikirk31

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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