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Wednesday May 25th

No. 11 UNC baseball drops second game of rivalry series with 6-1 loss to N.C. State

UNC sophomore outfielder Angel Zarate (40) is congratulated by his teammates for his home run during the Tar Heels' 1-6 loss against N.C. State on Saturday, March 27, 2021 in Boshamer Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C. Zarate's home run was UNC's only score during the game.
Buy Photos UNC sophomore outfielder Angel Zarate (40) is congratulated by his teammates for his home run during the Tar Heels' 1-6 loss against N.C. State on Saturday, March 27, 2021 in Boshamer Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C. Zarate's home run was UNC's only score during the game.

After suffering a 9-2 loss to N.C. State (7-9, 3-8 ACC) on Friday, the No. 11 North Carolina baseball team (13-8, 8-6 ACC) was unable to get its revenge, losing to the Wolfpack, 6-1, in a game that started on Saturday, but due to a lengthy weather delay, concluded on Monday afternoon.

What happened?

Redshirt first-year Max Alba got the start on the mound, while NCSU started Sam Highfill. After the Tar Heels were blitzed in the first two innings on Friday night, it was imperative that they shut down the Wolfpack bats early.

In the top of the first, they were able to do just that. Alba gave up one hit to Tyler McDonough, but the Tar Heels turned a double play in the next at bat to get their turn on offense.

Angel Zarate led off for UNC and reached base with a single just over the outstretched glove of Wolfpack first baseman Austin Murr. However, the next batter, Justice Thompson, grounded into a double play to wipe away the leadoff threat.

The N.C. State offense got clicking in the second, as Terrell Tatum blasted a two-run homer just over the right field wall. While Thompson attempted to make a leaping snag, the ball dropped just beyond his glove, putting the Wolfpack up 2-0.

After another scoreless half inning from the Tar Heels, the Wolfpack extended its lead in the top of the third. Murr hit a slicing shot down the right field line which turned into a triple, and in the next at bat, McDonough’s infield hit hopped over the glove of UNC first baseman Brett Centracchio to drive Murr home. 

First-year pitcher Shawn Rapp replaced Alba and pitched effectively in the third and fourth innings, allowing only one hit during those frames. In the top of the fifth, though, he put himself in a tough spot as two runners moved into scoring position with a walk and a double. However, he responded by striking out Jonny Butler and the new pitcher, Gage Gillian, retired the next batter to help the Tar Heels escape the inning unscathed.  

With the bullpen keeping UNC within reach, the Tar Heels needed to find some sort of spark offensively. In the bottom of the sixth, Zarate gave the team what it needed by sending a solo home run over the right field wall to trim the deficit to 3-1.

But in the seventh and eighth innings, N.C. State began to put the game out of reach. After the Wolfpack added an insurance run in the seventh, Murr hit a two-run homer in the eighth to put his team up 6-1. 

Inclement weather halted the remainder of play on Saturday, but both teams resumed action in the bottom of the eighth on Monday afternoon. UNC was unable to mount a comeback, and ultimately dropped the second game of the series, 6-1. 

Who stood out? 

Despite the team’s offensive struggles, both Zarate and Caleb Roberts were solid at the plate, as they each contributed two hits in four at bats.

For N.C. State, Highfill was impressive on the mound, giving up only five hits through seven innings while picking up the win. Murr led the team offensively with two hits, two runs and two RBIs.

When was it decided?

Much like the series opener, UNC’s offense struggled for much of the contest, tallying only five hits. A comeback seemed possible when UNC scored its first run in the sixth,  but N.C. State answered in the next two innings to put the game out of reach..

Why does it matter?

After dropping the first game on Friday night, this game was set up to be the swing game of the series.

While the end result was a loss — and the Wolfpack clinched the series victory — the Tar Heels showed improvement from Friday night and will look to carry the momentum into the series finale. 

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels will conclude their series with the Wolfpack shortly after 5 p.m. on Monday evening.

@cd_avy

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com 

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