After dropping game two of the series against ACC rival N.C. State (8-9, 4-8 ACC), the Tar Heels (13-9, 8-7 ACC) failed to avoid the sweep Monday afternoon, losing the series finale, 8-3.
N.C. State struck first, scoring two runs in the first inning off an RBI single from catcher Luca Tresh and a fielder's choice RBI from left fielder Jonny Butler.
After holding the Tar Heels silent in the bottom of the first, the Wolfpack blew things open in the second, knocking UNC starter Will Sandy out of the game and putting up three more runs in the process. In the bottom of the second, designated hitter Eric Grintz put the Tar Heels on the board with a RBI single, cutting the deficit to 5-1.
The Wolfpack responded loudly in the third with a homer to left center field off the bat of shortstop Jose Torres to move the lead back to five. After the third, the bullpen settled in for UNC, posting three scoreless innings to provide some stability.
First-year Hunter Stokely hit his second blast of the season in the bottom of the fifth in his debut at first base for the Tar Heels, but N.C. State first baseman Austin Murr responded with a two-run homer for the Wolfpack in the seventh, blowing the lead back open.
UNC was able to put another run on the board in the seventh with a homer from Grintz, but the Tar Heel batters were held scoreless in the eighth and ninth innings, falling short of the Wolfpack, 8-3.
Who stood out?
The Wolfpack were led by Murr, who registered a double, a homerun, and drove in three runs at the plate. First-year Matt Willadsen put together a strong outing for the Wolfpack on the mound —tossing 7.1 innings of three-run ball.
Grintz, who finished with two RBIs, and Stokely, who finished with one, accounted for the only Tar Heel runs, both registering a home run. Connor Ollio, Michael Oh, Gage Gillian, and Nik Pry accounted for 7.2 innings out of the bullpen for UNC and surrendered just three runs as a group.
When was it decided?
Things looked ominous for the Tar Heels from the beginning after the Wolfpack scored two runs in the first. After the early runs to start the game, the Tar Heels gave up three more in the second, digging themselves a hole that they couldn’t climb out of.
Why does it matter?
The loss is a tough one for the Tar Heels, who suffered their first home sweep to the Wolfpack since 1992. After starting off the season hot — winning two out of their first three conference series’ — the Tar Heels were brought back down to earth against N.C. State.
“It’s a long season”, first year head coach Scott Forbes said. “If you let this sweep define you, it will. If you buy into what we talk about every single day about the season being a marathon and not a sprint and being process oriented, you’ll learn from it. Hey, it's a new game tomorrow and you have to go out and play.”
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels don’t have to wait long for a chance to redeem themselves after a tough weekend. UNC will be back in action Tuesday in Greenville, North Carolina where they will meet up with No. 8 East Carolina for the second time in two weeks. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
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