GREENVILLE, N.C. — The No. 21 North Carolina baseball (13-10, 8-7) team lost to No. 8 East Carolina (18-5,0-0), 11-10, on Tuesday night after an eighth inning collapse that saw the Tar Heels squander a four-run lead in the eighth inning to lose on a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth.
After getting swept in three games by N.C. State over the weekend, the Tar Heels started out locked in at the plate, with lead-off batter Justice Thompson hitting a double on the very first pitch of the game. After left fielder Angel Zarate advanced him to third on a ground-out to first base, shortstop Danny Serretti hit a home run on his second pitch faced to put the Tar Heels up 2-0 early.
The hot hitting continued for UNC, with right fielder Caleb Roberts walking to first then getting sent to third from a base hit by Tomas Frick. After switching pitchers, ECU struck out first baseman Hunter Stokely, but surrendered two more runs after a double second baseman Johnny Castagnozzi brought the two men on base home before designated hitter Dallas Tessar struck out at the plate to end the top of the first inning.
In their first round of batting, the Pirates knocked one base hit and drew two walks from the Tar Heels' starting pitcher Caleb Cozart in the first four at bats to load the bases. A single from Alec Makarewicz straight up the pitchers mound drove in ECU's first run, and after Zach Agnos drew a walk the score 4-2.
With ECU starting the second inning with its third pitcher of the game, a double from Roberts drove in two more runs after two prior walks, putting UNC up 6-2 after the top of the second.
After hitting a double and putting two runners on base with a poorly-fielded bunt, the Pirates scored their first run of the second on a single to right center field from Ryder Giles. A sacrifice fly would cut North Carolina's lead to just two before the end of the inning.
East Carolina came back to tie the game in the home side of the fourth after Bryson Worrell hit a single and Connor Norby knocked him in with a home run over the right field wall to make it 6-6.
North Carolina's bats started to heat up again in the sixth inning, with Thompson hitting a single through the left side, and Zarate helping UNC retake the lead by slugging a two-run homer over the right field wall. Roberts added onto the total with a solo home run of his own to push the score to 9-6 before UNC finished the inning.
With ECU unable to score in the sixth, North Carolina added to its lead in the seventh with a solo shot from Tyler Causey, who replaced Tessar as the designated hitter. The Pirates came storming back in the bottom of the eighth inning, scoring four runs on two two-run homers, tying the game.
With the Tar Heels unable to score in the ninth inning, East Carolina pounced on its momentum, loading the bases with just one out, when a walk-off RBI by Makarewicz finished the game.
Who stood out?
In North Carolina's highest scoring game of the season, four different players went yard, the most since March 11, 2020 against Virginia Military Institute in the last game of the 2020 season. Roberts was tied for a team-lead with three hits, tying his season-high, and knocked three RBIs.
When was it decided?
After taking a commanding lead in the first inning, the Tar Heels slowly let the Pirates back in until the score was tied 6-6 in the fourth. The home run by Zarate in the sixth inning launched North Carolina ahead, and with two more runs added on for good measure to push the lead to four. But UNC once again squandered its lead in the eighth, giving up four runs to let the game be tied. With a poor performance in the ninth inning, ECU took advantage of its surging performance to win the game.
Why does it matter?
Despite the impressive offensive showing, UNC's losing streak extended to four games after the sweep by the Wolfpack. The collapse is a poor sign for the Tar Heels pitchers, who struggled in the series against N.C. State.
When do they play next?
North Carolina will start the first of a three-game series against No. 18 Florida State on Friday, April 2 at 6 p.m. in Tallahassee, Florida.