In a series marked by head coach Scott Forbes' first ACC series win, a return of fans and a historic milestone, the North Carolina baseball team defeated No. 2 Virginia twice in three games.
The series was officiated by umpires Linus Baker, Damien Beal, Greg Street and Randy Watkins — making it the first time an all-Black crew has officiated a series in the history of the Power 5 conferences or Major League Baseball.
Although the Tar Heels beat the Cavaliers 3-2 on Thursday and 2-1 on Saturday, they lost the final game of the series on Sunday, 3-2. Overall, this improved North Carolina’s record to 6-1 overall and 2-1 in the ACC.
“We let it slip away today, but we’ll be back at it with our heads down tomorrow getting ready for work,” sophomore outfielder Justice Thompson said.
Despite the loss to finish the weekend, the Tar Heels managed to defeat the No. 2 team in the nation in two consecutive matchups, and play them down to the last inning in the final game of the series.
“Obviously we’re happy we won our first ACC series," Forbes said. "We’re not satisfied because we thought we had a chance to get a sweep, and we didn’t get it."
The weekend was full of low-scoring, close games, with victory never certain until the final play. In the first two matchups of the series, the Tar Heels scored early and first, putting them ahead with a lead they could sit on.
In the first game, it was a 1-0 lead in the first inning, with two home runs in the fifth and sixth innings from first-year infielder Johnny Castagnozzi and Thompson, respectively, putting North Carolina ahead.
In the second game, one run apiece in the second and fourth innings, both from Thompson, gave North Carolina a 2-0 lead.
In the final game of the series, however, Virginia scored at the top of the fourth and fifth innings before any Tar Heel could. Thompson finally put North Carolina on the board in the bottom of the seventh inning off an RBI single from graduate first baseman Brett Centracchio, and first-year catcher Tomas Frick scored another run.
Despite the late-game push on Sunday where junior Joey Lancellotti put up a combined five strikeouts in the final two innings, the North Carolina offense couldn’t give him run support.
Lancellotti entered the game at the beginning of the sixth inning, when North Carolina was down 3-0.
“Coach pulled me aside and kind of said, ‘You know why we brought you in here, right?’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, you want to stay in this game.'" Lancelotti said. “And he said, ‘No, we’re going to come back, and I want you in the game to keep us here and then take us home,’ and that kind of motivated me to not let them get any more and keep the score where it was.”
For the first time this season, it wasn't just the team supporting itself, either, as fans were finally allowed to attend and cheer on North Carolina in person at Boshamer Stadium.
“It’s what the players and college athletes deserve,” Forbes said.
The nail-biting nature of the game can be seen from the scoreline alone, but the effects could also finally be seen on fans throughout Boshamer Stadium. Quiet murmurs echoed through the stadium after a collision of players, including sophomore shortstop Danny Serretti, in the top of the sixth, which were then followed by applause as his teammates helped him off the field.
The relief also seeped through from the socially distanced crowd at the top of the ninth inning when Lancellotti held strong to strike out the Cavaliers' Jimmy Sullivan before he could extend the lead.
“Our guys just kept battling, gave up a two-run home run and they didn’t quit,” Forbes said. “They just kept battling. I was proud of our guys the whole weekend, no doubt.”
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