Tuesday night had the atmosphere of a relaxing, warm spring evening in Boshamer Stadium. The sun stayed out late, bats swung heavily over the plate and fans scrambled for the occasional foul ball.
But as the lights came on and the temperature cooled near the end of the game, the unmistakable feeling of another North Carolina loss filled the night, as the UNC baseball team fell to Coastal Carolina, 6-3.
“In baseball, you got pitching, and you got defending,” head coach Scott Forbes said. “Coastal got it done, and we didn’t.”
After a series loss against Pittsburgh last weekend, UNC took a break from ACC play for a mid-week date against Coastal Carolina. Both teams, which have had their ups and downs this season, were coming off strong, high-scoring wins on Sunday.
On Tuesday, the Tar Heels' pitching staff was led by redshirt first-year Max Alba, who had last taken the mound in a win against South Carolina on April 6.
After retiring the first two batters in the top of the first, Alba threw a fastball right down the middle, which led to a 425-foot bomb by Parker Chavers to give the Chanticleers the early lead.
The bottom of the first inning started with sophomore outfielder Caleb Roberts, who was coming off of several hot performances. He walked on four straight pitches and then advanced to second and third off of passed balls. But North Carolina was unable to bring him home after sophomore shortstop Danny Serretti struck out on a 3-2 count to end the frame.
In the top of the second inning, Alba faced a pair of left-handed hitters and gave up two solo home runs before being relieved by lefty redshirt junior Chris Joyner after 1.1 innings. Despite his baseball cap falling off after nearly every pitch, Joyner finished off the rest of the Coastal Carolina hitters to keep the score at 3-0.
Joyner stayed on the mound and recorded two more strikeouts in the third inning to hold the score within reach for the Tar Heels. After UNC struggled to put up runs once again, sophomore pitcher Connor Ollio came in to inherit two runners on base in the top of the fourth. With the pressure mounting on North Carolina’s defense, the Tar Heels committed a crucial error, which paved the way for three more Chanticleer runs to come across the plate.
The Tar Heels took back some momentum after a solo bomb from senior outfielder Dallas Tessar in the bottom of the fourth. A few innings later, UNC closed the gap once again, as first baseman Brett Centracchio ripped an RBI single to trim the deficit to 6-2 in the bottom of the seventh.
UNC's bullpen was able to limit the damage and hold the Chanticleers scoreless for the rest of the game. Sophomore outfielder Justice Thompson made a diving catch that received a tip of the cap from Coastal Carolina.
Despite scoring another run in the last-gasp effort in the ninth, the glaring result flashed as brightly as the stadium's scoreboard: 6-3.
“The more you play, the more you learn to deal with the tough things, especially the failure,” Forbes said. “We don’t want to use it as an excuse, however.”
North Carolina has a chance to turn the week around as it hosts a series against ACC foe Miami this weekend. However, the team will need to improve its performance to have any chance at climbing the ladder in the ACC standings.
“You have to be patient with these kids,” Forbes said. “Being negative won’t do us any good. We have to be positive and keep working.”
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