After a dismal few weeks, the North Carolina baseball team clobbered Duke, 21-8, on Monday to clinch its first series win since March 21.
Going into the rivalry weekend, UNC had dropped its previous two series and lost six of its last eight games. Head coach Scott Forbes had implored the veterans on the team to step up their offensive play after the team lost its last ACC series to Florida State.
“I talked to them about it, like, ‘Look, sometimes you just have to look in the mirror and play a little bit better and get past where you are currently because this game is hard,’” Forbes said.
In the Friday night game — which was completed on Saturday due to inclement weather — the Tar Heels lost 4-2, unable to conjure up the offense necessary to come back from an early 2-0 deficit.
But on Sunday and Monday, everything turned around.
During the eighth inning, a two-run home run from sophomore shortstop Danny Serretti capped off an 11-5 victory in game two for the Tar Heels on Sunday. They then rode that momentum into Monday evening, putting up a number of runs not seen in Boshamer Stadium since 2010, when UNC crossed the plate 25 times against Princeton.
The Blue Devils, as they had in all three games of the series, scored first on Monday and went up 2-0 in the top of the first inning. The Tar Heels' offense went right to work, though, and by the end of the second, they were already leading 9-3, thanks to a pair of three-run bombs by first-year Tomas Frick and senior Dallas Tessar.
“I guess the past couple weeks we’d get down and we didn’t really answer back,” said graduate transfer Brett Centracchio, who hit two home runs in the bottom of the fifth. “That was a big thing we took on ourselves, to just stay confident.”
The Tar Heels exuded confidence up and down the lineup on Monday evening. Eight UNC players recorded at least one hit, and all eight scored.
The team didn’t just hit the ball — they hit the ball hard.
Nine of UNC’s 16 knocks on the game went for extra bases, five of those being home runs.
“It didn’t matter if the guy in front of you hit a double, homered or struck out," third baseman Colby Wilkerson said. "The next guy was right up there, and they were competing and really trying to get the job done."
Having learned from previous mistakes, the team was unfazed when Duke took an early lead on Monday, and didn’t let up when the Blue Devils kept tacking on more runs. The Tar Heels came into the deciding game determined to take the series, and they left having produced one of their most impressive performances in recent memory.
“The energy, it was just different. It felt like both days it was just going to happen for us,” Wilkerson said. “You could just tell on guys' faces that we were real confident, and it didn’t matter what was going to be thrown at us, we were going to punch back.”
Now, the Tar Heels look to turn this series win into momentum as they approach the home stretch of conference play. On Friday, UNC will begin its series against No. 17 Pittsburgh, a team that sits near the top of the ACC standings.
Forbes hopes that this victory will show his team — which has been inconsistent at the plate this season — just how formidable it can be offensively.
“That’s good for our guys to prove to themselves that they know what they’re capable of doing offensively,” he said. “And it’s not a big deal if we get down, because this team, one through nine, has got a little bit of power, and when you have that and that athleticism, you’re in every game.”