The North Carolina baseball team (17-14, 11-11) fell to No. 17 Pittsburgh (19-10, 13-9), 6-2, in the first of a three-game series on Saturday.
Originally scheduled for Friday evening, the series opener was rescheduled to Saturday at 1 p.m. due to inclement weather.
Pittsburgh struck first with a two-run homer from senior outfielder Nico Papa, which also scored sophomore infielder Sky Duff, giving the Panthers a 2-0 advantage. The Panthers' lead grew after an overthrow to second base allowed outfielder Ron Washington Jr. to advance to third base, and he was driven in on a double by infielder David Yanni.
With UNC down 3-0 in the second inning, sophomore Justice Thompson singled up the middle and later scored on a hit by graduate first baseman Brett Centracchio. In the bottom of the inning, two strikeouts by sophomore pitcher Connor Ollio helped the Tar Heels escape without giving up any runs.
In the top of the third inning, senior outfielder Dallas Tessar got on base after being hit by a pitch. Tessar later scored after a sacrifice fly from Thompson, which cut the Pittsburgh lead to 3-2.
In the bottom the bottom of the fourth, it seemed as though Pittsburgh would build on its lead after junior outfielder Jordan Andserson hit a triple to right field. However, the next sent a fly ball into left field and Tessar rifled the ball to home plate to complete the double play.
Over the next few innings, the Panthers eventually started to pull away from the Tar Heels. In the bottom of the fifth, Washington Jr. homered to left to give Pittsburgh a 4-2 lead. Duff led off the bottom of the seventh with a single, and came all the way around to score following three wild pitches.
A sacrifice fly from Pittsburgh's Ramon Padilla in the bottom of the eighth gave the Panthers an extra insurance run, as they led the Tar Heels, 6-2, as UNC took its final at bats. Following a two-out, pinch hit double by Clemente Inclan, Tessar flew out to end the game.
Who stood out?
Much like he has done all season, Thompson paced the Tar Heels offensively. Consistent with its season to this point, Thompson led North Carolina in this game. He chipped in two hits in three at bats while also driving in one of the team's two runs.
Washington Jr. and Yanni led Pittsburgh, as both contributed two hits and an RBI.
When was it decided?
Although North Carolina slowly chipped away at the early 3-0 deficit, Pittsburgh slowly put the game away in the late stages of the contest. Runs scored in the fifth, seventh and eighth innings gave the team a comfortable lead, and after the third inning, UNC could not do any scoring of its own.
Why does it matter?
After this game, North Carolina holds an 11-11 conference record in 2021. An even .500 record in the conference is disappointing for a team that had been ranked for the majority of the season and expected to perform better.
This game also puts them at 4-8 on the road, a number that the Tar Heels certainly would like to improve upon. Winning away from Boshamer Stadium has been a struggle for the team, though it is something that is needed for the remainder of the season.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels play the second game of the series on Saturday at Charles L. Cost Field, approximately 45 minutes after the conclusion of the first game.
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