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Saturday April 17th

UNC baseball opens series against No. 18 Florida State with a victory on Friday

UNC redshirt sophomore starting pitcher Austin Love delivers a pitch during Carolina's 8-1 season-opening victory over James Madison at Boshamer Stadium, Feb. 19, 2021.
Buy Photos UNC redshirt sophomore starting pitcher Austin Love delivers a pitch during Carolina's 8-1 season-opening victory over James Madison at Boshamer Stadium, Feb. 19, 2021.

Coming off a four-game that included a series sweep by rival N.C. State last weekend, the Tar Heels had to dig deep to pull out a narrow 4-3 win on Friday against No. 18 Florida State. 

What happened?

Through the first four innings, the Tar Heels relied on success on the mound. With their bats keeping quiet, redshirt sophomore pitcher Austin Love silenced Florida State’s lineup, only allowing two hits and no runs to keep the score even at 0-0 until the fifth. 

At the top of the fifth inning, the Diamond Heels got into an offensive groove, starting with a double from first-year infielder Johnny Castagnozzi. First-year infielder Mac Horvath followed with a single that advanced Castagnozzi to third, setting up the Tar Heels for their first run after a bunt by first year infielder Colby Wilkerson brought Castagnozzi home. Love continued his impressive play in the bottom of the fifth, sending three batters to the dugout with a quick ground out and two strikeouts. 

The sixth inning was uneventful for UNC and Florida State, however, both teams caught fire in the seventh. The Tar Heels were assisted with costly mistakes by Florida State as Castagnozzi reached first on a fielding error. 

A single by Horvath and a sacrifice groundout by Wilkerson followed, putting Horvath on second and Castagnozzi on third once again. Redshirt sophomore outfielder Angel Zarate brought the two runners home with a single to right field, giving the Tar Heels a 3-0 advantage in the middle of the inning. However, Florida State erased the lead with a three-run home run in the bottom of the inning. 

The Diamond Heels buckled down in the ninth inning to close the game. Castagnozzi once again got on base after he singled to center field, and he was brought home for the winning run by a single from sophomore outfielder Justice Thompson, putting the Tar Heels ahead, 4-3. Sophomore pitcher Caden O’Brien came up clutch at the bottom of the ninth, retiring three straight batters to seal the win. 

Who stood out? 

The pitching performances from Love and O’Brien were an important factor in the Tar Heels’ win. Love’s five strikeouts and impressive pitching in the first four innings kept UNC afloat while the bats were struggling to connect, and O’Brien’s short, yet excellent, performance with four strikeouts ultimately won the game at the end. 

Castagnozzi also came ready to play on Friday, logging two hits and scoring three of the Tar Heels’ four runs in four plate appearances. 

When was it decided?

Friday’s game was decided in the ninth inning after the Tar Heels successfully took back the lead and denied Florida State a chance to steal the game at the end with the dominant pitching by O’Brien. 

Why does it matter?

Following their longest losing streak of the season, the Tar Heels could use Friday’s win as a confidence booster to get themselves back on track. 

Beating a top-25 team on the road proves that UNC has what it takes to play with the nation’s top competition, yet the Diamond Heels have to play at a high level consistently in order to be considered as one of the best, which is something the team has struggled with at times during the season. 

When do they play next?

The Diamond Heels will face Florida State once again for game two of the weekend’s series on Saturday at 2 p.m. 

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com 


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