After sweeping the Louisville Cardinals last weekend, the UNC baseball team (26-22, 18-16 ACC) took game one of their last series of the regular season Thursday afternoon against Georgia Tech (26-21, 19-15 ACC), 3-2.
The first game was a close one, with both teams fighting to improve their postseason positions in the final regular season series of the season. The Yellow Jackets struck first in the bottom of the third inning, scoring two runs off of a single from catcher Kevin Prada.
After the two early runs, Tar Heel ace Austin Love settled in, pitching a complete game for the Tar Heels with no walks, while surrendering just two runs and striking out 12 Georgia Tech batters along the way. Georgia Tech lefty Brant Hurter also surrendered just two runs for the Yellow Jackets and struck out five Tar Heel batters in seven innings of work.
In the top of the fourth, the Tar Heels grabbed the first of their three runs off of a double from graduate player Brett Centracchio to cut the lead to 2-1. The Tar Heels tied things up in the following inning with a homer to left field off of the bat of first-year Johnny Castagnozzi.
The score remained tied at 2-2 heading into the top of the ninth, until Centracchio was able to plate his second RBI of the day off of a fielder's choice ground ball to second that scored speedy right fielder Caleb Roberts from third base. In the bottom of the ninth, Love stepped back on the mound and struck out all three Georgia Tech batters to give the Tar Heels a pivotal 3-2 victory.
Who stood out?
Starting pitching set the stage in Atlanta with aces Love of UNC and Hurter of Georgia Tech paving the way for their respective teams. Love emerged victorious, leading the Tar Heels to victory and throwing a complete game while allowing just two runs on no walks.
At the plate, Centracchio registered two key RBIs for the Tar Heels off of a second inning double to left center and a ninth inning fielder's choice that scored the game winning run.
When was it decided?
After starting pitching kept the game close for the majority of the game, Roberts scored from third base off a fielder's choice ground ball to second in the top of the ninth inning to break the tie. The late run was all Tar Heel starter Love needed to shut the door in the bottom of the ninth with three consecutive strikeouts.
Why does it matter?
Heading into the last series of the regular season with a tight race in the coastal division, the Tar Heels were able to take game one of a crucial series against the Yellow Jackets who sit at the top of the ACC Coastal standings.
The game one victory provides UNC some early momentum heading into Friday and Saturday, while also giving the Tar Heels an opportunity to make up some ground on the Yellow Jackets with two games left to play. With the win, the Tar Heels now hold sole possession of third place in the division, where they now sit one game behind the first place Yellow Jackets.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will be back in action Friday afternoon in Atlanta for game two of their final series against the Yellow Jackets. First pitch is scheduled for 6 pm.