After a tough mid-week loss against UNCG, the Tar Heels (23-22, 16-16 ACC) rebounded Saturday with a 5-0 victory against No. 11 Louisville (26-17, 16-12 ACC) to take the weekend series.
Center Fielder Justice Thompson crashed into the fence in the top of the second to save a Cardinals double, giving UNC some early momentum. After the highlight play by Thompson, first baseman Brett Centracchio got UNC on the board with an RBI single up the middle to give the Tar Heels an early 1-0 lead in the bottom half of the inning.
Starting pitcher Caleb Cozart threw two innings of shutout ball for the Tar Heels, striking out two Lousivlle batters on no walks, before handing it off to Connor Ollio in the top of the third. Ollio also kept the Cardinals silent at the plate for four innings to give the Tar Heels the edge they needed to stay ahead of the eleventh-ranked Cardinals for the duration of the game.
In the bottom of the third, the UNC bats struck again, scoring off of a bases loaded walk and a wild pitch — to extend their lead to 3-0.
The Tar Heel pitching staff continued a strong group effort late, with senior Gage Gillian silencing the Louisville bats in the last three innings. Gillian struck out a game high four batters and lowered his ERA to an astounding 1.12 in 40.1 innings of work this season. The dominant performance by the pitching staff gave the Tar Heels their first shutout of the season.
To cap things off, Centracchio hit a two-run blast in the bottom of the sixth to give the Tar Heels a 5-0 lead that they would not surrender.
Who stood out?
The Tar Heel pitching staff — Cozart, Ollio, and Gillian — led the way to victory, giving the team their first shutout of the season and striking out nine Cardinals along the way.
At the plate, first baseman Brett Centracchio delivered, driving in 3 runs on two hits and a homer to right field. The Tar Heels also benefited from some mistakes by the Cardinals pitching staff who surrendered two runs off of a bases-loaded walk and a wild pitch.
When was it decided?
The Tar Heels did not look back after scoring three early runs, keeping the Louisville batters silent at the plate for the duration of the game. After Justice Thompson’s nice play in center field, the Tar Heels grabbed the momentum and gave the Cardinals all they could handle.
Brett Centrachhio’s two run homer in the bottom of the sixth put the nail in the coffin for the Tar Heels.
Why does it matter?
The Tar Heels dropped below the even line with the loss to UNCG on Tuesday, but were able to pick up a huge series win over a tough Louisville team to move them back to one game over .500.
After being swept at Notre Dame, the Tar Heels were also able to improve their ACC record with one last conference series remaining against Georgia Tech on May 20th.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will be back in action Sunday looking for the sweep in game three. First pitch is scheduled for 4 pm.