After dropping their opening game of the ACC Tournament to Pittsburgh Tuesday night, the Tar Heels (27-25, 18-18 ACC) were able to grab a win Friday in game two against third-seeded N.C. State (29-16, 19-14), 9-6.
The Tar Heels came out of the gates hot Friday night, scoring six runs in the first inning against their in-state rival. Redshirt-sophomore Angel Zarate got things rolling for UNC in the first with a leadoff double, followed by a hit-by-pitch and a walk to load the bases early for the Tar Heels. With the bases juiced, sophomore Danny Serretti ripped a single to right field to drive in the first run for the Tar Heels, giving them an early 1-0 lead.
After scoring their first run, the floodgates opened. With the bases still loaded, first-year Mac Horvath stepped to the plate and cranked a grandslam that barely snuck over the fence in left field, extending the Tar Heel lead to five. Graduate player Brett Centracchio wrapped up the big inning for the Tar Heels, scoring their sixth run from third base off of a wild pitch. In the second, the Tar Heels responded again, scoring two more runs off of an RBI single from Horvath and an RBI double from first-year catcher Tomas Frick to give the Tar Heels a whopping 8-0 advantage heading into the third.
The Wolfpack started clawing their way back in the third, scoring three runs off of an RBI single, a fielder's choice RBI, and a walk that scored a run with the bases loaded — cutting the lead to 8-3. After seeing their lead cut to five, the Tar Heels responded again in the top of the fourth, with another RBI from Horvath in the form of a sacrifice fly to right field that scored Serretti from third. The Wolfpack put up a fight late, responding with a run in the bottom of the inning off of an RBI single from sophomore Tyler Mcdonough.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Wolfpack scored two more runs to cut the lead to three, but that is where the score would stay. Junior Caden O'Brien stepped to the mound in the top of the ninth and shut the Wolfpack down in emphatic style to give the Tar Heels a much-needed 9-6 victory.
Who stood out?
First-year Mac Horvath had a career night for the Tar Heels at the plate. Horvath drove in six runs off of two hits and cranked the first Tar Heel grand slam since April of 2019. Sophomore Danny Serretti and first-year Tomas Frick also had big nights at the plate for the Tar Heels — batting 4-5 and 3-4.
On the mound, the Tar Heels got another solid start from ace Austin Love, who threw 5.2 innings of four run ball while striking out nine Wolfpack batters along the way. The Tar Heels also got solid outings from relievers Shawn Rapp, Gage Gillian, and O'Brien — who gave up two runs on six strikeouts as a group in 3.1 innings of work.
When was it decided?
After taking an early 8-0 lead in the first two innings, the Tar Heels didn’t look back. Horvath’s grand slam in the first ended up being the deciding factor in a high-scoring contest.
Why does it matter?
With their chances of making the Tournament in limbo heading into Friday night after the loss to Pittsburgh, the Tar Heels grabbed a key win in their last guaranteed game of the 2021 season over the third-seeded Wolfpack. The big win Friday night pads the Tar Heels resume as they await a decision from the tournament selection committee.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels now have to wait and see how things turn out in the rest of the conference tournaments before they receive their assignment for the upcoming NCAA Tournament, where they hope for an at-large bid.