After kicking the season off with a weekend sweep of Seton Hall, the North Carolina baseball team (4-0, 0-0 ACC) fought hard to sneak out a close one Tuesday night against the Elon Phoenix (1-3, 0-0 CAA), winning 5-1.
To start off a stellar pitching performance for the Tar Heels, sophomore Will Sandy got North Carolina out of a jam in the top of the first with runners on second and third and only one out to keep things even early. The score remained steady through the bottom half of the inning and into the second but in the top of the third, Phoenix center fielder Alex Iadisernia broke the silence with a hard line drive to right field, giving Elon a 1-0 lead.
After falling behind early, North Carolina responded in the bottom of the fourth, scoring its first two runs of the day off an RBI double from sophomore first baseman Johnny Castagnozzi to give them a one-run advantage, 2-1. In the top of the fifth, sophomore pitcher Connor Bovair came in to relieve Sandy and pitched three scoreless frames, striking out seven Elon batters to maintain the Diamond Heels' one-run lead.
In the bottom of the seventh, North Carolina was able to add one more run off an RBI single to left field from sophomore third baseman Mac Horvath, but the second runner was cut down at the plate to end the inning with the Tar Heels up two.
Castagnozzi added two more in the bottom of the eighth off a long home run to left field to extend the North Carolina lead to four, and sophomore Shawn Rapp and junior Kyle Mott finished the job, tossing two scoreless innings in the eighth and ninth to secure the Tar Heels’ 5-1 victory.
Who stood out?
Castagnozzi led the offensive attack for North Carolina, keeping up his hot start to the season, going 2-4 with four RBIs and a homer. Horvath added the only other Diamond Heel run of the day, going 1-4 with his key RBI single in the bottom of the seventh to extend the North Carolina lead to two.
Sandy got the start on the mound for the Tar Heels and pitched four innings, surrendering no earned runs and striking out three Elon batters on no walks. Bovair also had a stellar outing for the North Carolina pitching staff, tossing three scoreless frames and striking out seven Elon batters, while only surrendering one walk.
When was it decided?
Over the course of a close game, the Tar Heels were finally able to find a little separation in the seventh after Horvath’s RBI single extended the lead to two. After finding some space, Rapp and Mott were able to come in and close the door for North Carolina, tossing two scoreless frames and striking out two Elon batters.
Why does it matter?
With a tough series coming up against in-state rival East Carolina, the Diamond Heels were able to continue their hot start to the season, giving them some confidence heading into the weekend against a hungry Pirate team that started off the season last weekend with three losses at home.
When do they play next?
North Carolina will be back in action Friday for the first game of its three-game weekend series against No. 25 East Carolina. First pitch of the first game between the Tar Heels and the Pirates is scheduled for 4 p.m. at Boshamer Stadium in Chapel Hill.
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