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The Daily Tar Heel

Preview: UNC baseball gearing up for three-game series against East Carolina

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UNC sophomore left-handed pitcher Will Sandy (41) attempts to pick off ECU outfielder Bryson Worrell at first base during the Tar Heels' game against East Carolina University at Boshamer Stadium on March 23, 2021. The Tar Heels defeated the Pirates 8-1.

The North Carolina baseball team (4-0) came out swinging this season with a clean sweep of Seton Hall during opening weekend and a win at home against Elon on Tuesday.

But even with this early success, the Tar Heels should not underestimate the habitually successful East Carolina Pirates (1-3) in their upcoming series.

The three-game series will begin Friday at 4 p.m. in Boshamer Stadium. Although the first two games will be held in the comfort of their home field, the Tar Heels will travel down the road to Greenville for the third and final game in the series — their first away game of the season.

The last time these two teams met on the diamond, the Pirates narrowly defeated the Tar Heels 11-10 after a walk-off RBI single at the end of the ninth inning. By the end of the 2021 season, ECU’s final record stood at an impressive 44-17, while North Carolina’s was 28-27.

This season started unexpectedly for both teams, however, as the preseason No. 12 Pirates fell to Bryant University three times in a row during opening weekend. Although ECU overcame Campbell University 10-3 on Tuesday, UNC has shown far more confidence and competitive spirit in its successes so far.

Currently, North Carolina is sitting nicely as one of seven undefeated teams in the ACC. The Pirates, after their win against Campbell, are now in sixth place in the AAC.

During their domination of Seton Hall in their first three games of the season, the Tar Heels proved to have a lineup that is full of potential and promise.

In the second game of the series against Seton Hall, first-year infielder Vance Honeycutt made his early season mark by hitting his third home run of the season, making him the first Tar Heel since Seth Williams in 2008 to hit three home runs in the first two games.

Similarly, sophomore infielder Johnny Castagnozzi and junior shortstop Danny Serretti demonstrated their offensive abilities by putting run after run on the scoreboard for North Carolina.

While Castagnozzi was the only player to record multiple hits in each game throughout the entire Seton Hall series, he and Serretti each recorded seven hits — the most in the first three games of a season since Skye Bolt hit eight in the first three of 2013.

Against Elon, Castagnozzi once again dazzled the diamond by going 2 for 4 from the box with a home run, a double and four RBIs to lead North Carolina to a 5-1 win at home.

The Pirates have some talented veteran players returning this season, but one of their key players and starters, sophomore pitcher Carson Whisenhunt, has been suspended indefinitely for a team rule violation. Whisenhunt is a projected first-round pick in the upcoming 2022 MLB draft and was named the preseason American Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year.

Pirates head coach Cliff Godwin said Whisenhunt wouldn't play for "at least" the team's first series.

After several seasons full of ups and downs, a glimmer of hope for the Tar Heels is on the horizon, as they have already shown that they are prepared to reestablish themselves as one of the best teams in the country.

Even without some of their key players, there is no doubt in the Pirates’ determination to put up a fight against the Tar Heels — which will make each game of this upcoming series exciting to watch.

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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