The No. 24 North Carolina baseball team (9-1) won the first game of its home series against Coastal Carolina (7-3) in a 4-3 walk-off win at Boshamer Stadium on Friday night.
Coastal Carolina jumped ahead to a quick 1-0 lead in the first inning of Friday’s game. After the first two Chanticleer batters got on base, Coastal Carolina’s Nick Lucky reached first on a fielder’s choice to fill the bases with zero outs. On a flyout to right field by Eric Brown, right fielder Angel Zarate threw out Lucky as he attempted to slide into second. Meanwhile, leadoff hitter Austin White dashed home to tally a run for the Chanticleers.
The Tar Heels also managed to get the bases loaded in the bottom of the first, as Zarate singled to center field, and two UNC batters were hit by pitches. However, with two outs and the bases loaded, sophomore Mac Horvath struck out and ended the hopes for an early Tar Heel run.
After a quiet second inning for both teams, the top of the third saw third baseman Dale Thomas go yard to bring Coastal Carolina to a 2-0 lead.
The Tar Heels were quick to respond in the very next inning. In the bottom of the fourth, sophomore designated hitter Alberto Osuna got things started for UNC with a single through the right side. After redshirt junior Max Riemer was put in to pinch-hit for Reece Holbrook, he pulled a single to left field to bring up the top of the lineup. First-year Vance Honeycutt came to the plate, and his first hit of the game came at a crucial time for the Diamond Heels. Honeycutt singled to left field, bringing Osuna home to score UNC’s first run of the game.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, the Tar Heels tacked on another run to tie the game up 2-2. With an Osuna double to deep left field and a single by Hunter Stokely to the same spot in the very next at-bat, Osuna crossed the plate again to score for North Carolina.
After a scoreless sixth inning, Coastal Carolina was able to take the lead in the top of the seventh. Right fielder Billy Underwood doubled to center field and advanced to third on a fielding error by Zarate. A sacrifice bunt later in the inning by second baseman Matt McDermott scored Underwood on the squeeze play, giving Coastal Carolina a 3-2 lead.
However, thanks to the efforts of Frick, Serretti, Castagnozzi and Horvath, UNC notched two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning. Thanks to the singles from these four batters, UNC picked up a walk-off win — its first walk-off victory since March 1, 2020.
Who stood out?
Junior left-handed pitcher Brandon Schaeffer got the start on Friday and pitched for just over six innings. He had seven strikeouts, He held the Chanticleers to two runs on five hits, and the Tar Heels are 3-0 in games he starts this season.
After Schaeffer left the game in the seventh inning, junior right-handed pitcher Kyle Mott soon picked up the slack. He finished the game strong with five strikeouts — a career-high for Mott at UNC. He only allowed one hit and one walk.
On the offensive end, Horvath was the hero of the game, as his single in the bottom of the ninth earned the walk-off win for the Tar Heels. Osuna was also a clear standout for UNC, scoring the first two runs in the game. He finished the game going 2-4 with a single and a double.
When was it decided?
The game came right down to the wire and was ultimately decided by a two-run rally by the Diamond Heels in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Going into this inning down by one run, Frick led off the effort with a single up the middle on a 2-2 count. With three singles in the next three at-bats, from Serretti, Castagnozzi, and ultimately Horvath, the Tar Heels scored two runs in crunch time to secure a 4-3 win.
Why does it matter?
Immediately, defensive errors proved to be a problem for the Tar Heels in Friday’s game.
In the second at-bat of the game, Thomas hit a high pop fly that, due to miscommunication from Stokely at first base and Zarate in right field, barely dropped in fair territory and turned into a single for Coastal Carolina. In the seventh inning of the game, Underwood doubled to center field and advanced to third on a fielding error by Zarate in right field, going on to score and give the Chanticleers the 3-2 lead in that same inning.
Ultimately, the Tar Heels came up with the win thanks to the pitching efforts of Schaeffer and Mott and an outstanding rally effort from the middle of the Tar Heels' lineup. Moving forward, UNC will need to clean up these defensive miscues to ensure success against tough ACC competition later this season.
When do they play next?
The Diamond Heels will be back at Boshamer Stadium on Saturday to face Coastal Carolina in their second game of the series at 2 p.m.
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