The Daily Tar Heel

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Saturday June 3rd

Steady hitting from Hunter Stokely lifts UNC baseball to sweep over Coastal Carolina

UNC first baseman Hunter Stokely (45) goes to tag for an out during UNC's first in a three game series against Coastal Carolina on March 4, 2022, in Chapel Hill, NC. UNC won that game 4-3.
Buy Photos UNC first baseman Hunter Stokely (45) goes to tag for an out during UNC's first in a three game series against Coastal Carolina on March 4, 2022, in Chapel Hill, NC. UNC won that game 4-3.

In baseball, it’s easy to be hypnotized by flashy plays and shocking moments. North Carolina’s home series against Coastal Carolina was no exception. 

The series saw the first and second walk-off wins for the Diamond Heels this season on Friday and Sunday. A controversial obstruction call late in Sunday’s game led to Scott Forbes being ejected — his first time as UNC’s head coach. 

There were home runs and highlight-reel plays, such as Will Stewart’s diving catch in right field on Friday, for example.

It’s easy to get caught up in all these new and exciting moments — these shiny things — and overlook more steady, nuanced performances. 

And it's certainly easy to gloss over the impact that Hunter Stokely has had on North Carolina this week.

Coming off of Sunday’s win, Stokely finished the week hitting 9-16 with six RBIs in five games. He wasn’t flashy, but rather consistent, as he recorded two singles in each game of this weekend’s series. He totaled four RBIs this weekend, meaning he drove in a third of the runs the Tar Heels scored against the Chanticleers.

With these recent numbers in place, it appears that Stokely, a sophomore first baseman from Wilson, is beginning to live up to the daunting expectations set by his older cousin Chad Flack. 

Flack, easily one of the most recognizable players in North Carolina baseball history, set UNC career records for base hits, at bats, total bases and games played during his time as a Tar Heel.

Stokely grew up watching Flack play at UNC in his formative years, around the ages of five and six. Though the trek from Wilson to Chapel Hill could be a 75-90 minute drive, Stokely made the trip often to see his cousin play at Boshamer Stadium.

“Watching him play here when I was growing and watching everything he had done, I really wanted to come and try and follow in his footsteps here,” Stokely said.

After a 2021 first-year season that saw Stokely batting .185, he’s already made massive strides this year. 

Sunday was Stokely’s fourth straight multi-hit game, and he’s already recorded more hits in UNC’s first 12 games than he did during all of last season. They are strides that Stokely credits to work done in the offseason, and that the UNC coaching staff credits to his work ethic.

“One of the biggest things he does is he’s the same guy every day when he comes into the ballpark,” assistant head coach Bryant Gaines said. “He’s done some things over the course of the preseason that we were really excited about, we just wanted to make sure we had an opportunity to use him in the right way.”

For a player that had only recorded three at-bats before this past week, Stokely’s streak of singles is especially impressive.  After getting spurts of playing time in the first two weeks of the season, he’s now become a starting first baseman for the Diamond Heels.

“He’s one of the harder hitters to pitch to,” said teammate and pitcher Gage Gillian. “It’s good to see him getting some opportunities and making the most out of them.” 

After years of patience, from watching his cousin excel to a senior season in high school cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Stokely has finally earned his shining moment. 

It’s not flashy, it’s not showy, but rather it’s a consistent and calm approach to the plate that has allowed this singles machine to churn decisive offensive production for the Diamond Heels. 

All he had to do was wait.

“Through practice every day, Coach Forbes said my time would come,” Stokely said. “I just listened to him and just keep working my tail off every day.”  


@dthsports |

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