The No. 13 North Carolina baseball team (18-3, 5-1) defeated in-state opponent Appalachian State (7-12, 1-2) 4-2. The victory marks the Tar Heels’ seventh win in their last eight games.
After holding the Mountaineers to just one hit and no runs in the top of the first inning, the Tar Heels took an early lead in the bottom of the first after first-year outfielder Vance Honeycutt scored a run off an RBI from junior outfielder Angel Zarate.
Neither team scored in the second inning, but App State tied the score at 1-1 in the third inning after scoring a run in the top of the inning and holding the Tar Heels scoreless in the bottom.
UNC reclaimed the lead in the fourth inning after sophomore first baseman Alberto Osuna scored off an RBI from junior catcher Max Riemer.
The fifth inning was a defensive battle, and neither team scored or managed to get a hit, but the Tar Heels looked poised to score in the sixth inning after sophomore infielder Mac Horvath advanced to third base after an App State error. UNC, however, couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity, as the Mountaineers made a double play that put out both Osuna and Horvath and prevented the Tar Heels from increasing their lead.
UNC maintained its lead throughout the sixth and seventh innings, as neither team scored or recorded more than two hits during that span.
App State tied the score at 2-2 in the top of the eighth after senior pitcher Gage Gillian allowed a home run. UNC quickly regained the lead in the bottom of the eighth inning, as junior shortstop Danny Serretti scored off an RBI from Horvath after hitting a double deep into left field. Horvath later extended the Tar Heels’ lead to 4-2 by stealing home shortly after taking a 3-2 lead.
Who stood out?
Riemer’s contributions played a key role in the Tar Heels’ narrow victory over App State. Riemer recorded a team-leading two hits on three appearances at bat while also contributing an RBI. Riemer also contributed a game-high seven putouts.
Horvath also made a significant impact, especially late in the game, as he had one run, hit, RBI and putout.
When was it decided?
This game was tightly contested throughout, but the deciding moment was likely in the bottom of the eighth inning when UNC extended its lead to 4-2. Caden O’Brien closed out the game in the top of the ninth inning by recording three strikeouts to clinch the Tar Heels victory.
Why does it matter?
Aside from giving the team its 18th win of the season, this win and UNC’s performance in it shows what the Tar Heels are doing well and what they may need to improve with more conference games approaching.
The Tar Heels continued to play stifling defense as pitching, infield and outfield play complemented each other in an effort that held the Mountaineers to just two runs and ten hits all game. Even without playing their two leading pitchers, the Tar Heels put together an impressive performance on the mound.
Sophomore pitcher Will Sandy recorded two strikeouts in two innings pitched while garnering an ERA of 2.16. Fellow sophomore pitcher Davis Palermo recorded three strikeouts in just two innings pitched. The Tar Heels will need this depth as the season progress, and they play more challenging in-conference opponents.
While UNC limited App State at bat, the Tar Heels offense was uncharacteristically unproductive. UNC entered its game against App State averaging nine hits per game and 6.55 runs per game.
Against App State, which allowed explosive offensive performances against past opponents, the Tar Heels were only able to score four runs. While this is just a blip in the radar, as UNC’s batting and offense has scored prolifically throughout the season, it is something to watch with key ACC matchups looming on the schedule.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels look to keep pace with Virginia atop the ACC’s Coastal division as they travel to Miami to play a weekend-long series with the Hurricanes starting Friday, Mar. 25 at 7 p.m.
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