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Saturday June 3rd

Zarate shows off progress in No. 15 UNC baseball's series sweep over Pittsburgh

Redshirt junior outfielder Angel Zarate (40) smiles with his teammate Vance Honeycutt (7) at the game against Pittsburgh on March 13, 2022 at Boshamer Stadium.
Buy Photos Redshirt junior outfielder Angel Zarate (40) smiles with his teammate Vance Honeycutt (7) at the game against Pittsburgh on March 13, 2022 at Boshamer Stadium.

It was late in the Sunday game of No. 15 UNC baseball’s series against Pittsburgh and —after a weekend of gloomy weather and belligerent gusts — Boshamer Stadium was finally back to its usual sunny self. 

If you’re looking for some insurance runs late in the game, just as the Tar Heels were, there’s no better player to have in the box than Angel Zarate. The redshirt junior outfielder hailing is batting over .400  — one of UNC’s most reliable hitters this season.

With a bloop single to center field in the bottom of the eighth, Zarate notched his third hit of Sunday’s game, scoring Mac Horvath and Colby Wilkerson. He took a turn around first base, glanced out to admire his hit for a second and turned back. Proudly planted on the bag, he held his hands up and pointed back at his teammates in the dugout with a big grin. 

And he had plenty of reasons to smile this weekend.

Zarate heightened offensive production came at a great time for the Tar Heels this weekend, allowing the team to open ACC play with a series sweep over the Panthers. He totaled eight hits against Pitt and had the highest batting average for North Carolina all series. 

Most notably, though, he tied his career-high record with 39 consecutive games of getting on base in Sunday’s game. 

“I don’t like to think about it that much,” Zarate said. “I just go out there and my game plan is the same every time: make sure I’m on time for every pitch, make sure I get a good swing off and just try to slow the game down as much as possible.”

It’s an approach that Zarate has taken ever since the fall of 2018, where he batted behind talents like Dodgers first-round pick Michael Busch. In a meeting held during his second year at UNC, some of his coaches suggested Zarate look into transferring if he wanted more playing time. 

“I didn’t want to fill out any type of paperwork, so it could be some laziness in there," Zarate said. "But the main thing is, it’s UNC, why would I want to leave? I stuck with it because I didn’t want to go anywhere.”

He jokes about it now, but Zarate admitted one of his first steps was taking practice more seriously. 

Along with putting a more focused effort into driving the ball and getting stronger in the weight room, Zarate has made immense progress in the past three years. As a sophomore, he posted the longest hitting streak of anyone on the North Carolina roster at 12 games. This season, with a newfound mindset and approach, he’s found his stride again.

Totaling four RBIs and three runs on the series, Zarate was a key in the North Carolina offense this series. Even in the few times Zarate didn’t reach base, he was aiding his team’s offense.

“He gives so much information on the pitcher,” said sophomore catcher Tomas Frick, who bats behind Zarate. 

A redshirt junior whose Twitter bio reads “UNC 2??”, Zarate can often be seen beaming on the field and cracking jokes in press conferences. Yet, his work ethic has led to recent successes. 

While Zarate makes his 39 game on-base streak look easy, it’s the result of three years of effort after that fateful 2018 meeting. He's not shy about that process, either — Zarate had to weather some adverse conditions to get where he is today. 

And he did it all with a smile.

“The thing that people don’t see about Angel is how hard he works,” head coach Scott Forbes said. “When you work that hard, if you’ve got some ability, you’re all in and you’re a good teammate, somewhere along the line at UNC, you get rewarded.”


@dthsports |

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