The North Carolina baseball team (24-17, 8-13 ACC) defeated the Liberty Flames (26-13, 12-6 ASUN), 8-1, at home on Wednesday, bouncing back from last week's sweep against Virginia.
In an uneventful first inning, the only Tar Heel to reach first base was redshirt junior Angel Zarate, who grounded to center field. The second inning saw much more action as UNC put their first run on the board with a single from redshirt junior Max Riemer. Running in and taking the lead was sophomore Hunter Stokely.
This was the play that opened the flood gates for the Diamond Heels.
Senior Mikey Madej singled to left center as sophomore Alberto Osuna cruised across home plate, bringing it to a two-run lead for North Carolina. A bunt from first-year Vance Honeycutt loaded the bases, and a wild pitch from Liberty’s Trey Gibson scored a third run as Honeycutt and Zarate advanced.
Later in the inning, junior Danny Serretti reached base on an error by Liberty’s shortstop, allowing Honeycutt and Zarate to run home. The Tar Heels ended the dominant second inning with a 5-0 lead.
Just a few pitches into the third inning, The Flames responded and put their first run on the board with a homer from Gray Betts that was knocked out of the park.
After a short scoring drought, the fourth inning ended with another impressive offensive performance from the Tar Heels. A hard hit ball from Sophomore Mac Horvath soared over the left field fence, scoring two more runs for North Carolina.
The Flames switched to their third pitcher of the game in fifth inning, but North Carolina’s scoring rampage didn’t stop. Sophomore Johnny Castagnozzi hit another home run to right field and increased the lead, 8-1.
After three scoreless innings for both teams, the Tar Heels defeat of the Liberty Flames was final.
Who stood out?
In an offensively dominant game and hits all across the roster for UNC, it can be hard to find a player that stood out over the rest. For this matchup, however, it was the home runs from Horvath and Castagnozzi that protected North Carolina’s lead over the Flames.
As Liberty attempted to fight back by introducing new pitchers and continuously reaching the bases, the Diamond Heels were not at all rattled.
When was it decided?
Although there were moments throughout this game when the Tar Heels could have lost their momentum after an authoritative second inning, they just kept on scoring.
Once UNC put a stop to the Flames and held them to only one run after putting five runs on the board, the defeat was secured.
Why does it matter?
UNC was an underdog coming into this matchup. This midweek win not only breaks the Tar Heels’ three-game losing streak, but it breaks Liberty’s four-game winning streak as well.
Earlier this season, the Flames defeated UNC, 1-0, at Liberty.
With Wednesday's victory, the Diamond Heels demonstrated both their offensive strength and growth against a quality opponent. UNC hopes that this could be the game that turns around the regular season, which ends in less than a month.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will be back in Boshamer Stadium on May 3 to compete against the UNC Charlotte 49ers at 7 p.m.