In the series closer against Georgia Tech on Easter Sunday, the North Carolina baseball team (22-14, 8-10) could not hold off the Yellow Jackets’ (23-14, 9-9) offense in a 11-8 loss.
After a scoreless first inning from both teams, Georgia Tech got things going in the second as a result of some early UNC pitching issues. Sophomore pitcher Connor Bovair walked four of the last five batters between the first two innings, creating bases loaded and prompting an early call to the bullpen for junior pitcher Kyle Mott.
With two outs, Georgia Tech’s Kevin Parada smashed a grand slam over the scoreboard — giving the Yellow Jackets an early 4-0 lead.
The Tar Heels also achieved loaded bases in their response, yet they were unable to capitalize and came away with zero runs going into the third inning.
Georgia Tech started the third with a solo home run to center field to extend its lead to five. The next three batters found no success, however, and quickly gave the Tar Heels another chance to eat away the deficit.
And they did just that in the bottom of the third. Sophomore infielder Mac Horvath found himself safe at first after Georgia Tech’s first baseman dropped the throw from the shortstop. Junior infielder Danny Serretti followed with a triple to send Horvath home, and Serretti slid in for the second run after another throwing error by the Yellow Jacket defense.
UNC was down 5-2 through the fourth inning, and found some more life in the bottom of the fifth. Taking advantage of pitching issues from Georgia Tech, the Tar Heels once again had loaded bases after sophomore infielder Johnny Castagnozzi reached on a fielder's choice, and the other batters were walked and hit by a pitch.
A single by first-year infielder Hunter Stokely sent senior outfielder Mikey Madej and Castagnozzi home, bringing UNC within one run going into the sixth.
Yet, the one run deficit was short lived as Georgia Tech homered the first pitch of the inning to make it 6-4. After another pitching change to sophomore pitcher Davis Palermo, UNC did not allow any more runs for the rest of the inning.
The offense also could not get the run back, which came back to haunt the Tar Heels in the top of the seventh when Georgia Tech hit their third solo home run to extend their lead to three.
The score remained 7-4 until the bottom of the eighth when sophomore first baseman Alberto Osuna hit a two-run homer to bring UNC within one again.
Sophomore pitcher Caden O’Brien came to the mound to try to keep Georgia Tech at bay in the top of the ninth, but he was unable to do so. After two batters hit by a pitch and an intentional walk, Georgia Tech had bases loaded.
In the worst case scenario for the Tar Heels, the Yellow Jackets capitalized with a grand slam — extending their lead to five.
First-year outfielder Vance Honeycutt hit a two run homer to left center in the Tar Heels’ last effort, but UNC could not muster any more runs to tie or win at the end.
Who stood out?
Serretti was productive from the plate going 2-3 with one RBI and one triple.
Osuna was crucial in the eighth inning, hitting the home run that put the Tar Heels back in it and finishing with two RBIs.
When was it decided?
This game was decided in the top of the ninth inning after a late-game grand slam ultimately put the game out of reach.
Why does it matter?
With this loss, UNC has now lost four straight ACC series.
Winning in the conference has been a struggle for the Tar Heels, who are now 8-10 in league play after starting 5-1. In series against the likes of Miami, Virginia Tech, Louisville and Georgia Tech, UNC has faced top-25 squads and some of the best offenses in the ACC — so, its shortcomings have not been against any sub-par teams.
UNC has shown the ability to be an elite squad by winning some of those games, but the team still has some issues to fix with No. 8 Virginia waiting next weekend and the ACC Championship being a month away.
Most importantly, the Tar Heels need a few consistently good pitchers that can go the distance.
When do they play next?
UNC will be back in Chapel Hill on Tuesday, April 19 to face Campbell at 8 p.m.
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