After a key win on Friday night to start the weekend series, the North Carolina baseball team (21-10, 7-7 ACC) squared off with the Louisville Cardinals (22-8, 8-3 ACC) again on Saturday afternoon. The Cardinals were able to take game two in extra innings, beating the Tar Heels 9-8.
Louisville senior starter Jared Poland shut down the first five North Carolina batters to start the game, keeping UNC from any offensive action until sophomore Mac Horvath was walked with two outs. The Cardinals eventuallly gave up a two-run home run to sophomore Alberto Osuna in the second inning. That hit marked Osuna’s third two-run homer of the weekend, and put UNC up 2-0.
North Carolina sophomore starting pitcher Connor Bovair kept the Louisville offense quiet early in the game, capitalizing on a big strikeout with two outs and two Cardinals on base in the bottom of the second to keep Louisville off the board.
But to start the bottom of the fourth inning, Bovair gave up a solo home run by Louisville junior Dalton Rushing.
A combination of a fielding error, an executed bunt and a walk loaded the bases for the Cardinals later that same inning. Louisville’s Ben Bianco hit a huge grand slam off of Bovair to give the Cardinals their first lead of the weekend.
Bovair was unable to get out of the inning before graduate right-handed pitcher Shaddon Peavyhouse replaced him on the mound. Bovair finished with 3.2 innings pitched, giving up six hits and four earned runs but also striking out two Cardinals.
Peavyhouse was able to halt the Louisville offensive run, but the Cardinals had taken over the lead in the fourth inning to go up 5-2.
After another Louisville run crossed the plate in the fifth inning, UNC started to get to Poland in the top of the sixth, when Tomas Frick drove in one run for the Tar Heels. However, Poland struck out the next three Tar Heels to maintain a 6-3 lead. Poland was crucial for the Cardinals, finishing his day with a career-high 10 strikeouts.
Louisville scored again in the bottom of the inning on a wild pitch, but a fantastic catch in foul territory by senior left fielder Mikey Madej ended the inning and the Cardinal’s momentum.
A huge three-run bomb from junior Danny Serretti helped UNC close the gap, putting the Tar Heels within one in the seventh inning. In the bottom of the inning, the Cardinals were able to drive in another run, extending their lead 8-6.
In the top of the ninth, a leadoff double from sophomore Johnny Castagnozzi and a Serretti walk put the go-ahead run at the plate. With two outs, Osuna hit a fly ball to right field, which was dropped by Louisville right fielder Issac Humphrey to score two more North Carolina runs and tie the game at eight, which eventually forced extra innings.
The Tar Heels were scoreless in the top of tenth, and in the bottom of the inning, Louisville’s Ben Metzinger hit a walk-off home run to beat the Tar Heels 9-8.
Who stood out?
Both Osuna and Serretti were able to hit the ball out of the park on Saturday, and both times with other Tar Heels on base to help drive in extra runs. Osuna has been essential in the North Carolina lineup all weekend, charting three home runs and eight RBI’s so far against Louisville.
When was it decided?
Bovair was off to a great start, but after giving up the solo home run, and eventually the grand slam in the fourth inning, the Tar Heels were never able to regain their lead. The Cardinals had a chance to end the game with two outs in the ninth, but their missed opportunity on a dropped routine fly ball led to extra innings.
UNC battled back throughout the day on the offensive side, and was able to add another run in the sixth inning, followed by three more in the seventh from the Serretti home run, as well as a late ninth inning rally to tie the game, but it was not enough to complete a comeback and defeat the Cardinals.
Why does it matter?
For both the Tar Heels and the Cardinals, this weekend represents a consequential series in the ACC. With both teams ranked in the top-25, picking up this series win helps build their resume for the postseason.
Heading into tomorrow’s rubber match, North Carolina pitchers must find a way to limit the offensive production from the Louisville lineup. Getting off to an early lead, like the Tar Heels did on Friday night, will also help put them in a position to defeat Louisville and return to Chapel Hill with a big road series win.
When do they play next?
Game three for North Carolina and Louisville is set for Sunday at 1 p.m.
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