The North Carolina baseball team (21-11, 7-8 ACC) lost to Louisville (23-8, 9-3 ACC) 6-5 on the road in the third and final game of a weekend-long series against the Cardinals.
Both teams held each other scoreless in the first inning, as Tar Heels’ junior pitcher Brandon Schaeffer struck one batter out while the UNC infield and outfield recorded two putouts to keep the score tied at zero heading into the second inning.
Tar Heels’ sophomore infielder Mac Horvath got the UNC offense going in the top of the second inning after hitting a home run to left field to put the Tar Heels ahead 1-0. The Cardinals responded with a run of their own in the bottom of the second to even up the score 1-1 heading into the third inning.
The UNC offense carried over its momentum from the second inning into the third, scoring on just the team’s second at bat of the inning after senior second baseman Mikey Madej scored off a single from first-year infielder Vance Honeycutt. Later in the inning, Honeycutt scored a run of his own thanks to a throwing error by the Cardinals.
The Tar Heels’ third-inning scoring spree didn’t stop with Honeycutt's run. Horvath got his second run of the day, and junior outfielder Angel Zarate scored a run after sophomore first baseman Alberto Osuna singled to center field. UNC’s defense helped maintain the lead 5-1 in the bottom of the inning by allowing just one hit and zero runs from the Cardinals.
Both teams went scoreless through the next two and a half innings until a bomb threat at the stadium led to a quick evacuation and an over two-hour delay. When play resumed, neither team was able to pick up any momentum offensively, as the Tar Heels and Cardinals went scoreless from the bottom of the sixth inning to the top of the ninth.
With a four-run lead heading into the ninth inning, the Tar Heels’ defense buckled, allowing Louisville to score four runs and send the game to extra innings tied at 5-5. Neither team scored in any of the first four extra innings until Louisville broke the scoring drought by scoring one run in the bottom of the 14th inning to complete the comeback and topple the Tar Heels, 6-5.
Who stood out?
Honeycutt made his presence felt in this game after contributing two hits, six putouts, one RBI and one run. Osuna also played a key role for the Tar Heels by contributing three hits and two RBIs in seven appearances at bat.
Sophomore pitcher Davis Palermo and junior pitcher Connor Ollio also made significant contributions while playing on the mound. Palermo pitched two innings and recorded five strikeouts, while Ollio posted four strikeouts through three innings pitched.
When was it decided?
After losing a four-run lead in the bottom of the ninth inning, the momentum seemed to shift from North Carolina to Louisville. While the Tar Heels fought hard through the five extra innings, they didn’t have the legs to keep up with the Cardinals and fell 6-5.
Why does it matter?
While the loss moves UNC to a below .500 record in the ACC, it also highlights the team’s struggles to close-out winnable games. UNC gave up late runs earlier in the year against Miami, which proved costly, and in a near loss to Appalachian State.
The Tar Heels again showed struggles closing games late, which nearly cost them a big-time win against one of the ACC’s top teams. For UNC to climb from the middle of the ACC’s Coastal division, they’ll need to improve late-game execution.
When do they play again?
The Tar Heels will look to get back on track Tuesday at 6 p.m. at home against the North Carolina A&T State Bulldogs.
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