In the first contest of the weekend series, the North Carolina baseball team (23-15, 8-11 ACC) fell to the No. 11 Virginia Cavaliers (29-10, 11-8 ACC), 4-2, on the road Friday night.
A first inning double by sophomore Mac Horvath got the Diamond Heels rolling with a runner in scoring position with one out. Yet, two strikeouts by UNC batters ended the early push.
Sophomore Max Carlson received the nod to start, and back-to-back fly-outs by the first two Cavalier hitters put the highly touted pitcher ahead of the side. But, Virginia bounced back as graduate student Alex Tappen sailed a ball into the right field corner, driving in the first run of the game.
To lead off the second inning, senior Mikey Madej’s solo home run soared over the left field wall and evened the game up at one a piece. And, in the bottom half of the inning, the Wahoos responded with a shot of their own regaining the lead, 2-1.
After three innings of scoreless baseball, UNC’s offense came to life in the top of the sixth.
Sophomore Johnny Castagnozzi’s infield single and sophomore Hunter Stokely’s laser to shallow left field helped the Diamond Heels load the bases. Then, first-year Vance Honeycutt skied a sacrifice fly-out to center field to help drive in the tying run.
Virginia’s offensive woes ceased in the bottom of the seventh when first-year Griff O’Ferrall laced a ball into the left field stands. The one-run blast helped the Cavaliers take the lead, 3-2.
North Carolina was unable to respond to UVA’s punch in the proceeding inning, as Honeycutt struck out looking to leave one base runner stranded. Virginia smashed its third home run of the game in the bottom of the eighth, giving the Wahoos their first two-run lead of the game.
The Diamond Heels were unable to spark any late game magic, scoring zero runs in the final inning, and were defeated by the Cavaliers, 4-2.
Who stood out?
Madej shined for the Diamond Heels, both in the field and at the plate. The Northwest Florida State College transfer’s solo shot followed his leaping foul-territory catch during the bottom of the first inning.
Carlson also excelled on the bump for North Carolina, in what was possibly his best outing of the season. The Minnesota native tied a career high in innings pitched, with six and two thirds, and surrendered just three runs on 112 total pitches.
When was it decided?
The pitcher’s duel remained tightly contested throughout the evening, as neither team held a lead greater than two runs.
Despite loading the bases in the top of the sixth, the Diamond Heels' registered only one run, a missed opportunity that would come back to hurt North Carolina. Virginia’s solo home runs in the seventh and eighth innings stretched its lead to two runs, a deficit UNC was unable to overcome.
Why does it matter?
The narrow defeat drops the Diamond Heels to three games below .500 in conference play, and extends a conference cold spurt that dates back to Mar. 25. Since that date, North Carolina has dropped 10 of its last 13 games against ACC foe, including four straight series.
In order to break the aforementioned streak, UNC will need to sweep its final two games against Virginia.
When do they play next?
The Diamond Heels will be back in action against Virginia on Saturday with face pitch scheduled for 1 p.m.
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