When Tomas Frick stepped into the batter’s box in the bottom of the 10th inning, he knew what was coming.
The UNC sophomore thought back to the eighth inning, his first at-bat in the Diamond Heels’ eventual 4-3 win over the 49ers. Charlotte pitcher Collin Kramer had struck him out.
“(Kramer) started me off with a fastball and I felt like I could hammer,” Frick said. “And I took it.”
Frick missed — strike one. Before he knew it, he was walking back to the dugout with a strikeout.
But that first misfire didn’t discourage Frick — he kept his composure and never doubted his hitting ability. So the next time he faced Kramer, with the game on the line, it was a different story.
It was almost midnight. With the game tied at 3-3 and first-year pinch runner Reece Holbrook on first base, Kramer winded up and hurled his fastball to the anticipating Frick.
“I was like, ‘I bet he’s going to try to get ahead of me again and throw that same first pitch he did,’” Frick said. “I was just waiting for it to be there, see it at the same spot and take a good swing.”
This time, Frick did not miss.
He blasted Kramer’s pitch to left field. Holbrook bolted around the diamond, sliding home past Charlotte’s catcher. The crowd in Boshamer Stadium — sparse, yet spry — roared in triumph. Holbrook threw up his helmet in celebration, joining his teammates as they stormed the field and mobbed Frick in a sea of white.
A walk-off win.
“That feeling never gets old,” Frick said.
Heading into Tuesday night’s matchup, the Diamond Heels and 49ers seemed to be on completely different trajectories. The red-hot Charlotte team was on a nine-game win streak, whereas UNC had recently suffered a string of disappointing losses, including a sweep at the hands of the Virginia Cavaliers.
But to hear sophomore infielder Mac Horvath tell it, momentum and confidence in baseball can be regained quickly.
“When you’re going through a tough stretch, it really only takes one swing and it can change — just like that,” Horvath said.
Frick’s RBI sealed the game for the Diamond Heels, but Horvath’s consistency at the plate kept them competitive throughout the evening. The third baseman registered three hits in four at-bats, including two early home runs in the first and third inning.
“I was seeing everything good today,” Horvath said.
Aside from Horvath and Frick, however, the Diamond Heels’ hitting performance was uncharacteristically lackluster.
Redshirt junior Angel Zarate, junior Danny Serretti, and sophomore Johnny Castagnozzi are the team's leading hitters. Against the 49ers, they combined for just one hit in 13 at-bats. Both the fifth and sixth innings ended with the bases loaded. Such scoring opportunities weren't capitalized on, allowing Charlotte to force extra innings.
Nevertheless, the victory was a much-needed morale booster. North Carolina hasn’t won back-to-back games since late March.
“Our guys, in my opinion, deserved (the win),” head coach Scott Forbes said. “This is an awesome group. Things haven’t gone our way and we gotta make they start going our way, but I believe in them. I haven’t stopped believing in them.”
As UNC closes out the regular season, consistent hitting will be paramount to competing with quality conference foes N.C. State, Wake Forest and Florida State.
And that consistency starts with confidence.
“Now we gotta find a way to play like you’re in Little League Baseball,” Forbes said. “You just gotta play confident and you gotta play loose.”