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UNC baseball takes first game of ACC Championship pool play with 9-2 win over Clemson

Sophomore third baseman Mac Horvath (10) goes to catch the ball after a Florida State hit. UNC won 10-4 against FSU at home in the second game of the three game series on Friday, May 20, 2022.

The UNC baseball team (35-19, 16-15 ACC) won its first game of ACC Championship pool play with a 9-2 victory over the Clemson Tigers (35-22, 13-17 ACC) Tuesday night.

What happened?

After a scoreless top half of the first inning, redshirt junior Angel Zarate started off the action in Charlotte, N.C. with a stand-up double, his 17th of the season. Batted in by junior Danny Serretti, Zarate delivered the first run for the Tar Heels in the bottom half of the first inning. 

Clemson quickly answered in the top of the second inning with a run from a sacrifice fly.

A single from sophomore Hunter Stokely and a walk from Zarate resulted in two runs, making the score 3-1.

In the bottom of the third inning, senior Mikey Madej set off the fireworks for North Carolina, delivering the only home run of the game.

Holding Clemson scoreless for a second consecutive inning, sophomore Mac Horvath walked with the bases loaded, allowing sophomore Colby Wilkerson to deliver a run on just his third at-bat this season. A single from first-year Vance Honeycutt resulted in back-to-back runs for Horvath and Zarate, marking Zarate's third run of the game.

With the Tigers still at one run in the bottom of the fifth inning, Stokely scored after a single from Zarate, increasing the Tar Heels’ lead 8-1.

Despite both teams calling out relief pitchers, the sixth and seventh innings saw no action for either the Tar Heels or the Tigers. 

After replacing senior pitcher Gage Gillian, sophomore Davis Palermo allowed three consecutive walks for the Tigers. Ending the top of the eighth inning, a fly ball to center left Clemson with the bases loaded. 

Sparks began to fly for the Tar Heels at the bottom of the eighth inning as they began to feel the momentum carrying them through the end of the game. Horvath hit a double to left field and advanced to third on the throw, allowing Zarate to score another run. North Carolina left the eighth inning feeling confident heading into the final inning. 

With Palermo on the mound, the Clemson Tigers ended the ninth inning and the game with a run and two strikeouts for a North Carolina victory, 9-2. 

Who stood out? 

Like UNC's final game of the regular season against Florida State last weekend, this game had Zarate’s fingerprints all over it. Creating momentum-changing plays every time he stepped up to the plate, and ending the game batting 4-for-4 with 4 runs, Zarate’s energy helped carry the Tar Heels through their first game in the tournament.

Similarly, sophomore starting pitcher Max Carlson managed to strike out ACC Player of the Year Max Wagner three times. Carlson’s pitching through six innings kept Clemson to one run. 

When was it decided?

With Carlson keeping the Tigers to one run in six innings pitched, and Zarate and Horvath delivering key performances in the bottom of the second and fourth innings, the Tar Heels had a comfortable cushion through the second half of the game.

Why does it matter?

After a rough stretch before exam season, the Tar Heels have now had four consecutive conference wins, creating a sense of confidence as they finish out the ACC Championship and look ahead to the NCAA Tournament. 

When do they play next?

The Diamond Heels will continue in ACC Tournament play against the No.1 seed Virginia Tech Hokies on Friday at 7 p.m. 


@dthsports |