In the Tar Heels’ first doubleheader of the season, the North Carolina baseball team (27-18, 10-14 ACC) topped the N.C. State Wolfpack (30-15, 12-11 ACC), 7-6, Sunday evening at Doak Field.
After a brief break following the first game of the doubleheader, the Tar Heels opened up the final game of the weekend in high fashion. Following a double by junior Danny Serretti, first-year standout Vance Honeycutt geared up his second home run of the weekend, nuking a two-run blast to left field.
N.C. State answered its third early deficit of the weekend with a trio of home runs in the first two innings. First-year Payton Green’s two-run shot in the second sailed past the left-field flag poll and gave NCSU its first lead of the game, 4-2.
The Tar Heels terminated the early hole in the third inning. Honeycutt batted in his third run of the day with a sacrifice fly. Sophomore Hunter Stokely followed with a two-out double that sputtered through the right field gap and drove in the tying run.
A lead-off double by first-year Jacob Cozart had the Wolfpack on the doorstep of retaking the lead in the fifth inning. However, sophomore pitcher Connor Bovair had other plans, as he retired three of the next four batters via strikeout, and left N.C. State empty handed.
Shortly after, North Carolina responded with a lead-off double of its own when Honeycutt’s line drive stayed fair down the left-field line. He was then brought home after senior Mikey Madej’s one-hopper bounced out of the glove of N.C. State shortstop Jacob Hood.
The Wolfpack then bounced back behind the bat of Cozart. His blooper sank perfectly in shallow right field, and drove in two runs, giving N.C. State a 6-5 lead.
The two sides both exchanged scoreless outings in the seventh, making way for the Tar Heels’ slugger to change the game.
Sophomore Alberto Osuna had gone 0-3 in the bats before stepping up to the plate in the eighth inning. With one swing, the Walters State Community College transfer tattooed a ball out to left field, and in the process, gave UNC the lead, 7-6.
Despite a late push by N.C. State, the Tar Heels stood their ground and secured the 7-6 win.
Who stood out?
Osuna ensured he left his mark on the high-stakes game. After struggling for the better portion of the game, the sophomore designated hitter’s two-run homer gave the Tar Heels a one-point lead late in the game.
Likewise, Honeycutt continued his impressive season as he launched his second home run of the weekend in the first inning.
When was it decided?
The final game of the series mirrored the competitiveness seen in the first game of the weekend. Both teams went blow-for-blow, with neither side holding a lead greater than two runs.
Cozart’s single in the bottom of the sixth erupted the Doak Field home crowd, and appeared to take the life out of any comeback North Carolina had in them. But, Osuna changed that, as his two-run rocket in the eighth inning granted the Tar Heels the lead, an advantage UNC would not relinquish.
Why does it matter?
With the win, North Carolina snaps its near two month series drought in ACC play. It also marks the first series win over the Wolfpack since 2018.
As the Tar Heels gear up for the season’s final weeks, every game and series becomes that more important for UNC’s postseason changes. With the Tar Heels already on the bubble heading into the weekend, the series win in Raleigh is a step in the right direction for North Carolina.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will get one day of rest before returning to Boshamer Stadium to take on Gardner-Webb in a weekday showdown. The first pitch for Tuesday’s contest is set for 6 p.m.