The rustling of leaves, songs of chirping birds, and cracking of baseball bats — those were the sounds of a springtime matchup in Boshamer Stadium on Wednesday.
In such a serene environment, the Diamond Heels were the opposite of quiet, as they scored 12 runs in just three innings and held Charleston Southern to only one in Wednesday's midweek matchup.
In baseball, sometimes all it takes is one pitch to open the floodgates of a scoring rampage. For sophomore third baseman Mac Horvath, that moment just happened to be in the bottom of the first inning, in which he hit his first triple wearing a UNC uniform.
“Honestly, I'm not thinking too much in the box,” Horvath said. “It's really just seeing a good pitch and putting a good swing on it.”
Along with his kickstarting triple, he also knocked a ball 420 feet out of the park for a home run late in the second inning, which not only increased the Tar Heels’ momentum, but their lead over the Buccaneers.
That home run marked Horvath’s 14th this season and 11th in the last 20 games. He's also been hitting more consistently during that stretch. It's clear something has changed with his offensive approach.
At the beginning of the season, Horvath’s batting average sat around .200, rarely going too far above that.
After Wednesday night, his season batting average was .262, the highest it has been since UNC's series victory against East Carolina in February. According to Horvath, the improvement comes from adjustments to his batting stance.
“Earlier in the year, my hands were a little lower, so I put them up a little higher," Horvath said. "My stance was wider, so I narrowed it down to get back in line with the pitch. Those two things, it shows, it's made a big difference.”
Following Horvath’s first two knocks against Charleston Southern came two, three-run homers hit by sophomore designated hitter Alberto Osuna and first-year center fielder Vance Honeycutt. To seal the deal, sharp defense and pitching from the Tar Heels resulted in five-and-a-half scoreless innings to close out the game.
All in all, the name of the game is confidence.
“I focus on hitting batter by batter, pitch by pitch,” said left-handed pitcher Will Sandy, who threw four innings without a hit by the Buccaneers. “If you come in with confidence, it allows you to get in a good rhythm and just groove.”
In each of the six games UNC has played since taking a short break for final exams, the team has scored in the first inning.
Some may call it luck, but head coach Scott Forbes knows that the team’s confidence has been a deciding factor in recent victories.
“That's the great thing about having power, you can score runs like that in bunches instead of hitting a bunch of singles,” Forbes said. “I think confidence is such an important factor in any sport and that's how you get it, by having success.”
Rather than looking too far forward and focusing on future ACC play, North Carolina keeps the mentality of playing each game as it comes.
Because, while Diamond Heel domination will always be the standard, both the players and coaching staff know there is always work to be done.
“Sure, I don't like the fact that we had all the zeros today but you know, sometimes that happens in baseball,” said Forbes. “I've been telling them over and over, we can't make a run if we don't play really good defense, so we know there are some little things we have to clean up and do a better job on.”
But in the end, there’s not much to complain about after a win on your home field.