When asked how it felt for the North Carolina baseball team to bounce back and beat N.C. State, 7-6, to secure UNC's first series win since March, junior shortstop Danny Serretti had two words to offer — "Freaking awesome.”
With a big grin on his face, after winning the biggest baseball rivalry in North Carolina, Serretti reiterated this simple message that head coach Scott Forbes ingrained in his team earlier in the week.
“I try not to curse and sometimes you have to come up with other words,” Forbes said. “I guess ‘freaking’ came out one day and the guys ran with it.”
However, the first 48 hours of the rivalry series were anything but "freaking awesome" for North Carolina.
Inclement weather allowed only one game to be played in the series’ first two days — a game the Tar Heels won 8-7. Thunderstorms forced the teams to play a Sunday double-header to complete the three-game stand.
The team used the sporadic stoppages as extra time to rewind and hone in on the details.
“Coach Forbes preached to the whole team to stick to your routine and that the tougher team was going to win,” Serretti said.
Yet, for the first game on Sunday, the tougher team was sporting red and white.
Behind three home runs, including a first-inning moonshot NCSU first-year Tommy White, the Wolfpack blew out the Tar Heels, 9-2. And with just a half-hour break between games, a quick mental reset was needed if North Carolina was going to come out on top.
“We knew going into the second game, what happened before didn’t matter,” sophomore Alberto Osuna said. “The second game was different.”
In the first inning, it was evident that the team was more focused.
At the top of the frame, first-year Vance Honeycutt skyed a two-run homer over the left field wall. With a single swing, the Diamond Heels matched the total number of runs they had scored in the previous game.
But in a rivalry of this magnitude, the early runs hardly suggested an easy win for North Carolina. Rather, it hinted at the ensuing heavyweight fight UNC would have on its hands for the next three hours.
After Honeycutt’s shot, N.C. State was quick to respond with two back-to-back solo homers in the bottom of the first. As the game continued on, when one team scored, the other would punch back.
In the eighth inning, trailing 6-5, Osuna came up to bat for the Tar Heels.
Despite being the team’s most powerful slugger, Osuna’s bat was largely silent on Sunday, recording just one combined hit in the two games entering his final at-bat.
In spite of his struggles, he only needed one swing to make his mark on the storied rivalry. A swing that, by the sheer sound of the bat, everyone knew was sailing out of the park.
The two-run homer gave the Tar Heels the lead for good, as a storm of navy hats trampled the Walters State Community College transfer on his way back to the dugout.
Despite leading the team in home runs, and accumulating 40 so far in his collegiate career, Osuna's lone bomb in Raleigh has a clear ranking on his all-time list.
“It has to be number one,” he said. “It was awesome.”
As a sea of red darted towards the Doak Field exits following North Carolina’s win, the few fans in Carolina Blue could be seen hollering and pumping their fists.
One fan stuck out in particular — Forbes' father — a lifelong N.C. State fan that was now dressed head-to-toe in UNC gear.
Pumping his fists in the air with the widest smile on his face, only a single thought could come to one's mind.
A win on your rival's home field. The first series win in nearly two months. It doesn’t get much better — or freaking awesome — than that.
“It’s great to come in here and silence these Wolfpack ‘Wolfies,’” Serretti said.