The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday August 16th

Diamond Heels drop second game of NCAA Chapel Hill Regional, 4-3, to VCU

<p>Sophomore infielder Colby Wilkerson (3) attempts to hit a pitch in UNC's NCAA Regional loss to VCU on Saturday, June 4, 2022.</p>
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Sophomore infielder Colby Wilkerson (3) attempts to hit a pitch in UNC's NCAA Regional loss to VCU on Saturday, June 4, 2022.

The No. 1 seed UNC baseball team (39-20, 15-15 ACC) dropped its second game of the NCAA Chapel Hill Regional, losing to No. 3 seed VCU (42-18, 19-5 A-10), 4-3.

What happened?

In the top of the first inning, the VCU Rams made quick work of the Tar Heels, and exited the inning in a matter of nine pitches. In the bottom of the same inning, UNC also cranked out a quick three-up, three-down outing thanks to two VCU lineouts and a swinging strikeout. 

UNC was presented a scoring opportunity in the top of the second inning after loading the bases with one out. However, VCU exited the inning thanks to an interference call and a double play.

After VCU second baseman Marcus O’Malley scooped up a groundball from sophomore infielder Johnny Castagnozzi, he tossed it to Connor Hujsak at second base. Due to a collision between sophomore catcher Tomas Frick running to second and Hujsak attempting to turn a double play at the same base, Frick was called out for interference. VCU exited the frame without allowing any runs despite two UNC hits.

In the bottom of the second, Hujsak lifted a pitch over the left field fence to bring the Rams their first run of the night. A later strikeout and double play turned by sophomore second baseman Colby Wilkerson ended the inning.

UNC left both the third and fourth inning empty-handed despite getting two runners on base in each. In the third inning, a fly ball that dropped just behind the pitcher’s mound led to a double play for VCU’s second and third outs. In the fourth, after back-to-back singles from senior Mikey Madej and Frick, a flyout to right field by Castagnozzi shut down any hopes of evening the score for the Tar Heels.

After two scoreless innings in the fifth and sixth, VCU extended its lead in the bottom of the seventh inning thanks to two UNC errors and three hits. After redshirt junior AJ Mathis reached first base on an error from junior shortstop Danny Serretti, a botched throw from UNC righty Gage Gillian to first allowed Mathis to advance to second. Soon after, he was scored by a single from redshirt sophomore Will Carlone. A double from redshirt sophomore Cooper Benzin and a single from O’Malley added another run to the board for the Rams, as they extended their lead to three runs.

In the eighth inning, VCU’s three-run lead remained in tact, as both teams recorded solo homers to add on one run each. First-year Vance Honeycutt lifted a pitch to left-center field in the top of the eighth, and Hujsak did the same in the following frame.

In the top of the ninth inning, after pinch hitter Max Riemer drew a walk, Serretti blasted a homer to deep right field to cut the lead to one run. Honeycutt and designated hitter Alberto Osuna followed, both drawing walks to put two runners on base with two outs. Madej’s flyout ended the game, and VCU won 4-3.

Who stood out? 

Saturday’s game was a pitcher’s duel from the start. 

VCU’s starter, Campbell Ellis, earned the win and allowed four hits. The lefty recorded two strikeouts and kept the Tar Heels scoreless for the game’s first four innings. 

UNC left-handed pitcher Brandon Schaeffer kept the game close in the early innings thanks to his start on the mound. Throwing just over five innings, he allowed one earned run and four hits while striking out four batters. 

When was it decided?

The matchup came down to the wire, as UNC had two runners on with a one-run deficit in its last scoring opportunity. After a pop fly from Madej, the Tar Heels were unable to complete a last-minute rally, ending the game.

Why does it matter?

Saturday’s loss is UNC’s first postseason loss of 2022, effectively terminating the Tar Heels’ eight-game win streak. 

The 4-3 result came after UNC missed eight of its nine opportunities with runners in scoring position. The Tar Heels recorded two hits in three separate innings, with their only run in any of these frames coming from Honeycutt’s solo shot in the top of the eighth inning.

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels will play in the loser’s bracket on Sunday, facing No. 2 seed Georgia at 1 p.m.


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