The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday June 26th

No. 10 seed UNC baseball drops first game of Chapel Hill Super Regional, 4-1, to Arkansas

Sophomore designated hitter Alberto Osuna (23) hangs his head as he walks back to the dugout after striking out during UNC's NCAA Super Regional against Arkansas at Boshamer Stadium on Saturday, June 11, 2022.
Buy Photos Sophomore designated hitter Alberto Osuna (23) hangs his head as he walks back to the dugout after striking out during UNC's NCAA Super Regional against Arkansas at Boshamer Stadium on Saturday, June 11, 2022.

In the first bout of a three-game series, the No. 10 seed North Carolina baseball team (42-21, 15-15 ACC) fell to the Arkansas Razorbacks (42-19, 18-12 SEC), 4-1, Saturday afternoon at Boshamer Stadium. 

What happened?

After holding the Razorback scoreless in the first frame, the Diamond Heels looked to be in prime position to score the game’s first run.

First, leadoff batter Angel Zarate sliced the first pitch he saw to right field. Moments later, a standing double by junior shortstop Danny Serretti and a four-pitch walk loaded the bases for UNC with one out. But, back-to-back outs by sophomore designated hitter Alberto Osuna and senior left fielder Mikey Madej left the Diamond Heels empty-handed. 

Following four scoreless innings, Arkansas struck first.

In the top of the fifth inning, first-year first baseman Payton Stovall launched a solo homer into the right-center field netting and gave Arkansas the first run of the afternoon. Then, consecutive RBIs by senior designated hitter Brady Slavens and sophomore third baseman Cayden Wallace increased the Razorbacks’ lead to 3-0. 

As Arkansas continued to keep the Diamond Heels’ bats silent, the Razorbacks’ offense added to their lead. Following a pair of walks for Arkansas, Slaven’s single inched past the outstretched glove of Serretti and drove in the fourth run of the afternoon for the Razorbacks. 

In the bottom frame of the same inning, the Diamond Heels appeared to be on the brink of breaking its scoring drought. Sophomore Colby Wilkerson’s two-out single triggered a pitching change for the Razorbacks, but Zarate grounded out on the first pitch he faced and ended North Carolina’s push. 

Arkansas looked to be in a position to increase its lead in the next frame after a leadoff walk and sacrifice bunt stationed a Razorback in scoring position with one out. But, senior pitcher Caden O’Brien fended off the pressure from Arkansas, retiring the next two batters via strikeout and groundout. 

Shortly after, the Diamond Heels broke through. In the bottom of the eighth inning, first-year Vance Honeycutt skyed a solo bomb to left center field, breaking the North Carolina program record for home runs in a single season with 25 homers. 

But the late-game push came too late for North Carolina, as Arkansas would close out its 4-1 win in the final inning. 

Who stood out? 

Arkansas starting pitcher Connor Noland pitched a gem against UNC. Despite UNC loading the bases in the first inning, the senior right-handed pitcher got himself out of the jam and went on to pitch just over six innings without surrendering a run. 

Moreover, Slavens lead the charge for Arkansas’s offense. The senior designated hitter drove in two of Arkansas’s four runs with a pair of RBI singles in the fifth and seventh innings, respectively.

When was it decided?

The pitcher’s duel went wayward for North Carolina in the top of the fifth inning. After Max Carlson engineered four scoreless innings, the sophomore pitcher’s grip on the Razorbacks loosened. 

Stoval’s leadoff bomb in the top of the fifth inning ignited a three-run frame for Arkansas and left the Diamond Heels rattled for the remainder of the game. Over the game’s final four innings, the Razorbacks would add one insurance run while holding North Carolina to just one run. 

Why does it matter?

With the loss, the Diamond Heels put themselves in a similar situation seen in the regional round as UNC will have to win consecutive games without losing in order to advance. 

Likewise, North Carolina will look to reignite its potent offense that was held to just one run — the team’s lowest scoring total in a game since early April. 

When do they play next?

The Diamond Heels will continue their Super Regional series against the Razorbacks on Sunday. First pitch for the series’ second contest is set for 1:00 p.m.

@evanr0gers

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com



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