The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday June 26th

No. 1 seed UNC baseball downs No. 3 seed VCU, 19-8, to force regional winner-take-all

Freshman outfielder Vance Honeycutt (7) celebrates with his teammates after launching a home run in the first inning of UNC's NCAA Regional game against VCU at Boshamer Stadium on June 5, 2022. UNC won 19-8.
Buy Photos Freshman outfielder Vance Honeycutt (7) celebrates with his teammates after launching a home run in the first inning of UNC's NCAA Regional game against VCU at Boshamer Stadium on June 5, 2022. UNC won 19-8.

The No. 1 seed UNC baseball team (41-20, 15-15 ACC) beat No. 3 seed VCU (42-19, 19-5 A-10), 19-8, on Sunday night to force a winner-take-all game in the NCAA Chapel Hill Regional.    

What happened?

In the top of the first inning, the VCU Rams got out to an early lead thanks to a two-run blast off the bat of redshirt sophomore Tyler Locklear. North Carolina was quick to respond, going from a two-run deficit to a five-run lead within the next frame.

To start the bottom of the first inning, redshirt junior Angel Zarate singled and sophomore Mac Horvath doubled to put two runners on. The two were subsequently scored by a single up the middle from junior shortstop Danny Serretti. Vance Honeycutt then launched a homer to right-center field, scoring himself and Serretti on the first pitch of his at-bat. After sophomore Alberto Osuna was hit by a pitch and senior Mikey Madej singled, both were scored as sophomore Johnny Castagnozzi hit the second UNC homer of the inning to bring the score to 7-2.

The Rams bounced back in the top of the second inning with three runs of their own off of three hits. With the bases loaded, redshirt sophomore Ben Nippolt reached on a fielder’s choice, bringing graduate catcher Jacob Selden home. Another run quickly came across the plate for VCU, as a wild pitch allowed redshirt sophomore Cooper Benzin to score. Finally, redshirt junior Logan Amiss singled through the left side to bring Nippolt home, and make the score 7-5.

The Tar Heels scored two runs in each of the next two innings to extend their lead to six runs. Osuna delivered a two-run blast in the bottom of the second inning that sailed over the UNC scoreboard, scoring himself and Horvath. Zarate joined the party in the bottom of the third, with a two-run bomb lifted over the right-field fence.

In the bottom of the fifth inning, UNC piled on five more runs behind three hits. Zarate delivered an RBI single to left field and was soon scored after Honeycutt reached on a fielder’s choice. A wild pitch allowed Horvath, who reached on an error earlier in the inning, to cross home plate for the third run of the frame. After Osuna drew a walk, a triple from Madej scored him and Honeycutt to bring UNC out to an 11-run lead.

VCU cut its deficit to eight runs in the top of the seventh inning. Amiss knocked a two-RBI double to left-center field to score Locklear and Nippolt. A later single from redshirt sophomore Will Carlone scored Amiss, bringing the score to 16-8. 

UNC struck again in the bottom of the eighth inning, scoring three more runs off of two hits. Horvath doubled down the left-field line to bring in Zarate and sophomore infielder Colby Wilkerson before Serretti singled to left field to score Horvath. 

North Carolina clinched a 19-8 win, forcing a winner-take-all matchup against VCU on Monday night.

Who stood out? 

In a game that saw nearly every batter in UNC’s starting lineup record a hit, it’s hard to pick just one player that stood out offensively. However, Zarate’s consistency at the plate — notching four hits in five at-bats — was key in the Tar Heels’ offensive onslaught on Sunday night.

On defense, UNC left-handed pitcher Caden O’Brien was critical in slowing down the Rams’ early momentum. After securing five runs in the first two innings, O’Brien held VCU scoreless for the next four innings. The senior totaled two strikeouts and five groundouts in his appearance on the mound.

When was it decided?

Despite an astounding final score of 19-8, Sunday night’s bout was effectively decided by the end of the first inning. In a six-hit, seven-run outing in the bottom of the first, the Tar Heel offense cycled through all of their batters. UNC jumped out to a 7-2 lead and didn’t look back.

Why does it matter?

Sunday evening’s win keeps UNC alive in the postseason and sets up a winner-take-all matchup against VCU on Monday night.

North Carolina’s 19 runs tied for the most by the program in an NCAA Tournament game and showcases the offensive firepower the Diamond Heels lacked in Saturday night’s loss to VCU.

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels will play VCU for the third time in the Chapel Hill Regional on Monday night at 6 p.m. 

@shelbymswanson 

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com



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