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Diamond Heels drop final game of ECU weekend series at Boshamer Stadium, 6-5

0226_Paul_UNCvsECU-Baseball-15.JPG
UNC junior catcher Tomas Frick (52) runs the bases during the baseball game against ECU on Feb. 26, 2023, at Bryson Field at Boshamer Stadium. UNC lost 5-6.

Despite three homers, the No. 12 North Carolina baseball team (4-3), surrendered six runs in the seventh and lost to the No. 11 East Carolina University Pirates (5-1), 6-5, Sunday afternoon at Boshamer Stadium.

What happened?

UNC started scoring early when junior Tomas Frick doubled down the right field line bringing home sophomore Vance Honeycutt, who was walked earlier in the inning. 

Offensive production for the Diamond Heels stalled until the fourth frame when, after his fifth strikeout of the season, the preseason All-American Honeycutt launched a 431-foot moonshot over the left field fence for his first home run of the season. 

Pirates Alec Markarewicz would not sit idly by, as he homered an inning later to left field. Bovair responded to the shot by racking up two strikeouts before the frame concluded.

The fifth inning saw the Diamond Heels find offensive rhythm as redshirt freshman Casey Cook doubled to right field and was immediately driven in when South Carolina native Frick launched one 403 feet for his first homer of the season. 

The speak-and-reply offensive tango of the Pirates and Heels continued as ECU found their second run in the top of the sixth. Jacob Starling walked and was bumped into scoring position as Justin Wilcoxen hit a single right past the outstretched glove of second baseman Jackson Van De Brake. Starling eventually scored on a fielder’s choice RBI by Luke Nowak. 

Two home runs were not enough for the Diamond Heels as junior Mac Horvath hit a solo blast to left field to notch his fourth homer of the season. 

Again, the Pirates would not go quietly as the seventh saw the Tar Heel lead snatched away in a four-run frame as the Pirates capitalized on doubles down the left field line by Starling and Lane Hoover. 

In the eighth inning, the Achilles heel for UNC in the previous game, first-year Cameron Padgett took the mound and with a solid defensive outfield behind him saw three up, three down. 

The attempted Tar Heel comeback in the bottom of the ninth was sparked when Frick reached on an error, and Stokely got hit by a pitch–his fourth of the series–to set up what could’ve been a chance at redemption from the previous game. Yet the ninth frame turned into another failed UNC comeback against a late dominant Pirate offense as Patrick Alvarez grounded out to third, ending the game. 

Who stood out?

Righty pitcher Connor Bovair went 5.2 innings, allowing three hits and two runs while striking out six, showing consistent control on the mound. First-year Cameron Padgett pitched two innings out of the pen conceding one hit. 

Both centerfielder Vance Honeycutt and catcher Tomas Frick hit their first homers of the season during the fourth and fifth frames respectively. Frick went 3-for-5 at the plate with a double, three RBIs and zero strikeouts in his five at-bats. 

When was it decided?

The seventh inning saw the Pirates score four behind a single and two doubles, giving them a lead and the win. 

Similar to the Friday UNC-ECU matchup, the Pirates found their offensive rhythm in one of the later innings by putting up big bats and handing the Tar Heels a one-run deficit that they were not able to overcome. 

Why does it matter?

The exit of starting pitcher Connor Boviar put UNC in a place of uncertainty on the mound as the bullpen surrendered six runs in their 3.1 innings of play.  

Both series games saw the UNC bullpen pitching falter, giving up runs in crucial innings and navigating big at-bats from ECU that proved to be fatal despite a Tar Heel effort at a comeback. 

When do they play next?

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The Diamond Heels return to Boshamer Stadium on Tuesday to host Virginia Commonwealth University. First pitch is set for 4 p.m.

@gracegnugent

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com