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The Daily Tar Heel

Diamond Heels give up six-run eighth inning in losing effort at ECU

20230217_Evans_BaseballvsSetonHall-3.jpg
UNC junior right-handed pitcher Max Carlson (35) throws the ball during the baseball season opener against Seton Hall on Friday. Feb. 17, 2023, at Boshamer Stadium.

GREENVILLE, N.C. – After surrendering six runs in the eighth, the No. 12 North Carolina baseball team (4-2) lost to the No. 11 East Carolina University Pirates (4-1), 6-5, on Friday night at Clark-LeClair Stadium.

What happened?

The bats started slow for both the Pirates and the Dimond Heels as each team saw two frames of three up, three down. 

In the top of the third, with no offensive mojo to be seen, junior transfer Jackson Van De Brake shook the frost off his bat by smashing a solo shot over the left field wall on a 2-2 count. Third baseman Mac Horvath doubled a few bats later pushing junior Colby Wilkerson into scoring position, but no runs resulted. 

The bottom of the fourth inning saw offensive and defensive playmaking from both sides. Lane Hoover notched the first hit for ECU on a hard ground through the second base gap. After a steal appeal by the Pirates, it took four pitches to end the inning: two strikes, a flyout, and a rundown at third. 

Van De Brake took the reins in the top of the seventh and hit a dropping line drive double down the first base line to advance Hunter Stokely, who was hit by a pitch earlier in the frame. A strikeout later and Wilkerson launched a double towards the left field wall scoring two. 

The Pirates broke their offensive silence in the bottom of the eighth with a pair of doubles from Josh Moylan and Joey Berini to bring ECU within one run of the Diamond Heels. 

The Pirates pulled the level to the Heels in the bottom of the eighth as UNC went deep into the bullpen in search of a game-closing performance, going through Dalton Pence, Cameron Padgett, Ben Peterson, and Nelson Berkwich.

The equalizing run was earned on a fielding error by freshman pitcher Padgett. A double to center field by Jacob Starling propelled the Pirates to then pull ahead by two runs. ECU continued their offensive rampage as Starling stole two bases and was brought home by Luke Nowak on a shot through the third base gap.  

The Tar Heel’s attempted to mount a comeback with a three-run response in the top of the ninth. The frame begin with Wilkerson reaching on an error was and propelled by doubles from Vance Honeycutt and Horvath. 

Who stood out?

Junior Max Carlson started on the mound for the Diamond Heels going seven innings, allowing zero runs on two hits with nine strikeouts. The bottom of the fifth and sixth innings saw the Minnesota native deal five consecutive strikeouts as batter after batter went down swinging. 

Junior Tacoma Community College transfer Jackson Van De Brake kept his bat hot by going 2 for 4, with two doubles and a homer in the top of the third. 

When was it decided?

The eighth inning saw the Pirates explode with a six-run scoring barrage that ultimately doomed the Heel’s hopes of their first win at Clark-LeClair Stadium since 2017. 

Why does it matter?

After a loss on opening day, the Diamond Heels bounced back to crank out four straight wins before traveling to Greenville and falling to the No. 11 ECU team, their first-ranked matchup of the season.

The Heels saw ace Carlson dominate on  the mound for 95 pitches through seven innings but struggled to find a pitcher to close the game.  

When do they play next?

The Diamond Heels will host the Pirates at Boshamer Stadium at 1 p.m. on Sunday. The second game of the series that was slated to be played in Greenville on Saturday has been postponed to a later date due to weather. 

@gracegnugent

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