The No. 15 Diamond Heels (18-6, 4-3 ACC) picked up the series win against Duke (15-9, 4-5 ACC) Saturday after a 5-3 victory.
The Tar Heels started the afternoon out strong by forcing three quick outs. On the offensive side of the first inning, sophomore outfielder Vance Honeycutt hit a ground ball to the left side of the outfield to make it to second base.
Just two batters later, junior catcher Tomas Frick hit a pop fly just out of reach of a Duke outfielder to make it to second base and send Honeycutt home. However, UNC quickly earned its third out to finish the first inning leading 1-0. Duke continued its scoring drought in the second inning and the Tar Heels had the same result. The scoreless second ending concluded with a 1-0 lead for UNC.
Duke started the third inning off strong with a quick double to obtain its first hit of the day. A far right double from Duke’s sophomore infielder Alex Mooney sent a runner home to tie the game. One batter later, the Blue Devils hit a double to the same spot to send Mooney home and give them their first lead of the day. The Tar Heels had an unsuccessful inning and finished the third frame trailing 2-1.
Duke had a quick offensive showing in the fourth inning as it quickly picked up three outs. The Tar Heels tied the game thanks to a left-field home run from junior infielder Johnny Castagnozzi. This was the only hit of the inning for UNC and the fourth frame concluded with both teams tied at two.
Duke earned its fourth scoreless inning of the game in the fifth frame as junior pitcher Jake Knapp struck out Duke’s hitter to send the one Blue Devil on base to the dugout. Junior infielder Colby Wilkerson started off the fifth inning strong for UNC as he singled the ball to right field. One batter later, Honeycutt singled to left field to send Wilkerson to third. The Tar Heels continued their hit-streak with junior infielder Mac Horvath hammering a hit to the scoreboard to send three UNC runners home with no outs. A double play and an easy out ended the inning for UNC after they took a 5-2 lead.
The sixth frame was successful for the Blue Devils as a throwing error from North Carolina allowed a Duke runner on third to advance home and bring the score within two. Shortly after, Duke earned its third out. The Tar Heels could not capitalize on the offensive side and the sixth inning ended with North Carolina leading 5-3. The seventh inning was unsuccessful for both teams as Duke did not advance and the Tar Heels had one runner left on third base.
The top of the eighth inning was familiar for Duke as it got two runners on bases but nothing to show for it. It was a quick inning for UNC as well and the final inning began with a 5-3 advantage for the Tar Heels. The top of the ninth inning was unsuccessful for Duke and the Tar Heels clinched the victory without playing the bottom of the inning.
Who stood out?
Honeycutt picked up his first hits of the series, racking up two hits and two runs. Castagnozzi had two hits, including one home run. Graduate pitcher Will Sandy picked up his first save and allowed just one hit in the final three innings.
The Tar Heels became the third program in the country to accumulate 50 home runs this season, with only Florida and South Carolina accompanying them on that accolade.
When was it decided?
The Tar Heels’ explosive three-run fifth inning sealed the deal as Duke could not execute a comeback. Knapp’s six-inning residency at the mound proved to be successful for the Tar Heels as he only allowed three Duke runs, making it difficult for the Blue Devils to crawl back into the game in the final three innings.
Why does it matter?
This victory clinched the series for the Tar Heels against their Tobacco Road rival and set them up nicely for the rest of conference play. North Carolina can use this momentum to their advantage as they look ahead to a six-game road trip.
When do they play next?
The Diamond Heels will return to Boshamer Stadium Tuesday to take on the Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina at 6 p.m.
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