In its conference opener, the No. 14 North Carolina baseball team (11-4, 0-1 ACC) fell to the No. 17 Virginia Cavaliers (13-0, 1-0 ACC), 7-3, on Friday evening at Boshamer Stadium.
The Cavaliers jumped on starting pitcher Max Carlson quickly. Leadoff batter Ethan O’Donnell lined a single to center field on the third pitch he faced. Shortly thereafter, third baseman Jake Gelof ripped an RBI single to plate the first run of the game.
In the following inning, Virginia’s offense came alive. Second baseman Justin Rubin lasered a 2-RBI double off the left field wall to triple the Cavaliers’ lead. Moments later, O’Donnell cracked his second hit of the day — this time a two-run blast to balloon Virginia's advantage to 6-0.
North Carolina fought back in the bottom half of the inning, as junior first baseman Hunter Stokely knocked a single through the second-base gap. One batter later, junior second baseman Jackson Van De Brake blasted his seventh home run of the year to cut the Diamond Heels’ deficit to four.
After three straight scoreless frames, North Carolina appeared to be on the verge of cutting further into its hole. Van De Brake laced an infield single and outfielders Casey Cook and Patrick Alvarez earned a hit-by-pitch and walk, respectively, to load the bases. But with the bases jammed and no outs, graduate pitcher Nick Parker retired the next three UNC batters with a pair of strikeouts and a flyout to escape the inning.
Gelof would snap Virginia’s three-inning drought in the top of the sixth. The preseason All-American rocked a solo blast to center field to tack on another Cavalier run.
UNC would respond in the next inning. Junior third baseman Mac Horvath cracked a leadoff single and junior catcher Tomas Frick would reach first by way of an error. Van De Brake notched his third RBI of the day with a single to shallow left field to trim the Cavaliers’ lead to 7-3.
The junior second baseman’s single proved to be the final scoring play of the game and UVA prevailed, 7-3.
Who stood out?
Van De Brake continued his breakout junior campaign for the Diamond Heels. The Tacoma Community College transfer jacked his seventh home run of the year — tying him with Horvath for the team lead — and drove in UNC’s third run in the seventh inning.
In his second relief appearance of the year, graduate pitcher Will Sandy recorded his best outing of the season. In three innings of work, the Raleigh native tied a career-high with seven strikeouts, three of which were inning ending.
When was it decided?
The Cavaliers jumped out to a one-run lead in the first frame and never looked back. Through two innings of play, UVA’s cushion ballooned to six behind a five-hit, five-run second inning.
North Carolina would fight back to cut its deficit to four, but the Cavaliers would hold a comfortable edge throughout the duration of the night.
Why does it matter?
The defeat kicks off the Diamond Heels’ conference campaign behind one game. Despite the loss, UNC’s bullpen showed signs of improvement, as the collection of three relievers only surrendered one earned run.
In order for UNC to win its first conference series of the year, North Carolina will have to sweep Saturday.
When do they play next?
The Diamond Heels wrap up its conference-opening series with a double header on Saturday. First pitch for the initial game is set for 1 p.m. and the series finale will begin 45 minutes after the conclusion of the double header’s first contest.
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