In a high-scoring Saturday doubleheader, the North Carolina baseball team (28-16, ACC 11-11) took two out of three games against the Virginia Tech Hokies (26-16, ACC 11-12) as the Tar Heels captured their fourth ACC series win.
Newly minted Friday starter Connor Boviar held the mound for the Diamond Heels for seven innings on Friday night. The righty shut down the Hokies in the first inning but surrendered three runs in the second frame on a double by Eddie Eisert and a David Bryant single.
The Diamond Heels had no answer for the offensive onslaught produced by the Hokies as UNC didn’t notch their first hit until the third frame on a single by Johnny Castagnozzi.
The Hokies increased their lead in the bottom of the fourth as Bryant hit a two-run homer to right field.
With no production at the plate and Bovair’s exit in the eighth, reliever Will Sandy let up two more home runs in the eighth frame as the Hokies closed the door on the Tar Heels.
Production at the plate was almost non-existent with only five hits across the game, compared to the ten strikeouts.
The Tar Heels, due to offensive inefficiency and the inability to plate any runs, fell to VT 7-0.
The Diamond Heels offense took a complete 180-degree turn from their shutout loss the previous evening.
The Hokies took the lead in the first inning, plating three runs on first-time starting pitcher Dalton Pence.
The Diamond Heels, however, had a powerful response in the third frame: a grand slam by junior Mac Horvath. Sophomore Vance Honeycutt reached on an error, followed by Jackson Van De Brake and Casey Cook drawing walks, loading the bases with zero outs. Horvath stepped up and blasted a ball down the left field line, plating four runs for the Diamond Heels.
The Diamond Heels were just getting started offensively, following in Horvath’s footsteps and having a monster fourth frame. Colby Wilkerson and Van De Brake singled, setting the stage for Horvath to come up to the plate and smack his second homer of the game, scoring an additional three runs for the Tar Heels. Reece Holbrooke knocked a single, scoring two runs, Stokely and Wilkerson scored on wild pitches and Van De Brake walked all plating runs for the Diamond Heels. UNC came out of the fourth frame scoring eight runs on five hits.
The Hokies responded by plating three runs in the fifth off UNC reliever Max Carlson.
However, the Diamond Heels captured the second game, 12-8, behind their eight-run fourth frame to tie the series.
With the series on the line — and due to inclement weather — the Diamond Heels began their second game of their Saturday doubleheader.
The Hokies scored first in the bottom of the first as Carson DeMartini homered to left field, giving VT their first lead of the game.
The Diamond Heels and the Hokies traded runs throughout the game with the Heels responding to DeMartini’s homer as Mac Horvath hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Casey Cook.
Virginia Tech notched another single shot off starting pitcher Jake Knapp to take a one-run lead in the bottom of the third.
To begin the fourth, with tensions high in both dugouts, Alberto Osuna drew a walk and Tomas Frick hit his ninth homer of the season, giving the Tar Heels a one-run advantage.
The back-and-forth proceeded into the bottom of the fifth as Garrett Michel hit VT’s third solo shot of the game off Knapp.
From the sixth frame on, the Diamond Heels put the pedal to the metal and took the lead as Mac Horvath went yard for the third time that day, plating three runs.
The Tar Heels continued to perform at the plate scoring at least once every inning from the third frame on. Cook and Frick both pitched in runs during the seventh and eighth.
The Hokies attempted to mount a comeback in the scoring two in the bottom of the eighth, but the Tar Heels shut down any semblance of a rally by scoring three final runs in the ninth.
UNC's bullpen showcased their game closing ability after starter Jake Knapp exited in the fourth frame, with Ben Peterson, Matthew Matthijis and Ben Poston combining for four strikeouts in their 5.1 innings pitched.
The Diamond Heels, while dropping the first game, powered back and took both victories on Saturday, earning them their fourth ACC series win.
Who stood out?
Junior Mac Horvath had himself a day on Saturday. The Minnesota native notched 11 RBIs in the final two games of the series behind three home runs — one of them a grand slam — and six hits.
Redshirt first year Casey Cook elongated his streak of getting on base to 33 games with five hits over the series. Junior Tomas Frick also chipped in three RBIs to Sunday’s matchup including a home run.
When was it decided?
The Tar Heels came into the VT series after whooping UNCW 18-2, but seemed to lose all offensive firepower by being shutout by the Hokies in their first meeting. Going into Saturday’s doubleheader the Tar Heels displayed their offensive firepower scoring 12 and 13 runs respectively. Both games had some scares with Carlson earning the save in the second game and the bullpen holding down the third game, the Tar Heels walked away with a series win.
Why does it matter?
Coming into the Virginia Tech series, after losing to both Miami and Boston College, the Diamond Heels were projected by D1 baseball to not be in the field of 64 for the national tournament. The Diamond Heels found their offense again in their midweek matchup over UNCW but their ability to keep up that ability will determine the trajectory of the Tar Heels' season.
As junior Mac Horvath says, it just comes down to how much the team wants to win, a fighting spirit that was shown in the second and third Virginia Tech games. With the crucial win in Blacksburg, the Diamond Heels remain alive in their quest to the NCAA tournament and build momentum before the ACC tournament.
When do they play next?
The Diamond Heels will play No. 9 Campbell at Boshamer Stadium on Tuesday. The first pitch is set for 6 p.m.
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