The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Diamond Heels searching for answers after being swept by Boston College

20220222_Turner_UNC-baseball-vs-Longwood_Select-6.jpg

First-year Casey Cook celebrates his first home run during UNC’s 10-0 victory over Longwood on Wednesday, Feb. 22, at Boshamer Stadium.

Following the North Carolina baseball team's third and final loss against Boston College last weekend, head coach Scott Forbes reacted bluntly to his team's performance.

“I think you gotta call a spade a spade,” Forbes said. “We got beaten in every aspect of the game this weekend: pitching, defense and timely hitting.”

The then-No. 20 ranked Eagles came to Chapel Hill and played clean, fundamental ball by executing in all facets of the game, which helped them outscore North Carolina by 10 runs during the series. The Tar Heels gave the Eagles 21 free passes — walks or batters hit by a pitch — over the course of the weekend and committed three errors on Friday, which helped Boston College take control. 

UNC's woes began in game one when junior starting pitcher Max Carlson lasted only 2.2 innings and surrendered five runs.

The Tar Heels scored six runs in the first inning but proceeded to follow that monster frame with seven scoreless innings before eking out a late run to force extras.

Forbes was impressed with the “battle offensively” after the team collected 16 hits. He was also drawn to the “outstanding” performance of the bullpen, namely Dalton Pence, Matt Poston and Kevin Eaise.

But when it came to putting the game away — hammering the proverbial nails in the coffin — the Tar Heels were unable to stop the Eagles. The team's three errors ultimately proved fatal. 

“(Boston College is) gonna play clean and kind of make you beat yourself,” junior infielder Jackson Van De Brake said. “So I mean, I'm going to keep saying it, we're gonna find a way to get through that.” 

The key to conquering the Eagles seemed to be Connor Boviar, who put the Saturday game on his shoulders by holding the Boston College offense at bay. The junior pitcher allowed just two runs in 7.1 innings, but once he exited, the Eagles scored seven more times in the final two frames.

Sunday's game unfolded in a similar fashion, with starting pitcher Jake Knapp taking the mound for 4.1 innings and allowing two earned runs. Then, Poston came in to relieve and held the Eagles hitless over 1.2 innings of work before the remaining bullpen surrendered four runs to put the team behind.

While the Tar Heels were productive at the plate for most of the series, the bats went ice cold on Sunday as the offense mostly came up empty-handed with the exception of Hunter Stokely hitting a two-RBI single. 

Forbes said he believes pointing fingers is useless and insisted that it wasn't just one aspect of play that led to the series loss. But after losing six of the last seven conference games, the Diamond Heels are reaching a crossroads with two paths in front of them — being consistent and finding success or sinking deeper into the hole of close losses and inconsistent results.

With a season that seems to bear similarities to the 2022 campaign that saw the team lose five straight ACC series in the middle of the season before going on to win the ACC Tournament, the next few weeks will be crucial for UNC. 

It took getting swept by Virginia at home around this time last year for the Tar Heels to turn a dismal April into a brighter May — an upward trend the current group hopes to repeat. 

“We were dead in the water – let's just be honest – last year, and everybody thought we sucked except us,” Forbes said. “And that's the most important trait any team can have and these guys have to believe in themselves more, and I'm going to tell them that today.”

Despite the team's recent struggles to close out big games, the Tar Heels will have little time to reflect as they prepare for an upcoming slate against top opponents, including top-15 ranked ECU and Coastal Carolina.

In order for the team to get over the hump, junior catcher Tomas Frick said he believes that a mentality change must happen for the Tar Heels to find any lasting success. 

“You gotta refuse to lose, or you gotta be a winner,” Frick said. “You gotta have heart.”  

@gracegnugent

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.