The North Carolina Diamond Heels (33-18) fell to the No. 8 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (34-17), 8-6, on Tuesday night in Conway, S.C.
In the top of the first inning, the Tar Heels got off to an early lead. Redshirt first-year outfielder Casey Cook singled to center field, followed by a junior third baseman Mac Horvath single to center. Junior first baseman Hunter Stokely then singled through the middle to load the bases.
In the next at bat, junior designated hitter Eric Grintz reached on a fielder's choice, driving in Cook for the first run of the game. The Diamond Heels added another from a passed ball, and then one more before the end of the inning as redshirt first-year catcher Dylan King doubled to left field, bringing Grintz home to give the Heels a 3-0.
However, the Coastal Carolina offense was able to respond with a leadoff double in the bottom of the first. With two outs, Derek Bender singled up the middle to drive in Payton Eeles. In the next at bat, Nick Lucky hit a two-run shot to right field, tying the game at three.
After a scoreless top of the second, Coastal Carolina started off the bottom of the frame with a solo home run to right field off the bat of Jake Brooks. After a fly out, Blake Barthol singled to right center, advanced off of a wild pitch and then scored due to a fielding error by Stokely, giving the Chanticleers a two run lead.
In the top of the fourth, first-year second baseman Austin Hawke doubled to left off of a hit that was just a few feet short of getting out. Despite two runners on and no outs, the Tar Heels were unable to capitalize.
Coastal Carolina loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the sixth frame following a walk, double and another walk. However, graduate pitcher Kevin Easie replaced junior pitcher Nelson Berkwich, helping the Tar Heels escape the jam on a double play.
UNC loaded the bases in the top of the seventh with just one out, but Grintz grounded into a double play, and the Chanticleers escaped a jam of their own. In the bottom of the seventh, the Chanticleers’ Zack Beach hit a three run bomb to stretch the lead to five.
The Tar Heels answered in the top of the eighth, cutting the lead back to just three off of a two run homer from redshirt senior pinch hitter Max Riemer. However, the Diamond Heels were unable to complete the comeback, falling to Coastal Carolina 8-6.
Who stood out?
At the plate, Riemer went 1-2 with two RBIs off of his two-run shot in the eighth inning for the Tar Heels. Stokely added two hits on five plate appearances, including a double and RBI.
When was it decided?
After both UNC and Coastal Carolina scored three runs apiece in the first inning, the Chanticleers added two more in the second inning and took control of the game. They piled on three more runs in the seventh for a five run lead. Despite a late comeback effort from the Diamond Heels, the Chanticleers were able to fend it off, taking the win.
Why does it matter?
In the midweek matchup, head coach Scott Forbes shifted the lineup, which is in all likelihood due to the suspensions handed out by the NCAA last Thursday in response to the incident that occurred during the Gardner-Webb game on May 9. Sophomore outfielder Vance Honeycutt, junior second baseman Jackson Van De Brake, junior catcher Tomas Frick and junior third baseman Johnny Castagnozzi all did not feature in the game.
Despite these absences, the Tar Heels hung around with the eighth best team in the nation. Although the loss ends a five-game winning streak for the Diamond Heels, the regular lineup — barring any injuries — should return on Thursday night's series opener against Clemson.
When do they play next?
The Diamond Heels travel to Clemson, S.C., to take on the Clemson Tigers in the last ACC series of the year. The first game of the series is set to start at 6 p.m. on Thursday.
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