In a fiery pitching battle, the North Carolina baseball team (29-17), beat the No. 14 East Carolina Pirates (31-14), 2-1, Wednesday night at Clark-LeClair Stadium in Greenville.
Junior pitcher Connor Bovair started on the mound for the Diamond Heels and held the Pirates scoreless through the first three innings of play.
Bovair was locked in a battle with ECU pitcher Garrett Saylor, who struck out six Tar Heel batters in his four innings of work.
Sophomore outfielder Vance Honeycutt put the Diamond Heels on the board in the top of the fourth frame with a 366-foot solo home run to left field.
The Pirates responded in the bottom of the fourth when Jacob Starling singled to center, stole second and was batted in by Jacob Jenkins-Cowart. The Tar Heels looked like they would have their hands full during the inning, but junior catcher Tomas Frick and junior shortstop Colby Wilkerson caught Jenkins-Cowart stealing second.
Both teams sat silent until the top of the sixth, when the Tar Heels loaded the bases on a walk, a fielding error and a single by junior outfielder Mac Horvath. Junior first baseman Hunter Stokley hit an RBI fielder's choice to score junior second baseman Jackson Van De Brake to give the Diamond Heels a one run lead.
Heading into the seventh inning, the Tar Heels were narrowly hanging on to their one run lead, with both teams finding difficulty at the plate, with just four combined hits.
Defensively, Frick and Wilkerson found a groove with Frick throwing two perfectly placed balls to tag out runners at second, getting the Tar Heels out of potentially difficult situations.
UNC snapped their three game losing streak to the Pirates with their 2-1 win and leaned on solid performances from all three of their pitchers: Bovair, sophomore Dalton Pence and junior Max Carlson.
While Pence earned the win for the Diamond Heels, Carlson earned a save, a poetic bookend to his time in Greenville this season after having a 7 IP, nine strikeout game in February where the Heels ultimately lost.
Who stood out?
Honeycutt, who has been going through a bit of a rough patch, hit his twelfth homer of the season to give the Tar Heels their first lead of the game. The last time the slugger went yard was in the second loss to Boston College. Honeycutt went 1-for-4 at the plate and currently leads the ACC in walks.
Carlson held the mound for three innings allowing zero hits, with one walk and adding two strikeouts. This is the second time this season that Carlson has held the Pirates to zero runs in his time on the mound, the first being in late February where he delivered nine strikeouts in seven innings.
When was it decided?
While it was a defensive game on both sides, Stokely’s fielder’s choice RBI was the winning run for the Tar Heels. The game was on the shoulders of the Tar Heels three pitchers, specifically Carlson, who closed out the final three innings and held the Pirates at bay.
Why does it matter?
The Diamond Heels need to step on the gas and stack up some wins against ranked teams like ECU and Coastal Carolina to get an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament. The last time the Tar Heels and the Pirates squared off in a series, each game ended with the Pirates coming back from a deficit and beating UNC by a single run. The tables turned today, with the Tar Heels beating the Pirates by a single run, adding a crucial win against a formidable and talented team.
When do they play next?
The Diamond Heels have a break this weekend and will host Gardner-Webb next Tuesday. The first pitch is set for 6 p.m.
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