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The Daily Tar Heel

Carlson's pitching leads Diamond Heels to series win after downing NC State 9-3

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Junior pitcher Max Carlson (35) throws the ball during the baseball game against Stony Brook on Friday, March 13, 2023, at Boshamer Stadium. UNC beat Stony Brook 3-2.

The North Carolina Diamond Heels (32-17, 13-11) downed the NC State Wolfpack (31-17, 10-15) 9-3 in the second game of the series on Friday night at Boshamer Stadium, giving them a crucial series win in the run-up to the postseason.

What happened?

Junior Max Carlson made his first start since April 21 for the Tar Heels, and quickly went to work in the first frame, retiring the first three Wolfpack batters. In the bottom of the inning, North Carolina also went three up, three down.  

In the bottom of the third inning, redshirt first-year Casey Cook reached base on a two-out double down the left field line, extending his on-base streak to 38 games, breaking the UNC first-year record set by Colin Moran in the 2011-12 season. On the next at bat, junior second baseman Jackson Van De Brake singled to center, driving in Cook to give UNC a 1-0 lead. 

To lead off the bottom of the fourth, junior outfielder Mac Horvath singled to left, followed by a single to center off the bat of junior catcher Tomas Frick. A single to center from junior third baseman Johnny Castagnozzi brought both of them home, extending the UNC lead to 3-0. 

The big inning for the Tar Heels continued, as junior shortstop Colby Wilkerson singled to center. Then, Cook singled up the middle, driving in Castagnozzi from second. Van De Brake grounded out to end the inning, with UNC up 4-0.

In the second half of the fifth inning, Horvath hit a solo blast to left field, extending the Tar Heel lead to 5-0. UNC added another in the bottom of the sixth, as Cook singled to center, driving in Castagnozzi from second. NC State got one back in the seventh off of a Jacob Cozart solo home run, cutting the UNC lead to five. 

After loading the bases in the bottom of the seventh, junior designated hitter Eric Grinzt was walked, bringing sophomore outfielder Vance Honeycutt home and extending the lead back to six. In the next at bat, Castagnozzi was walked, driving in Frick. Another walk scored Stokely, putting UNC up 9-1. 

The Wolfpack responded in the eighth on a solo home run to center field by Eli Serrano III, cutting the UNC lead to 9-2. NC State plated another run off of an RBI single from Kalae Harrison. North Carolina shut down the Wolfpack in the ninth to earn a 9-3 win.

Who stood out? 

Carlson was lights out on the mound for the Tar Heels, displaying the dominance that many expected him to have going into the season. In a career high of 7.2 innings pitched on Friday, Carlson gave up just two runs on three hits, adding four strikeouts. His start was the longest against NC State by a UNC pitcher since Austin Bergner went eight innings in 2018.

At the plate, Horvath went 2-5, smashing his 21st homer of the season and adding his 22nd stolen base of the season, which leads the ACC. Cook added three hits on five at bats and two RBIs. This is the third game of the season that Cook has recorded three hits in a game. 

When was it decided?

The Tar Heels jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning, and were able to extend it to 6-0 by the end of the sixth. Carlson held the Wolfpack offense dormant, and UNC was able to earn a comfortable 9-3 win over NC State.

Why does it matter?

The win for North Carolina earns them a vital ACC series win. This is the fourth straight win for the Tar Heels, giving them momentum headed into the last game of the series on Saturday and the last week of the regular season.

Deep starting pitching was key for the Tar Heels, especially after using seven pitchers on Thursday. Carlson’s dominant display helped save bullpen arms for North Carolina ahead of Saturday’s game.

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels will look to complete the sweep of NC State on Saturday. The first pitch is slated for 2 p.m. 

@mdmaynard74

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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