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The Daily Tar Heel

Diamond Heels complete comeback, defeat NC State 9-8 with walk off suicide squeeze

Junior infielder Colby Wilkerson (3) prepares to hit the ball during the baseball game against Boston College on Sunday, April 23, 2023, at Boshamer Stadium. UNC fell to Boston College 2-6.

On Thursday, the North Carolina Diamond Heels (31-17, 12-11) completed a late comeback to down the NC State Wolfpack (31-16, 10-14) 9-8 at Boshamer Stadium.

What happened?

NC State took the early lead in the top of the first inning, as Cannon Peebles hit a three-run shot to right field off of UNC starting pitcher junior Connor Bovair. Bovair lasted just a third of an inning — giving up three runs on two hits and three walks — before being replaced by junior Ben Peterson.

The damage continued, as NC State plated two more runs off the bat of Payton Green, who doubled to left, driving in Will Marcy and Trevor Candelaria. In the bottom of the frame, redshirt first-year Casey Cook got on base with a lead-off double, but the Tar Heels were unable to bring him home.

North Carolina escaped a jam in the second, as the Wolfpack had runners on second and third, to keep the deficit to five. After holding NC State scoreless in the third, the Tar Heels loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning.

Junior second baseman Jackson Van De Brake drove in junior designated hitter Alberto Osuna on a ground out, as UNC started to cut into the deficit. On the next at bat, sophomore outfielder Vance Honeycutt doubled into left field, driving in two runs to cut the NC State lead to two. The big inning for the Tar Heels continued, as junior catcher Tomas Frick doubled to right, driving in Honeycutt to cut the Wolfpack lead to one run. 

The Wolfpack answered in the top of the fourth when Jacob Cozart drove in Kalae Harrison on a single to right field. UNC got runners on first and second in the bottom half of the frame, but left both on base. In the fifth, NC State added another off of a sacrifice fly, extending the lead to 7-4. 

In the bottom of the fifth, UNC loaded the bases as junior outfielder Mac Horvath singled, Frick singled and junior first baseman Hunter Stokely was walked. The Tar Heels cut the lead to 7-5 after third baseman Johnny Castagnozzi was hit by a pitch, driving in Horvath.

NC State added another run in the seventh, taking a three run lead on a single to left field from Green to drive in Eli Serrano III. In the eighth, UNC once again cut the lead to two, this time off of a Van De Brake double to left field, who then advanced to third on a wild pitch. Honeycutt then drove in Van De Brake, cutting the NC State lead back to one.

In the bottom of the ninth, the Tar Heels tied the game on an RBI triple from junior Eric Grintz that drove in sophomore pinch runner Reece Holbrook. On the next at bat, junior shortstop Colby Wilkerson hit a suicide squeeze bunt to drive in pinch runner Carter French, giving North Carolina a 9-8 walk off win. 

Who stood out? 

Cook had a solid day at the plate, going 2-3 with two doubles and two drawn walks. He also tied Colin Moran for the UNC first-year record for consecutive games on base with 37.

Frick had a stellar outing — accounting for a third of the UNC hits — going 4-5 at the plate with one RBI and two doubles. 

When was it decided?

The Wolfpack got off to an early 5-0 lead and were able to hold onto the lead until the ninth. The Tar Heels were able to complete the late comeback, walking it off in the ninth after a suicide squeeze bunt. 

Why does it matter?

In a seemingly must-win series for the Tar Heels, picking up the first game means they just have to win one out of the next two. A series win would boost their NCAA Tournament hopes heading into the final stretch of the season before the ACC Tournament.

Despite the win, North Carolina is in a tough situation heading into Friday and Saturday’s games after burning through six pitchers in just seven innings. UNC will need its starting pitchers to go deep the rest of the series.

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels take on NC State in game two of the series on Friday night. The first pitch is set for 7 p.m. at Boshamer Stadium. 


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