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The Daily Tar Heel

Diamond Heels eliminated from NCAA Tournament by Iowa in 13 innings

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UNC baseball players form a handshake line after defeating Virginia on Thursday, May 25, 2023, 10-2.

In a 13-inning battle, the North Carolina baseball team lost to the Iowa Hawkeyes, 6-5, and were eliminated from the NCAA tournament.

What happened?

The Diamond Heels, who have struggled with hitting when runners are in scoring position, found hits early as junior outfielder Mac Horvath notched a double and junior second baseman Jackson Van De Brake hit an infield single. UNC was able to juice the bases but a strikeout and fly out left all three men stranded. 

Redshirt first-year outfielder Casey Cook — coming off his defensive heroics against Wright State — continued his fireworks in the second, homering to right field, scoring junior shortstop Colby Wilkerson, who had drawn a walk. It was Cook’s third home run of the season and it gave the Tar Heels a two-run lead. 

The Hawkeyes found their first run a frame later on an RBI sacrifice fly with two men in scoring position and cut the Tar Heel lead in half. 

First-year Cameron Padgett remained on the mound until the fifth inning, when head coach Scott Forbes turned the game over to the bullpen and he was replaced first-year Kyle Percival. 

The Hawkeyes took advantage of the pitching change as Brennen Dorighi blasted a three run bomb to center field, giving Iowa their first lead of the game. 

Iowa added another run in the seventh on a sacrifice fly ball to right field, scoring Sam Petersen. 

As in the previous game against the Hawkeyes, the Tar Heels were able to attempt to mount a comeback in the eighth. Junior catcher Tomas Frick and junior first baseman Hunter Stokely were both able to knock singles into the outfield off of Hawkeye’s starting pitcher Ty Lagenberg. 

That would be the end for Lagenberg, and his replacement, Jack Whitlock, struck out both junior third baseman Johnny Castagnozzi and junior outfielder Patrick Alvarez as the Tar Heels faced two men on with two outs. Redshirt first-year pinch hitter Dylan King doubled down the right field line, scoring both Frick and Stokely and bringing the Tar Heels within one run of the Hawkeyes. 

Horvath showed how clutch he can be for the Diamond Heels, as the junior went yard over the left field fence with a solo shot to tie the game and force extras. 

Junior Matt Poston, graduate Kevin Eaise and sophomore Dalton Pence took over on the mound after Percival’s exit, with Pence carrying the Tar Heels through extra innings. 

Neither team could find success through the 11th or 12th, but the Hawkeyes took a one run lead as Michael Seegers tripled sending Coy Sarsfield home in the 13th. 

Who stood out? 

King came up huge for the Tar Heels in the eighth frame, hitting a crucial RBI double to the center field gap to bring UNC within one run of the Hawkeyes. 

Horvath started his stint during the regional going 0-7 at the plate but has picked up steam since, hitting a two run bomb against Wright State. Since then the slugger has gone 4-6 with an additional solo shot. Horvath went 3-for-5 with one RBI, one double and one homer against Iowa today. 

When was it decided?

Horvath tied up the game in the bottom of the ninth to force extras, but ultimately Iowa’s Michael Seegers hit an RBI triple in the top of the 13th to score the winning run for Iowa. 

Why does it matter?

The Tar Heels were faced with a must-win situation. With a win the Tar Heels would have lived to play another game against host Indiana State and still retain a chance for a regional victory and a consecutive trip to a super regional. Though the Tar Heels pushed the game into the 13th inning, Iowa’s one run in extras ended the Diamond Heels season.

When do they play next?

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The Diamond Heels have been eliminated from the NCAA tournament and the 2023 season is over.

@gracegnugent

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com