In a 13-inning heartbreaker, the Diamond Heels' season came to a close at the hands of the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Terre Haute Regional on Sunday afternoon.
The rematch with the Hawkeyes was a microcosm — and ending — to the season for UNC, displaying characteristics and storylines that permeated throughout the Tar Heels' entire 2023 season.
In the regional elimination game, the Diamond Heels were burdened by a continued difficulty of hitting with runners in scoring position — a common theme seen throughout the year.
But, on the flip side, arms like Kevin Eaise and Dalton Pence stepped up and showed out, with the “next man up” philosophy ringing true, and big bats like Mac Horvath and Tomas Frick making a huge impact on the season.
On Sunday, all of these characteristics came to a head in the 6-5 loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes.
The game started off with fireworks from Casey Cook — one of the most consistent bats in the lineup — on a two-run homer to give the Tar Heels the lead.
But, the Tar Heels wrestled with hitting when runners were in scoring position, leaving 10 men stranded, including leaving the bases loaded in the bottom of the first.
It wasn’t until redshirt first-year and backup catcher Dylan King — in only his 12th at-bat of the season — hit a crucial RBI double to make it a one-run game. King’s performance was indicative of a pattern of players that have either unexpectedly come out of the woodwork or young guys that are showing their mettle in critical situations.
“Every single person is ready at any given moment,” Horvath said. “No surprise that King was ready for his opportunity there and he got the job done.”