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The Daily Tar Heel

No. 11 UNC baseball falls to Coastal Carolina, 5-4, in first home loss of season

Junior outfielder Vance Honeycutt (7) hits the ball during the baseball game against Coastal Carolina at Boshamer Stadium on Tuesday, April 16, 2024.

Despite coming back from four runs down, the No. 11 UNC baseball team (29-8, 14-4 ACC) fell to No. 19 Coastal Carolina (25-11, 9-6 Sun Belt), 5-4, on Tuesday, marking its first home loss in 27 games.

After UNC first-year pitcher Olin Johnson retired the Chanticleers in order in the first frame, graduate right fielder Anthony Donofrio got the bottom of the inning started with a double down the left field foul line. He was left stranded on third base, though, as the Coastal starting pitcher Oliver Ellison worked his way out of the jam.

Johnson did not find similar success in the second. He retired the first two batters quickly, but the Chanticleers managed to load the bases. They capitalized, driving in two runners with a two-out RBI single into left field. The momentum did not stop there as the next batter drove in the Chanticleers' third run of the inning with a grounder through the right side of the infield. That was all for Johnson, who head coach Scott Forbes pulled after just 1.2 innings. 

“We had to take him out because the game got to where it was, and we needed to get out of that inning,” Forbes said. “But I still believe in Olin Johnson for sure.”

Redshirt sophomore Dalton Pence replaced Johnson on the mound and the Tar Heels caught the runner on first stealing. In the ensuing rundown, though, the Chanticleer runner on third managed to scurry home before the man on first was tagged out, capping off a four-run second inning for Coastal.

Junior center fielder Vance Honeycutt responded in the third, muscling the ball over the right center field wall to bring UNC within three. With the home run, Honeycutt became the first player in ACC history with 50 home runs and 60 stolen bases.

“It's a cool accomplishment,” Honeycutt said. “Wish it could have been done on a win, but I guess it just kind of speaks to the gifts I was given.”

The Tar Heel bullpen settled in after the second inning, pitching six straight scoreless innings. Then, in the sixth inning, UNC senior designated hitter Alberto Osuna launched a solo shot to right field. Coastal’s right fielder leaped at the wall and came within inches of snagging the shot out of the air, but the ball traveled just over his glove for the home run.

UNC’s string of solo bombs continued in the seventh when Honeycutt launched his second of the game. On a 1-1 count, the center fielder sent a pitch over the left field wall to cut UNC’s deficit to one. 

The Tar Heels started the eighth with a leadoff single from first-year catcher Luke Stevenson, who beat the shift on the left side of the infield. After first-year outfielder Kaleb Cost came in to pinch run for Stevenson, graduate second baseman Alex Madera sacrificed him into scoring position. First-year third baseman Gavin Gallaher, pinch-hitting for senior Johnny Castagnozzi, brought UNC back, batting in the tying run.

Coastal Carolina struck right back. With a runner on second and just one out, senior first baseman Parks Harber couldn’t handle a high chopper in between first and second base. The ball bounced off the heel of his glove, ricocheted past Madera, and into right field. The runner on second scampered home, putting Coastal up 5-4 in the ninth.

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UNC fought with a two-out rally in the bottom of the inning. Redshirt sophomore left fielder Casey Cook drew a six-pitch walk, and he advanced to third after the Coastal shortstop threw the ball over the first baseman’s head on a routine grounder. With the bases loaded and two outs, graduate catcher Parker Haskin stepped up the plate for his first at-bat of the game. Haskin worked a 2-2 count before he struck out swinging on a pitch out of the strike zone, securing the big midweek victory for the Chanticleers.

“I felt like Haskin looked really good in the box,” Forbes said. “In my heart, I was like, man, he's going to get a hit right here.”

The Tar Heels travel down I-40 this weekend to take on N.C. State. The series begins on Thursday with the first pitch set for 7 p.m.


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