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'Let it all be on me': UNC baseball coach takes responsibility for loss to Coastal Carolina

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First-year right-handed pitcher Olin Johnson (31) pitches the ball during the baseball game against Coastal Carolina at Boshamer Stadium on Tuesday, April 16, 2024. UNC fell to Coastal Carolina 5-4.

After walking off Bryson Field at Boshamer Stadium, UNC head coach Scott Forbes addressed the team and took accountability.

This was an unfamiliar sight. It had been 350 days since Forbes and the Tar Heels lost a game at home, and Forbes believed this loss was on his shoulders.

“I told the guys, like, ‘I'll take that loss. Let it all be on me,’” Forbes said.

In No. 11 UNC baseball’s 5-4 loss to No. 19 Coastal Carolina on Tuesday, two key decisions — both coming in the critical second inning where Coastal scored four —swung the game for the Chanticleers. It was a deficit that UNC cut into, but ultimately proved too much for the Tar Heels to overcome.

First-year pitcher Olin Johnson took the mound as the starter for the Tar Heels and found quick success, retiring the first five batters. But as has been the case all year for Johnson, he struggled with two outs in the second. A single, a hit by pitch, a walk and in a blink, the Chanticleers had the bases loaded.

Three runs later and Forbes strolled out of the dugout to make a call for the bullpen, finally calling on redshirt sophomore pitcher Dalton Pence. Forbes said this was his first mistake.

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Redshirt-sophomore left-handed pitcher Dalton Pence (49) pitches the ball during the baseball game against Coastal Carolina at Boshamer Stadium on Tuesday, April 16, 2024. UNC fell to Coastal Carolina 5-4.

“I should have went to Dalton Pence,” Forbes said. “I don't know if we could have, but maybe had him ready a little bit early for their best hitter, the leadoff guy, there in the second.”

Immediately, Forbes was faced with his second key decision of the inning. With runners on the corners and two outs, Forbes said Coastal stole a run. On Pence’s first pitch, a fastball in the dirt, the runner on first ran for second base, and first-year catcher Luke Stevenson threw the ball down to throw him out.

Caught between the bases, the runner got in a rundown, extending it long enough for the runner on third to scamper home safely before he was tagged out. Forbes said he should have called an “arm fake play” where the catcher pump fakes the throw to second, allowing the runner to steal the base while keeping the other runner planted at third. 

Those two decisions that Forbes described proved to be the difference. By digging himself in a four-run hole, Forbes was forced to make more necessary decisions down the stretch of the game that ended up coming back to bite him.

In the eighth inning with the Tar Heels down 4-3, Stevenson led off the frame with a single to the left side. Forbes took Stevenson out of the game, opting for first-year outfielder Kaleb Cost to pinch run in that spot.

“I didn't have a choice,” Forbes said. “You know, we're down and Luke's slow, and we gotta tie the game right there.”

While Forbes said he doesn’t look back on that decision with regret, as Cost later scored on a hit that he may not have sent Stevenson on, it would be costly an inning later. With the bases loaded and two outs in a one-run game, backup catcher and graduate student Parker Haskin, stepped up to pinch hit in Stevenson’s spot of the lineup. It was his first at-bat of the game, and he ultimately struck out on a nasty 2-2 cutter in the dirt. 

In a game that saw junior center fielder Vance Honeycutt become the first 50 home run and 60 stolen base player in ACC history, an accomplishment he said he would have liked to come in a win, two key moments in a single half inning was the difference between a ranked midweek victory and the end of the longest home win streak in program history.

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Junior outfielder Vance Honeycutt (7) runs the bases after a home run during the baseball game against Coastal Carolina at Boshamer Stadium on Tuesday, April 16, 2024.

“As a head coach, you have certain decisions you have to make throughout the game,” Forbes said. “And I felt like I didn't make two good ones.”

@brendan_lunga18

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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