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UNC baseball displays offensive strength in series win over Notre Dame

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UNC redshirt sophomore outfielder Casey Cook (16), junior outfielder Vance Honeycutt (7), and senior infielder Colby Wilkerson (3) celebrate their home runs during the men’s baseball game against Wagner at Boshamer Stadium on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024. UNC won 16-5.

After UNC hit three home runs on Friday, head coach Scott Forbes was quick to joke with senior designated hitter Alberto Osuna. The power hitter, who notched 20 home runs in 2022, had just eight so far on the year.

“In case you hadn't noticed, bro, you're not fast,” Forbes said to Osuna. “So I get you're hitting for a higher average, but get some good swings off.”

Osuna took the message to heart, smashing a 413-foot bomb off the top of the scoreboard in left field on Saturday. It was the fifth of seven home runs UNC would hit throughout the weekend series sweep of Notre Dame, displaying the power that has come to define this year’s Tar Heel lineup. Osuna’s home run was the 40th of his collegiate career, making UNC the only team in Division I with three 40-home run hitters: Osuna, senior first baseman Parks Harber and junior outfielder Vance Honeycutt

In total, the Tar Heels are on pace to shatter last season's home run total of 87.

“I’ll put our lineup against anybody,” Forbes said.

After UNC could produce just one run in a 2-1 loss to South Carolina on Tuesday, the Tar Heels emphasized slowing themselves down and jumping on the fastball in practice on Thursday. Forbes said the Gamecocks beat them with that pitch, which was unusual for the team. 

Fast forward to Saturday, and what pitch did Osuna find in an 0-2 count in the second inning? A fastball. 

He didn’t miss it.

“Coach [Jesse Wierzbicki] and I have worked a lot with it, cleaning up my swing, having less holes in it,” Osuna said. “And, I mean, it's just really easy whenever you have the guys in front of you just on base all the time, all I have to do is put it in play.”

Harber got the series started with a two-run homer in the first inning of a 13-0 win on Friday. It was the 46th of his collegiate career and his 12th on the season. The Tar Heels scored seven of their 13 runs on Friday by way of the long ball.

Saturday was more of the same. Three more UNC batters homered for a total of three runs in a 7-2 victory to clinch the series. After Osuna’s solo shot hit the scoreboard in the second, Honeycutt outdid him five innings later, hitting a towering 423-foot blast over the scoreboard into the Ehringhaus Residence Hall parking lot. 

And on Sunday? UNC hit just one home run in a 10-3 win, but it was Honeycutt’s second of the series and 49th of his career, putting him in a tie for second on the all-time UNC home runs list.

Six different Tar Heels hit a homer in the series, a reason why Honeycutt said this is 100 percent the most powerful lineup he’s ever been a part of at UNC.

“Guys up and down the lineup who can do damage,” Honeycutt said. “There's really not a free guy to pitch to, and whenever everyone starts rolling, it's going to be really fun to watch.”

While dealing with a starting rotation that's been completely transformed over the season with injuries to key starters, the lineup’s home run-hitting ability has been a consistent threat all year. 

For Osuna, it’s all about trusting assistant coach Wierzbicki and his approach. As long as the Tar Heels put up good swings on good pitches, UNC can be one of the most potent lineups in the country.

“I feel like we all feed off each other,” Osuna said. “And as soon as we start going, it's just dangerous.”


@brendan_lunga18

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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