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Honeycutt's walk-off homer lifts UNC to 8-6 win over WVU in super regional

20240607_Skvoretz_NCAA-SP-Baseball-West-Virginia-289.jpg
UNC junior outfielder Vance Honeycutt (7) and senior infielder Colby Wilkerson (3) celebrate as redshirt sophomore outfielder Casey Cook (16) comes after a hit by senior infielder Parks Harber (14) during the NCAA super regional game against West Virginia at Boshamer Stadium on Friday, June 7, 2024.

Powered by a ninth-inning surge, the No. 4 seed Diamond Heels (46-14) survived West Virginia (36-23), 8-6, during the first game of the Chapel Hill Super Regional on Friday evening. 

"This team it's just how they've been all year and they have found different ways to win and that's the mark of a good team top to bottom," head coach Scott Forbes said. 

After two silent innings, the Mountaineers took an early lead in the third.

On a 2-1 count, West cranked a solo shot to left field. Although WVU’s JJ Wetherholt hit a single to right field and Logan Sauve reached first on an error, Sam White grounded out to second to end the inning and keep the Tar Heels within one run. 

North Carolina awakened in the third inning. 

After senior shortstop Colby Wilkerson reached first on a free pass, junior centerfielder Vance Honeycutt built on the momentum with a single through left field.  

During the next at-bat, redshirt sophomore left fielder Casey Cook reached first after four balls to set the stage for senior first baseman Parks Harber. 

On a 0-1 count, Harber singled through centerfield. As WVU’s centerfielder Skylar King struggled to throw the ball into the infield, three Tar Heels reached home to take the lead. 

Two at-bats later, first-year third baseman Gavin Gallaher found the gap between the shortstop and left field to bring Harber home. Exiting the frame, North Carolina pushed West Virginia to a 4-2 deficit. 

With two outs in the top of the fourth, the Mountaineers earned another run as West singled to bring another runner home. West Virginia’s Ben Lumsden struck out swinging with a full count during the next at-bat to push the Tar Heels out of the inning. 

Following a six up, six down fifth inning, the Mountaineers worked to come back. WVU’s Reed Chumley hit a bomb to left-center to push in two runners and tie the ball game.

After junior left-handed pitcher Shea Sprague went five full innings, sophomore right-handed pitcher Matthew Matthijs took the mound. 

Facing his second batter, Matthijs left a changeup hanging and West skyrocketed it into right field to put the Mountaineers back in front. Exiting the top of the sixth frame, the score sat at 6-4. 

After a fruitless inning, the Tar Heels immediately found trouble in the seventh. 

Coming in for Matthijs, senior right-handed pitcher Ben Peterson hit two pitchers with no outs. To get UNC out of the bind, senior right-handed pitcher Matt Poston came out of the bullpen. 

Following a sacrifice bunt, Poston retired the next two to keep the score 6-4.

"Matt coming in there in that situation with Wetherholt on second base – a really good base stealer – we had to bring the infield in," Forbes said. "Getting that big strikeout and getting the next out out like that gave like, 'Ok, here we go'. I saw the guys running in with the looks on their face like that's big." 

North Carolina found some life again in the seventh frame. On a full count, Wilkerson hit a solo shot to left field to inch closer to the Mountaineers. 

But Honeycutt and Cook failed to reach first during the next two at-bats, keeping the deficit at one run. 

With a slow eighth inning behind them, the Tar Heels worked to tie the game. Poston retired three players in four at-bats to set the stage for the bottom of the frame. 

On the first pitch, first-year catcher Luke Stevenson hammered a solo shot to center field to lead off the Tar Heels. 

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"I was just trying to get something going, leading off in the ninth," Stevenson said. "Coach Jesse Wierzbicki before my at-bat was just like, 'Smoke something back up the middle,' and my goal is to get us started. We're never out of it, we always play 27 out like coach stresses before every single game.

With two outs, Honeycutt finished the job, launching a two-run homer to left field to walk it off with an 8-6 win. 

"I mean the plan wasn't to go up there and hit a home run," Honeycutt said. "That's probably not the right approach. But this place is special. We're having some Bosh magic, so it was really cool."

The Diamond Heels will return to Boshamer Stadium at 8 p.m. on Saturday evening for the second game of the Chapel Hill Super Regional, looking to advance to the College World Series.

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