Carolina Baseball opened NCAA play on Friday in a rematch with NC A&T. In their first meeting in March, both teams combined for one run in the UNC win. The game was cold, and the bats were silent.
On Friday, a few things were different: Carolina scored 11 runs, the temperature was hot, and the stakes were to move on in the NCAA regional. One thing stayed the same: NC A&T still couldn’t crack the scoreboard.
In what amounted to a complete 180 degree turn from last year’s opening regional game, UNC held serve at home to win 11-0, moving on to Saturday night’s game against the winner of Houston-Purdue.
Cooper Criswell pitched a gem, going six innings, giving up only three hits, no walks, and fanned six. By the time Caden O’Brien stepped on the mound for the 7th, Carolina already had an 8-0 lead. Rodney Hutchinson and Tyler Baum worked with O’Brien and Criswell to complete the shutout and hold the Aggies to five total hits.
The Tar Heels needed a couple of innings to get to Aggies’ starter Tim Luth, As it was, it took an error in the bottom of the third to get Zach Gahagan on base. The Heels eventually would get men on second and third when Michael Busch smacked a long double to open the scoring.
Carolina wouldn’t score again that inning, but the runs seemed to break the tension for the Tar Heels after coming off several wasted chances last week in the ACC Tournament. The damns burst open in the fourth, punctuated by a three run shot by Busch. The first baseman didn’t come to bat again, as the score was 7-0 and any fight A&T had was gone.
Overall it was an impressive effort for the Tar Heels. They now get to wait until one of the teams in the region has been eliminated before they play again, and with the efficient effort of the pitching staff, it’s not far off to think that Criswell could pitch again if needed.
Carolina plays Saturday night at 6 PM, the winner moving on to face the winner of the next elimination game on Sunday.