The Diamond Heels won their first two series of the season against James Madison and Virginia, but both of those three-game sets were at Boshamer Stadium. On their first trip away from Chapel Hill, Carolina found the proceedings a little tougher, losing their weekend series to Virginia Tech 2-1 in Blacksburg, VA. The Hokies were the second ranked opponent in a row for UNC, and while the series against Virginia was a low scoring affair for both teams, the bats were alive for both VT and Carolina.
The Diamond Heels started the road series well enough, getting out to one-run runs in the second and third inning before exploding for four runs in the top of the fifth. Unfortunately, once Virginia Tech stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the fifth, they took the lead and never looked back, scoring seven in the fifth and two more in the sixth for the final margin, 10-6.
Sophomore Caleb Roberts was the hero on offense, hitting a solo home run with two outs in the third inning, then hitting a three-run homer in the fifth inning to stretch Carolina’s lead 5-1. Starting pitcher Austin Love, who was so impressive on opening day, only lasted four full innings, and was credited for three earned runs after leaving a gang of runners on base in the bottom of the fifth for reliever Caden O’Brien.
It was a tighter game on Saturday, as the Diamond Heels never built a big lead like they did in Game 1 on Friday, nor did VaTech put together a devastating inning to pull away from UNC, ultimately winning 6-4. For Carolina, it was dink-and-dunk stuff. No home runs, and only three Diamond Heels had a multi-hit day. The Heels will also rue leaving three runners stranded in the fifth inning with the game tied, 3-3. Virginia Tech would take the lead in the sixth and never look back.
Starting pitcher Max Carlson had a solid outing, going five innings and giving up three runs with four strikeouts. He’ll be annoyed with the six walks surrendered, more than one per inning. Reliever Joey Lancellotti took the loss after getting torpedoed in his opening inning for three runs, although he did hold the Hokies scoreless to complete the game.
After Virginia Tech secured the series, Carolina woke up on Sunday morning like:
Even though the final score was only 9-6, Carolina piled the pressure on Virginia Tech. The Hokies went through 10 pitchers over the course of the game, four introduced in the sixth inning, and three in the seventh. The bullpen looked like the Fort Worth Stockyards.
The Diamond Heels jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the top of the second inning. But the Hokies responded immediately, scoring five runs in the bottom of the second, with homers by Tanner Schobel and Jack Hurley. Tomas Frick evened the score in the third, plating Max Troiani. Carolina took the during that marathon sixth/seventh inning stretch with the Virginia Tech clown car of pitchers, and the Hokies only managed one consolation run in the bottom of the seventh.
For the first road trip of the season, there are plenty of positives to take away, particularly on offense. It was nice to score 19 runs after only mustering 7 against Virginia, but UNC batters will want to put in some eyedrops and sit further away from the TV after racking up 50 strikeouts in three games. Also, after such a great pitching start to the season, the Diamond Heels will want to tighten up their stuff. Carolina surrendered 22 runs to Virginia Tech, more than the 14 runs given up to JMU, Elon, and UVA in seven combined games.
Carolina returns to Boshamer Stadium for a Tuesday afternoon game against Liberty (part of a single game home-and-away series) before taking on Clemson in Chapel Hill over the weekend.