After the rain comes the rainbow.
The Friday through Sunday weekend series in Chapel Hill against hated rival Duke had several rain delays over the weekend, so the rubber match was decided last night at Boshamer Stadium. Both teams were able to start their aces due to the extended delay, both of whom also started game 1 on Friday. Fans expecting a pitchers duel were left bitterly disappointed.
Duke starter Cooper Stinson did not have his stuff under control and misplaced pitches both high and low/away in equal measure. Gifted a two-run lead when he took the bump for the first time, Stinson gave up four runs in the bottom of the first inning, walking his first batter, hit the second batter with an errant pitch, gave up a double (scoring one run), then gave up a three-run blast to Tomas Frick. After walking the first batter of the second inning on five pitches, Stinson was done and on the hook for the loss.
Carolina’s offense, which had a season-high of nine runs this season, scored that many runs in the fifth inning alone. When the Diamond Heels came to bat in the bottom of the fifth inning, they led 9-6 and looked in control. What followed was hard to describe in words. UNC did to Duke what Jason Sudeikis did to Andy Samberg in “Hero Song” (jump to the 1:48 mark):
Carolina hit three homers in the fifth, two by first baseman Brett Centracchio. Justice Thompson hit an absolute moon shot, going 422-feet to dead centerfield. If that dinger didn’t have so much loft, it could have killed the cameraman in center. Two batters later, Centracchio hit a 460-foot home run to right field, humiliating and traumatizing Duke pitcher Billy Seidl, who probably needs some sports therapy after that inning.
With the game decided, both Duke and Carolina started emptying their benches to get some live-game experience for some players that we’re not used to seeing. UNC brought Kyle Mott to the mound for his third appearance of the season in the eighth inning. After he gave up back-to-back solo home runs to the first two hitters he faced, Mott finished the inning and UNC closed with freshman Cannon Pickell, making his Carolina debut.
All in all, it was a decent series for the Diamond Heels and it went a long way towards washing the taste of the NCSU-sweep out of our mouths. Duke reliably scored runs early in each game, but Carolina was able to crawl back before having later explosions of offense. Duke was also fairly sloppy with some of their fielding, which allowed Carolina to squeeze in some runs they may not have deserved. Were it not for the split-day game one, who’s to say this couldn’t have been a sweep?
With a postponement to this afternoon’s home game against Charlotte, UNC is off until the weekend when they travel to Pitt for a Friday-Sunday series.