Teetering towards the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble, North Carolina welcomed Louisville over the weekend in was pretty much a must win series for the Tar Heels. The Cardinals came in ranked mostly somewhere in the 10-15 range depending on where you looked. If the Heels can handle business the rest of the way, wins over Louisville could go a long way for a potential postseason bid.
Well, now it’s time for them to take care of things next weekend and in the ACC Tournament, because not only did UNC win the series against Louisville, they swept the Cardinals.
The series opener was the Austin Love show for Carolina, as their ace threw a complete game, allowing just one run on six hits and two walks while striking out nine.
After Love retired the first six batters he faced, he got some run support courtesy of Mac Horvath, who had a big game himself. The third baseman opened the game’s scoring with a two-run home run. Angel Zarate added to that in the third with a solo shot, before Horvath broke the game open in the fifth. With the bases loaded, Horvath added another two RBI to his total with a single, making it 5-0.
The Cardinal got one run back in the sixth when Henry Davis hit a solo homer. However, Love responded by retiring 11 of the last 14 batters he faced to seal the win.
While not delivering any of the run-scoring hits, Tomas Frick and Justice Thompson got on base three times each. Frick recorded three hits, including one double, while Thompson picked up two singles and a walk.
It was a group effort in the second game opposed to a one man show on Friday, but UNC’s pitching managed to top itself in Saturday afternoon’s meeting. In the second game of the series, Caleb Cozart, Connor Ollio, and Gage Gillian combined to shutout Louisville, allowing just three hits and a walk between them.
The Tar Heel offense again picked up five runs. Brett Centracchio had the biggest day of all, recording three RBI, including a two-run home run in the sixth inning, which made the lead five runs. Danny Serretti recorded the other RBI when he drew a bases loaded walk, while UNC’s fifth run came from a wild pitch right after that.
That would be more than enough, as the pitching didn’t allow any Louisville runner to make it past second base. All were impressive, but Ollio had an especially big day, retiring 12 of the 13 batters he faced, allowing just one walk in his four innings.
The pitching was the story in the first two game of the series, but Sunday was all about the offense striking early and often.
The Heels scored three runs each in both the first and second innings. The teams traded runs for a bit after that, with Louisville getting within three runs in seventh inning. However, Carolina answered with three more runs in the eighth inning, and that would seal the deal and give UNC the sweep.
It was a pretty even day for the lineup, with seven different Heels recording at least one hit, while another set of seven driving in at least one run. Thompson led the way, getting on base three times (a single, a double, and a hit by pitch), while driving home two runs. Horvath was the other Heel with two RBI, while Centracchio had a game-high three hits.
For the pitching, Shawn Rapp got the start and allowed one run while striking out five in his four innings, before the bullpen gave up four more.
In the midweek, UNC will face a solid UNC Wilmington team, before hitting the road to face Georgia Tech over the weekend. The Yellow Jackets are a team that is projected as an NCAA Tournament team, so it’s going to be another week of important games for the Tar Heels.