Due to recent struggles, North Carolina baseball have found themselves hovering around the bubble according to several NCAA Tournament projections. They had a chance to remedy that with a weekend trip to Notre Dame. The Irish came into came into the series as a top ten team and one of if not the best in the ACC. A couple wins against them could’ve gone a long way for the Tar Heels.
Things did not go to plan.
Friday: UNC 0, Notre Dame 4
The Heels put runners on and threatened to score in all of the first three innings, but failed to cash in on any of those chances, and that came back to haunt them. Notre Dame broke through and scored the game’s first runs in the fifth inning and ended up never trailing. The Irish tacked on another two runs in the eight and eventually finished off a shutout win in the series opener.
Carolina starter Austin Love had a fairly solid day, allowing just two runs on four hits and three walks in six innings. He just didn’t get a ton of help. As mentioned, the offense didn’t score, despite putting up six hits and four walks. However, the defense wasn’t anything to write home about either either, committing five errors on the day.
Saturday: UNC 12, Notre Dame 13
Where as the hitting and defense were at fault as the pitching performed admirably, the opposite was mostly true the next day.
Tar Heels’ starter Shawn Rapp was knocked out after just 1.2 innings and the reliever that followed him didn’t do much better. After six innings, UNC trailed 12-2 and seemingly were going to go down easily. The game might’ve still ended in a loss, but the Heels definitely fought hard.
In the seventh and eighth innings, Carolina scored nine runs, getting within just one run of the Irish. In the eighth in particular, they scored six, capped off by Angel Zarate’s three-run home run.
Notre Dame added to their cushion with a run in the eighth, and that run turned out to be quite big. Max Riemer homered in the top of the ninth for what would’ve been a game-tying home run had the Irish not scored in the eighth. The rest of the Tar Heels’ lineup couldn’t keep it going and Carolina fell just one run short of what would’ve been a monumental comeback.
In addition to his home run, Zarate went 4-5 with four RBI. Dallas Tessar had a similar day in the lead-off spot, also going 4-5 with four RBI and a home run. Four different Heels had multi-hit days and all but four who came to the plate at some point recorded at least one.
Sunday: UNC 5, Notre Dame 19
The first two games had some positives even if they ended in losses. The series finale had pretty much no positives. UNC opened the scoring in the first inning, and through the top of the third were tied with Notre Dame at five, things quickly went downhill after that.
The Irish scored one run in the third, followed up six in the fourth. This time there would be no Carolina rally. In total, Notre Dame ended up scoring 14 unanswered runs as they won fairly easily. Over the last six innings, the Heels only put six runners on base.
After all that, Carolina are now under .500 at 20-21. There’s no weekend series for them to try and makeup ground, but at the very least they can get back to .500 with a midweek game at Campbell. They could really use a win in that one.