After a hot start to the season, North Carolina Tar Heels baseball had cooled off somewhat in recent weeks. Coming into their weekend series against Louisville, Carolina had won just two of their last eight games and it’s seem them take a decent sized drop in Top 25 polls.
This weekend saw an opportunity for the Diamond Heels to get back on track against a good Louisville team. While UNC didn’t pick up the series win over the Cardinals, it took a weird set of circumstances to get there.
UNC got the series off to an absolutely perfect start when they scored five runs in the first. The inning featured nearly every play possible, as at least one Carolina batter reached base on each of a hit, walk, and error. Throw in a balk and a Alberto Osuna home run, and Carolina got just what they needed.
The lead expanded to 9-0 in the top of the third before Louisville started to chip away at their deficit in the bottom of the inning. Although the Cards scored four runs in the third, UNC answered back with four more over the next two innings.
After that the Heels, mostly seemed to have things under control, until the eighth inning. With the score 13-5, Louisville put up another four-run frame, putting a real scare into UNC. Reliever Davis Palermo eventually managed to get out of the inning, stranding two runners before things got really scary. The ninth inning played out normally as Carolina pulled out the win.
Osuna led the way on offense, recording four hits and six RBI, while first baseman Hunter Stokely had four hits of his own. Palermo did a nice job to throw 1.2 scoreless innings at the end to keep a blowout from getting even closer.
Game 1 ✅— Carolina Baseball (@DiamondHeels) April 9, 2022
Highlights from tonight's win in Louisville ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/6StPtZRX3U
The second game started much more calmly, with no runs in the first inning, and UNC taking a meager 2-0 lead in the second inning. However, this time, it was Lousiville who jumped out to a big lead, thanks in large part to a five-run fourth inning. From the fourth through the seventh, the teams kept trading runs back and forth, with the Cardinals taking a 8-6 lead into the top of the ninth.
In the ninth, the Tar Heels fought back back, putting the first two runners on, leaving the game up to Osuna. He gave a pitch quite a ride to right field, but it started to die right before the warning track and was seemingly about to be caught for the game’s final out. However, Louisville right fielder Isaac Humprey dropped the ball, allowing two runners to score, tying the game in improbable circumstances.
While UNC had new life, it unfortunately was just a reprieve. the Cardinals’ Ben Metzinger hit a walk-off home run in the 10th to give Louisville the win.
Shortstop Danny Serretti had a big day at the plate in the loss, going 2-4 with a home run and three RBI.
Not the ending we wanted today, but what a battle it was!— Carolina Baseball (@DiamondHeels) April 9, 2022
Highlights from game 2 at Louisville ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/XKxZB1mItw
After two wild games to start the series, the finale somehow got even weirder, and only partially for baseball reasons.
The two teams scored a run each in the second inning before UNC jumped ahead with a four-run third. Most of the lineup got in on the action, putting up five hits to open up their lead. While Louisville had chances after that, the score held at 5-1 for a while. UNC starter Brandon Schaeffer gave the Heels 4.1 solid innings, before turning it over to the bullpen, who were holding strong.
Then in the sixth inning, something genuinely crazy happened.
Louisville’s home baseball game with UNC has been postponed because of a bomb threat, a school spokesman confirmed to ESPN. UNC led 5-1 in the top of the sixth when police approached the athletic director’s suite with news of the threat. City and county police are on scene.— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) April 10, 2022
After things settled down and the game resumed in a now empty stadium, UNC missed out on a golden chance to add to their lead. That would come back to haunt them.
The score still held at 5-1 until the ninth inning as the Heels looked to close out the series win. Two different pitchers couldn’t hold onto the lead, as Louisville came all the way back, tying the game with UNC just two outs away from victory. Neither team could push a run across until the 14th inning, when UL finally won on a walk-off RBI single by Humphrey.
It was a very frustrating game for UNC for several reasons, but they left 15 runners on base in the loss. Angel Zarate reached base five separate times, recording four hits and a walk, but scored just one run. It’s was that kinda day.