After struggling for a good, long while in April, North Carolina Tar Heels baseball got May off to a better start with a mid-week win over Charlotte. However, if they want to get back into NCAA Tournament consideration they were going to need wins over other contending teams.
Well, they had a good chance this weekend against a NCAAT-projected NC State team. This time around, the Heels got the job done, taking two of three on the road in Raleigh.
Rain affected the series opener as the game that had started Friday night had to be delayed and resumed on Saturday. The delay began in the top of the fifth with the game tied at one and when things started up again the next day, things went wild.
The teams traded the lead in the fifth inning before UNC seemingly broke the game open with a five-run sixth inning, led by Hunter Stokely’s home run. However, the Wolfpack reeled the Heels back in over the next couple innings, tying the game in the seventh. Carolina took the lead back in the ninth with a Mac Horvath sacrifice fly and Gage Gillian shut the door in the bottom of the ninth to give UNC the win.
Seven different Tar Heel batters recorded a hit, led by Angel Zarate who had three in the lead-off spot, in a good day for the offense. Meanwhile, Gillian was crucial for the Heels, going two innings, allowing just one hit in an otherwise perfect outing.
The rain also messed with the second two games of the series, causing them to be played in a doubleheader on Sunday. In the first of the two, NC State controlled things for most of the game, cruising to a fairly easy win.
It started decently enough for Carolina when Danny Serretti singled home a run in the top of the first. However, State answered back with a run in the bottom half of the inning and then slowly and steadily added to their lead over the next couple innings. In total, the Wolfpack put up 17 hits on the day.
Serretti got UNC a consolation run on an eight inning RBI double, but by then it was too little, too late. The Heels just didn’t get enough offensive help outside of Serretti, as the shortstop was responsible for not only both RBI, but three of Carolina’s five hits.
After being held in check in the first game on Sunday, the Heels came out firing in game two, scoring two runs in the top of the first. However, the Wolfpack pegged them back in the bottom of the first, kicking off what would be a back and forth game.
There had been four different lead changes when UNC stepped to the plate in the eighth down a run. Alberto Osuna then came up big, hitting a two-run home run to put Carolina back in front. Davis Palermo would then take the mound and seal things, throwing two scoreless innings, striking out four, and getting the Heels the crucial series win.
Besides Osuna, the Heels got valuable offensive contributions from up and down the lineup, including Vance Honeycutt, who drove in a game high three runs.
This week, UNC has a pair of mid-week games, taking on Gardner-Webb today and Charleston Southern tomorrow, both at home. This weekend will also be home, as another potential NCAA Tournament team in Wake Forest will be in Boshamer for another key series.