The red hot North Carolina Tar Heels baseball team refused to cool off on Saturday, defeating the highest remaining seed in the ACC Baseball Championship, Notre Dame, and in so doing advance to Sunday’s title game against NC State. The game will be played at Noon and be on ESPN 2.
Unlike their first couple of games in Charlotte, the game against the Irish was a pitcher’s duel for the first seven innings. Carolina started Will Sandy, but after giving up a run and getting into a jam in the third, he gave way to Gage Gillian who got out of the inning. Gillian did give up a homer, which was the only one of the game for both sides, and the Tar Heels found themselves down 2-1 going into the sixth.
Much like the rest of the season, though, the Tar Heels didn’t give up.
With a rested bullpen, Carolina coach Scott Forbes wasn’t shy about using his arms to make sure the Irish wouldn’t run away from the Tar Heels. It was a good thing, too, because at one point the Tar Heels were 0-14 with runners in scoring position. Carolina was able to scrape together a run in the second thanks to a fielder’s choice, and Hunter Stokely tied the game in the sixth with a double that kicked off the point where the warning track and grass meet. Both times Mikey Madej came around to cross the plate.
In the eighth inning, the Tar Heels had bases loaded with zero outs, and Notre Dame tried their best to pitch to the matchups, using four pitchers in the inning. Aiden Tyrell loaded the based, but Jackson Dennies and Will Mercer did their job of recording an out. It looked like the Tar Heels would waste their best chance to take the lead, but Mac Horvath was able to smack a single to right, scoring, who else, Madej. Danny Serretti then sailed a double to left which scored two more, and Carolina was able to take a 5-2 lead into the bottom of the inning.
Davis Palermo came in to pitch and got the last six outs to earn the save while Shawn App picked up the win, being the pitcher of record when the Tar Heels took the lead. To be safe, Carolina banked in two more runs as Johnny Castagnozzi nailed a double in the ninth to score Reece Holbrook and-again, who else-Madej.
As one can figure, Madej had himself a game, going 4 for 4 at the plate, scoring four of Carolina’s seven runs.
The win is Carolina’s sixth in a row, and they’ve won fourteen of their last sixteen. Two of those wins-and one of the losses-came against their title game opponent, NC State, who defeated Pittsburgh 8-3 in the other semifinal. The Tar Heels have seen their RPI jump to 6th, and even before Saturday’s game D1 Baseball had the Tar Heels hosting a regional next weekend. That prediction was under some debate before the game, but after...
North Carolina is hotter than a Skip Bayless take. The @DiamondHeels beat Notre Dame 7-2 and advance to Sunday’s ACC title game.— Aaron Fitt (@aaronfitt) May 28, 2022
You can bust out the Sharpie on this: North Carolina is going to host a regional. What a surge down the stretch, from outside the bubble to host.
With no starter going more than three innings yesterday, the complete game on Friday, and the limited use of arms on Tuesday, one has to think literally all hands will be on deck against the Wolfpack today.
Carolina fans will have an embarrassment of riches today. At the same time on ESPN the women’s lacrosse team will be going for a national championship and the Tar Heels will be facing down the Wolfpack for the ACC Championship. Both teams are safely into the NCAA Tournament, but both will be looking to continue momentum as they start down the road to Omaha. Here’s hoping today is a special day.