Under a blue sky in Uptown Charlotte, two longtime rivals met in front of over 10,000 fans at Truist Field to determine an ACC Champion. Excitement was high and a lot of eyes were over in the direction of the Wolfpack and freshman sensation Tommy White. In the end, though, the Tar Heels showed why they had been on such a hot run as of late. They did it thanks to a slightly less-heralded freshman.
Vance Honeycutt, the freshman from Salisbury, lit into NC State pitching to start the day. He belted two homers in the first two innings, bringing home 5 RBI, and was a major force in Carolina jumping out to an 8-1 lead. State was able to shut down the offense pretty much the rest of the game, and the Wolfpack managed to scrape together four more, but in the end it wasn’t enough as the Tar Heels celebrated their 8th ACC Baseball Championship.
White went 1-4 with a single, a walk, and two left on base.
Danny Serretti and Angel Zarate added the other RBI for the Tar Heels, while Max Carlson took the mound to pitch five strong innings, giving up six hits, three runs, and struck out six. Nik Pry and Shawn Rapp shut down the Wolfpack for the next couple of innings, and Connor Bovair pitched a scoreless eighth before the Wolfpack were able to scrape two runs against him in the ninth. Davis Palermo came in and ended the game with one pitch to send the Tar heels streaming out of the dugout in celebration.
The Tar Heels leave Charlotte going 4-0, three of the wins coming against sure-fire NCAA Tournament teams. Carolina has now won 15 of their last 17, including three of four against State, and after being left for dead in the middle of the season will for sure be hosting a regional in Chapel Hill next weekend. The full brackets will be announced today at noon, where the Tar Heels will learn what their path to Omaha will look like.
The outstanding performance in Charlotte led to four Tar Heels making the All-Tournament team. Honeycutt was named the MVP, and took an outfield all-tournament position with teammates Serretti at shortstop, fellow outfielder Zarate, and pitcher Brandon Schaeffer.
The Wolfpack led off the scoring in the first, as they were quickly able get a double off Carlson, and with two men on Josh Hood (no relation) slapped a single through to get the man home. Carlson settled down quickly, though, limiting the damage to just that run. Honeycutt would then reward the Angel Zarate leadoff single with the towering shot to left field. A day after having trouble getting players across home with runners in scoring position, Honeycutt alleviated that problem by homering before Zarate could even get to second. Whitaker could only scrape one out in the second, loading the bases and then giving up the RBI hits to Zarate and Serretti. He would only go 1 1⁄3 innings, giving up 6 earned. Honeycutt then hit his second bomb off reliever Matt Willadsen. Chris Villamen was the other pitcher of record for State, shutting down Carolina’s offense, but by that point the damage was done.
The two homers by Honeycutt were notable for another reason:
It’s hard to argue if there’s any team hotter in baseball than the Tar Heels, and with their pitching seemingly back under control and the offense hitting on all cylinders, they have a great shot at getting back to Omaha.