While the weather wreaked havoc on North Carolina baseball’s series last weekend against Pitt, the Tar Heels went into this weekend on a good note. Thanks to a midweek win over North Carolina A&T, the Diamond Heels were riding a five-game winning steak as they prepared to welcome unfriendly neighbors Duke to the Bosh. While that win streak would be snapped, Carolina picked up another couple victories and a series win over the Blue Devils.
Thursday: UNC 6, Duke 3
Things didn’t start out great in the series opener, as Duke picked up three early runs off starter Max Carlson. However, he eventually settled down and the offense got going as the Heels got the set off to a winning start.
After the Blue Devils took an early lead and were up three after the top of the second, Carolina evened things up in the bottom half of the inning. With the bases loaded, Colby Wilkerson cleared them with a double that tied the game. Two innings later, Mac Horvath gave the Heels a lead with a three-run homer.
Carlson ended up making it through five innings, having allowed three runs on four hits and three walks, while striking out five. The six runs the offense scored ended up being enough thanks in part to a good effort from the bullpen. Kevin Eaise threw three scoreless innings before Matt Poston picked up the save in the ninth.
Friday: UNC 5, Duke 8
While the bullpen was key to the win in game one, they couldn’t hang on in game two, which saw the Heels’ winning streak snapped after six games.
Carolina had taken an early lead in the first thanks to a Tomas Frick, but Duke eventually took the lead with three total runs over the fifth and sixth inning, which knocked out starter Connor Bovair after an otherwise solid outing. However, UNC answered back and seemed to take control when they scored four runs in the bottom of the sixth. Johnny Castagnozzi came up big in the inning, driving home two of the runs with a double, and scoring one of them on a wild pitch.
It wasn’t meant to be though, as Duke scored a run in the seventh and then fully broke things open with four runs in the eighth. In total, UNC went through pitchers over the seventh and eighth innings, but they couldn’t get through it without losing the lead and eventually the game.
Saturday: UNC 5, Duke 3
The series finale started out fairly similarly to the previous day, with Frick giving UNC a first inning lead, only for Duke to rally. However, this time when the Heels retook the lead, they wouldn’t give it back up.
In the fourth, UNC tied things up thanks to a long home run from Castagnozzi that went off the scoreboard that was displaying his own picture.
Johnny Castagnozzi ties the game with a 421-foot blast off the video board.— Carolina Baseball (@DiamondHeels) March 25, 2023
Carolina 2, Duke 2 | E4 pic.twitter.com/ntbiLZPOTd
Horvath added a home run of his own in the fifth, a three-run shot that put the Heels up three.
Duke would get one run back in the fifth off Carolina starter Jake Knapp, who had a solid day on the whole. After him came Wil Sandy, who finished off a series victory with three scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and one walk.
This week will see the Tar Heels face some interesting tests, as they host Coastal Carolina in a midweek game before heading out to take on Notre Dame in a weekend series. While neither opponent has gotten off to a dominant start to the season, both have had success on the baseball field in recent years.