Over the weekend, North Carolina baseball took on NC State in a series that was important for both teams. For one, there’s was, you know, that whole rivalry thing. Beyond just the natural rivalry that exists, the teams have played some battles in recent years.
On the other hand, this was an important series in the NCAA Tournament picture. Going into the weekend, State was one of the last teams in the field of 64 according to D1baseball.com. As recently as a couple weeks ago, the Tar Heels were firmly on the tournament bubble. While recent wins have helped a bit in that regard, UNC didn’t have a ton of leeway to mess around. Things were big.
In the end, Carolina more than rose to the occasion, as they swept away the Wolfpack.
Things did not start out ideally in the opener as State jumped out to a big early lead. However, UNC slowly and surely fought their way back into the game and eventually came away with a walk-off win.
Tar Heels’ starting pitcher Connor Bovair ended up lasting just 0.1 innings, as State jumped on him early to the tune of five runs in the top of the first. Cannon Peebles did the big damage, hitting a three-run homer before a single out had been recorded. UNC fought back with four runs in the third inning, but State would keep on picking up runs here or there, and took a 8-5 lead going into the eighth inning.
In the eighth, Carolina got runs thanks to RBI from Jackson Van De Brake and Vance Honeycutt, but they still trailed by a run going into the ninth inning.
Hunter Stokely led off the bottom of the ninth with a walk, and UNC then moved a pinch-running Reece Holbrook up with a bunt. Scott Forbes then sent up Eric Grintz as a pinch-hitter, and the move paid off massively. Grintz came up huge, hitting a triple that tied things up. That also set the stage for Colby Wilkerson, who promptly did this.
UNC came all the way back for the walk-off win, getting the series off to a perfect start.
Honeycutt led the Heels with three RBI on the day, while Tomas Frick went 4-for-5 for the game.
Friday: North Carolina 9, NC State 3
In the second game of the series, UNC had another good day at the plate starting pitcher Max Carlson put in a nice outing to held the Heels clinch the series win. Carlson allowed two runs in 7.2 innings. Meanwhile, Johnny Castagnozzi drove home three runs and showed off with the glove to give Carolina the win.
UNC scored first in the third and then broke things open with three runs in the fourth inning. Castagnozzi drove home two with a single and then scored himself on a Casey Cook single. Mac Horvath later on added a home run as Carolina picked up another couple runs as UNC opened up a 6-0 lead.
NC State eventually got on the board after that and eventually knocked Carlson out of the game, but it was too little, too late. While the Wolfpack scored three runs in the late inning, UNC answered with three of their own to finish off a win.
UNC wrapped up a big sweep by scoring early and often in Saturday’s series finale.
Carolina pretty much led wire-to-wire as they took a quick lead in the top of the first. RBI from Horvath, Stokely, and Castagnozzi in the first. The offense went on to add a run in the second, and three more in the third and fourth, cracking double digits before the midway point of the game.
On the mound, UNC starter Jake Knapp put in a solid six innings, only allowed runs after the Heels had opened up a big lead. The bullpen followed him with a couple good innings to seal the victory.
All nine players in Carolina’s starting lineup recorded at least one hit, with Cook and Van De Brake picking up three each. Van De Brake in particular was on base four times on the day, as he went 3-for-4 with a walk.
Coming up this week for UNC is a tough couple tests to wrap up the regular season. Tonight, they’re headed down to Coastal Carolina to take on a team that beat them earlier in the season. After that, they’ll take on Clemson, who’ve won 13 of their last 14 games.