UNC Baseball: Diamond Heels salvage game in series vs. Duke

OMAHA, NE - JUNE 21: Head coach Mike Fox
OMAHA, NE - JUNE 21: Head coach Mike Fox /

The Diamond Heels avoid a sweep and hold on to first place in the ACC Coastal Division

The North Carolina Tar Heels baseball team entered the week on a nine-game win streak and in first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

They saw that streak end on Wednesday night at the hands of No. 19 Coastal Carolina on the road, but it didn’t have an impact on their ACC standing. Instead, it dropped the Tar Heels to 33-14 on the season and ended their winning streak.

The bigger focus was on the upcoming weekend series against Duke, where the Tar Heels could have locked up the Coastal Division title as we hit the stretch run.  UNC entered the road weekend series 3.5 games on the Blue Devils and needed a series win to clinch the Coastal.

They end the week losing the series to Duke but were able to salvage a game and the ACC Coastal lead.

Game 1

The Blue Devils jumped out to a 3-0 lead after scoring a run in the second inning and two in the fifth inning. UNC responded with three runs in the sixth inning to tie the game.  Ben Casparius, Ashton McGee and Ike Freeman all had RBI’s in the sixth to help the Heels tie it at three a piece.

The lead didn’t last long.

Duke responded by plating two in the bottom of the seventh inning and two more in the bottom of the eighth inning. The big hit came from Zack Kone who hit a line drive down the left field line off of Josh Hiatt, scoring two runs in the seventh inning.

Game 2

Just like Game 1, the Blue Devils jumped out to the early lead. The Blue Devils scored in the bottom of the first when Kone hit an RBI double to get the scoring started.

UNC did get that run back in the top of the second with a Cody Robert’s RBI single. It was the 32nd RBI on the season for Roberts who has been swinging a hot bat as of late.

Starter Austin Bergner pitched a scoreless bottom of the second to keep the game tied but he ran into trouble in the third. The Blue Devils scored three runs in the bottom of the third and never looked back. They would tack on one more in the sixth and UNC would get one in the ninth but it was the Blue Devils winning 5-2 and clinching the series.

Game 3

After losing the first two games, first place in the ACC Coastal Division was on the line in Sunday’s showdown.

For the third-straight game Duke scored first, getting a run off of UNC starter Tyler Baum in the bottom of the second inning. But unlike the first two, UNC was able to take the lead and hold it.

The Tar Heels scored two runs in the top of the third to take a 2-1 lead. Ike Freeman singled to plate the first run for the Tar Heels and McGee singled to the left side to take the lead.

Baum began to settle down, pitching a scoreless third and fourth and then got some help from his offense.

UNC scored three runs in the fourth and fifth innings to break the game wide open. Singles from Cody Riley and Freeman made up the three-run fourth inning. The big hits came from Brandon Martorano and Dylan Enwiller who both hit RBI doubles in the fifth inning.

The Blue Devils managed to get back into the game with a three-run fifth inning on a home run by Jimmy Herron to cut the lead to 8-4. Herron would hit a two-run home run in the ninth inning and the Blue Devils were able to bring the tying run to the plate.

But the Tar Heels shut down the rally and held on for the win.

UNC leaves the weekend series at 34-16 and a 1.5 game lead in the ACC Coastal Division. They have a three-game weekend series at home left with Virginia Tech while the Blue Devils will travel on the road to Atlanta for a three-game series against Georgia Tech.

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If UNC can win two games, they will lock up the Coastal Division heading into the conference tournament. They are tied with Clemson at 19-8 for the best record in the ACC.