UNC Baseball picks up impressive series victory against No. 12 Virginia

CHAPEL HILL, NC - FEBRUARY 19: An Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and NCAA game baseball during a game between High Point and North Carolina at Boshamer Stadium on February 19, 2020 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Andy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
CHAPEL HILL, NC - FEBRUARY 19: An Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and NCAA game baseball during a game between High Point and North Carolina at Boshamer Stadium on February 19, 2020 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Andy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty Images) /

The UNC baseball team picked up a huge series victory over 12-ranked Virginia to begin ACC play.

Heading into the weekend, the UNC baseball program knew they had a major test early on as they began their ACC play. Already 4-0 on the year, Scott Forbes’ team welcomed No. 12-ranked Virginia to Chapel Hill. Facing a team that many view as one of the best in the entire country, the Tar Heels knew they had their work cut out for them.

And boy, were they ready for the challenge.

The Tar Heels picked up their first ACC series victory of the season as they took two of three games against the Cavaliers. Here’s our recap of the three-game set in Chapel Hill.

Very similar to opening day, Austin Love was once again the star of the show for the Tar Heels in game one of the series.

If you recall, Love did not allow a hit in his first outing of the season against James Madison. After six no-hit innings in that contest, the redshirt sophomore looked to continue the trend.

Love was just as dominant against the Cavaliers, as he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning. A Zack Gelof single with one out in the inning ended Love’s streak of 12.1 innings pitched without allowing a hit. Nonetheless, it was a very impressive way to start the new season.

Overall, Love allowed just two runs on three hits through his 7.1 innings of work. In a low-scoring affair, Love’s effectiveness on the mound was huge in helping the Tar Heels take home a 3-2 victory.

Offensively, the Tar Heels did just enough to bring home the win. Sophomore Justice Thompson went 3-for-4 on the day, and accounted for two of the team’s three runs. He got the offense started with an RBI double in the first inning, and capped it off with a solo home run in the sixth inning. Second baseman Johnny Castagnozzi’s solo home run in the fifth inning produced the team’s only other run.

After rain postponed game two from Friday to Saturday, the Tar Heels welcomed fans back in attendance for the first time this season. The fans at Boshamer Stadium saw another low-scoring contest that was once again highlighted by another stellar Tar Heels pitching performance.

Freshman Max Carlson made his second start for the Diamond Heels, and he was once again very effective. The right-hander allowed just one run on four hits over 5.1 innings pitched, while striking out five Cavalier hitters.

Carlson was good, but reliever Nik Pry was simply dominant. The sophomore relieved Carlson in the sixth inning, and finished the game. He allowed just one hit and two total base runners over his career-high 3.2 innings of work.

The Tar Heels’ offense only picked up four hits on the day, but some timely hitting and a showcase of speed helped them capture the lead.

Castagnozzi was once again involved, as his RBI single in the second inning gave the Tar Heels an early lead. Two innings later, Thompson used his speed to his advantage, as he stole home to put the UNC baseball program in the lead for good.

With his steal of home, Thompson became the first Tar Heel to swipe home since Logan Warmoth accomplished the feat back in 2017.

At the time, Thompson’s steal of home gave the Tar Heels a 2-0 lead. Little did they know, that stolen bag would end up giving them a 2-0 series advantage.

Unfortunately, the Tar Heels could not complete the three-game sweep over the Cavaliers.

Overall, the Tar Heels’ offense was limited to just six hits on the day. Both of their runs came in the seventh inning, courtesy of a Brett Centracchio RBI single and a Jake Holtzapple sacrifice fly.

Redshirt freshman Max Alba was credited with the loss on the mound for the Tar Heels. The right-hander allowed three runs on five hits over five innings of work.

To continue an ongoing trend, the Tar Heels bullpen was lights-out. Junior Joey Lancelloti was dominant, as he pitched the final four innings in shutout fashion. Through seven games, Scott Forbes’ bullpen has allowed just one earned run over 22 and 2/3 innings of work.

Although they didn’t complete the sweep, the series victory against the Cavaliers is a major statement for the Diamond Heels. After a great start to the season, the Tar Heels will look to continue their success as the season rolls along.

The Diamond Heels (7-1, 2-1 ACC) will continue conference play next weekend, as they travel to Virginia Tech for a three-game set. First pitch for Friday’s series opener is scheduled for 4:00 PM EST.

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