UNC Baseball suffers first series loss of season against No. 24 Virginia Tech

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) /

This weekend’s battle between two Top-25 ranked teams didn’t go in the Diamond Heels favor.

For the second straight weekend, the UNC baseball program was in action against another top-ranked ACC foe. Scott Forbes’ team made the trip to take on No. 24 ranked Virginia Tech in hopes of keeping their hot start to the season going.

Unfortunately, the weekend didn’t go as planned for the Diamond Heels.

The trip to English Field was not ideal, as the Tar Heels lost two of their three contests against the Hokies. Let’s take a look at what went down during the series.

In game one, the Diamond Heels offense got off to a great start. Thanks in part to two Caleb Roberts home runs, the Tar Heels were able to take a 6-1 lead heading into the bottom half of the fifth inning.

From that point on, the Hokies simply took control of the game.

With Austin Love struggling on the mound, Scott Forbes decided to turn the game over to his bullpen. So far this season, the bullpen has been dominant and reliable, but in this one, that simply wasn’t the case.

Virginia Tech put together a seven-run fifth inning to give them the lead for good. In total, the Hokies scored 9 unanswered runs over the final 4 1/2 innings of play.

The aforementioned Love made his third start of the season, but wasn’t nearly as effective as his previous two outings. The redshirt sophomore was charged with three earned runs on six hits in four-plus innings of work. He more Hokies (3) than he struck out (2) during this outing.

The bullpen trio of Shawn Rapp, Nik Pry and Caden O’Brien combined to allow seven runs in just four innings of work. Similar to Love, the bullpen arms weren’t as effective as they have been over the early stretch of the season.

Offensively, five of the Diamond Heels 10 hits came from the combination of Roberts and Brett Centracchio. Roberts recorded his second multi-homer game of the season, while Centracchio went 3-4 on the day with a double.

Looking to get back on track in game two, the Tar Heels and Hokies went back-and-forth through the first few innings of play.

The Diamond Heels got on the board in the top of the first thanks to a Tomas Frick RBI single. The Hokies would tie the game in the bottom of the second, but the tie did not last long, as Justice Thompson hit a solo home run to regain the lead.

After Virginia Tech took a 3-2 lead in the bottom half of the inning, North Carolina responded with an Angel Zarate RBI single to tie the game back up.

Similar to game one, the Hokies were able to capitalize on a big inning to give them a lead they would not relish.

Game two’s big inning wasn’t as drastic as the one from the previous day of action, but the Hokies put together a three-run sixth inning to give them a comfortable lead. A Thompson RBI single in the top of the eighth would cut the lead to 6-4, but that’s the closest the Tar Heels would get in this one.

Thompson and Zarate were two of the three Diamond Heels to pick up multi-hit games. Graduate student Max Troiani was the other, as this was his first multi-hit game of his Tar Heel career.

Max Carlson was the starter for the Tar Heels, and he had his fair share of struggles with his control. Over five innings of work, the freshman allowed 9 Virginia Tech hitters to reach base, six of those came via walks.

In relief, Joey Lancelloti suffered the loss for the Diamond Heels. The junior was responsible for all three runs that scored in the Hokies’ bottom half of the sixth inning.

Trying to avoid the sweep, the Tar Heels offense put together a really strong second inning to get things started.

An RBI single from Clemente Inclan got the Tar Heels on the board, while Zarate quickly followed it up with a two-run RBI single of his own. A Roberts sacrifice-fly gave the Diamond Heels a nice four-run cushion early on.

However, little did they know at the time, the Hokies would quickly top their big inning.

Virginia Tech scored five runs in the bottom half of the inning, chasing starter Max Alba in the process, to give themselves their first (and only) lead of the game.

After the wild second inning, the offenses slowed down a bit. Just two runs scored during the next four innings of play, both of which were in favor of the Tar Heels.

Frick picked up an RBI infield single in the third inning to tie the game, and the score remained the same until a huge home run from Danny Serretti in the sixth inning gave the Diamond Heels the lead once again.

Although his home run was huge, Serretti was not done at the plate. In the following inning, the sophomore shortstop hit an RBI single, the first run of a three-run seventh inning, which eventually gave the Tar Heels a 9-5 lead.

The Hokies would threaten once again, scoring one run in the bottom half of the inning, but it wasn’t enough to catch the Tar Heels in this one.

On the mound, Nick James provided a huge boost for the Tar Heels. After relieving Connor Ollio in the fourth inning, James came into the game and retired seven of the eight batters he faced. Over his 2.1 innings pitched, the freshman did not allow a hit, as the only baserunner he allowed reached via walk.

After James’ stellar performance, fellow freshman Shawn Rapp was called upon to pitch the final three innings for the Tar Heels. The left-hander allowed just one run and was able to hold the lead to help snap the Tar Heels three-game skid.

Although losing the first two games wasn’t ideal, it was important that the Tar Heels were able to avoid the sweep. The Tar Heels also saw contributions from a handful of different players, which is definitely a promising sign, especially early on in the season.

The Diamond Heels (7-3) will return to Chapel Hill for a one-game series against Liberty on Tuesday afternoon. First pitch at Boshamer Stadium is scheduled for 3:00 PM.

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