UNC Baseball: No. 24 Tar Heels sink No.8 East Carolina in 8-1 victory

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) /
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 In a battle for the Carolinas, the No.24 UNC baseball team (13-6, 8-4 ACC) trounced a stout No.8 East Carolina 8-1 (16-4, 0-0 AAC) on Tuesday afternoon.

In an important rivalry week for North Carolina that started with this match-up against East Carolina, the Tar Heels handled a Pirates team that was 16-3 heading into Tuesday.

Sophomore Will Sandy made quick work of ECU with a three-up, three-down inning in the top of the first.

The Tar Heels went to work at the plate as sophomore Justice Thompson walked with one out. Sophomore Caleb Roberts singled on the first pitch to move Thompson to second base. Soon after, North Carolina claimed a 1-0 lead behind a one-out double from sophomore Danny Serretti.

ECU quickly responded with a run of their own in the top of the second inning to tie the game 1-1.

UNC broke the tie in the bottom of the third as Serretti grounded out to get Thompson in, and make the game 2-1 North Carolina’s favor. First-year Tomas Frick doubled with two outs to extend the lead to 3-1.

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In the bottom of the fifth inning, Thompson walked to start the inning for the Tar Heels and soon stole second before Roberts walked to set up another advantageous position for UNC. But North Carolina only pushed one run across to stretch the lead to 4-1. Redshirt-junior Tyler Holtzapple pinch hit in the inning, and drove in another run with a two-out single to extend the lead 5-1 for UNC.

A solo home run off the bat of first-year Johnny Castagnozzi in the bottom of the sixth inning made the lead 6-1 in favor of the Tar Heels. In the bottom of the seventh inning, UNC got another solo home run, this time it was Frick, who pushed the lead to 7-1 for North Carolina.

Another run was added to the large North Carolina lead as the Tar Heels scored again in the bottom of the eighth inning to make it 8-1, which was the eventual final in Boshamer Stadium.

UNC pitching dominated all nine innings behind three pitchers in Sandy, sophomore Nik Pry and first-year Connor Ollio.

Sandy pitched 4.2 innings, allowing six hits, one run and one walk. Pry came in relief and worked a scoreless 3.1 innings, allowing two hits and five strikeouts with no walks. In the top of the ninth inning, Ollio came in and had a three-up, three-down inning.

Head Coach Scott Forbes spoke about the good pitching performances tonight and the need to cut down on what he calls non-competitive at-bats, where it is a 4-0 walk.

"“If you get to 3-2 and a guy fouls off a couple and he happens to win it, okay he happens to win it,” Forbes said. “But we just want to see our guys attacking the strike zone early because then we continue to do that teams are going to swing more, early and give us quick outs.”"

With an important weekend series against North Carolina State next, Coach Forbes said it is important for the team to not rest on their laurels.

"“We know the importance of just being ready to play because they’re going to be good and they’re going to be ready to play at a high level, and it’s still early in the season,” Forbes said. “We were talking about teams can turn around and go on a hot streak just like that, just like they went on a losing streak.”"

North Carolina looks ahead to a weekend series against rival NC State Friday afternoon with first pitch scheduled for 6 p.m.

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