While it’s been a somber feel around Chapel Hill with the struggles of the Tar Heel basketball , the return of the Tar Heel baseball team to the diamond has definitely sparked some life, as this young team is off to a fantastic start to the season. After an opening week sweep of Middle Tennessee State, the Tar Heels carried that momentum over into another strong start week that included a win over a ranked opponent, before falling in each of the final two games of the weekend. Let’s take a look back at the week that was for the Diamond Heels.
Tuesday: No. 19 North Carolina 7 Elon 1
The star of this game was the man who jumped on the scene early in this 2020 season in catcher Eric Grintz. He finished the afternoon 4-4 at the plate, driving four runs almost single-handley leading this Tar Heel team to victory on the offensive side of things. Right fielder Earl Semper had a nice day at the dish as well, driving in a run on two hits in his three plate appearances. On the mound, Caden O’Brien threw 3.0 strong innings of two hit, one run baseball, striking out seven, before Kyle Mott, the JUCO transfer from Pitt Community College, would come in for 3.0 scoreless innings of one hit ball. Shawn Rapp would pick us his first save of the season, fighting through 2.1 innings to do so.
Wednesday: No. 19 North Carolina 14 High Point 0
The Tar Heels most complete performance of the season, this was a dominant outing all the way around. On the mound, Michael Oh had a successful first start of the year, going 4.0 innings, allowing no runs on four hits and striking out three. A bullpen of Chris Joyner, Nik Pry and Austin Elliott would throw 5.0 scoreless innings to close the game, failing to allow a single hit to Elon in that stretch. Meanwhile, offensively the Tar Heels plated a season-high 14 runs thanks to a big day from second baseman Mikey Madej and pinch hitter Will Stewart. Madej finished the day 3-4 at the plate, driving in two RBIs and digging out two extra base hits. Stewart pinch hit for Eric Grintz in the 5th, hitting a two-run single through the right side of the infield to extend the Tar Heel lead. He would finish the day 2-2 with 3 RBIs, hitting another RBI single in the 6th inning. Aaron Sabato, who has gotten off to a bit of a slow start this season, also had a nice day, going 2-4, hitting his first home run of the season, a two-run shot in the 7th.
Saturday (DH1): No. 19 North Carolina 9 No. 23 Dallas Baptist 0
The Tar Heels dominated the first game of the double-header on Saturday against the ranked mid-major Patriots. The Tar Heels would jump on them early, scoring three first inning runs and never looking back. Aaron Sabato stringed together another nice performance, going 2-3 at the plate, driving in a run and taking two walks, but the star of the day was left fielder Angel Zarate. Zarate went 2-4, driving in 3 RBIs with two RBI singles and also scored on an error by the Patriots while they tried throwing him out at third on a stolen base. The Tar Heels were aided by five errors from the Patriots, as well to help them score three unearned runs. Those runs wouldn’t be needed, though, as Joey Lancelloti was phenomenal on the mound, throwing 7.0 innings of scoreless ball, striking out seven and allowing just four hits.
Saturday (DH2): No. 23 Dallas Baptist 6 No. 19 North Carolina 3
The second game of the double-header wasn’t quite as successful for the Tar Heels as Game 1 was. The Tar Heels jumped on the board first in the game with an RBI single from Angel Zarate in the bottom of the 1st, but a big 4th inning for Dallas Baptist was ultimately the difference. The Tar Heels did get a Will Stewart solo home run off of the bullpen, but that was one of just two hits the Patriots bullpen allowed in the final four innings of the game. The Patriots added two late inning runs in the 7th and 9th that gave them a comfortable lead that they would hang on to, handing the Tar Heels and starting pitcher Will Sandy their first loss of the season.
Sunday: No. 23 Dallas Baptist 3 No. 19 North Carolina 0
The Tar Heels weren’t able to bounce back on Sunday, losing the rubber game of their series against the Patriots. Two early 1st inning runs ended up being enough for Dallas Baptist, as the Tar Heels were able to muster just two hits off of an opposing pitching staff that was simply stellar. The Tar Heels struck out a season-high fourteen times, led by a rough outing from Aaron Sabato, who struck out all four times he stepped to the plate. The lack of offense over shadowed what was a strong outing from the Tar Heel pitching staff, which struck out fourteen Dallas Baptist hitters, headlined by an amazing outing from Austin Love, who went 5.2 innings out of the bullpen, allowing just one earned run on two hits. Connor Ollio, who did not allow an earned run, picked up the loss, his first of the season for the Tar Heels.
*Rankings from Baseball America