Heel Tough Blog: Tar Heels Come Back to Earth, But Survive Sweep
For the first time this season, the Diamond Heels headed on the road, as they headed to Blacksburg to take on the Virginia Tech Hokies in a conference matchup this weekend. The Tar Heels were hoping to bounce back from a loss in the final game of the previous weekend against the Hokies’ rivals, the Virginia Cavaliers. After a slow start to the weekend, the Tar Heels would bounce back in the final game of the weekend to save themselves from a series sweep.
Friday: Virginia Tech 10 No. 18 North Carolina 6
This was easily the most disappointing game of the season for the Tar Heels to this point in the season, as the Tar Heels held at 6-1 lead after the top of the 5th, before melting down and allowing nine of the Hokies ten runs to them in the next two innings. Austin Love was rough up a bit, allowing three runs on six hits, but things really fell apart when the team went to the bullpen. Shawn Rapp would fail to record a single out while allowing two runs on two hits, before Nik Pry would throw his worst outing of the year, getting the Tar Heels out of the bottom of the 5th, but not before relinquishing the lead to the Hokies, one that was just too much to overcome. The Tar Heels totaled ten hits on the night, including two by Caleb Roberts that helped drive in four runs, but it doesn’t wasn’t enough in this one.
Saturday: Virginia Tech 6 No. 18 North Carolina 4
This was a back-and-forth affair that the Hokies got the best of in on Saturday, the Tar Heels would start the game with an RBI single from Tomas Frick to take the 1-0 lead in the top of the 1st, but Virginia Tech would in the bottom of the second to tie the game at one. After the Tar Heels would regain the lead with a Justice Thompson solo home run in the top of the 3rd, the Hokies would take their first lead of the game in the bottom of the inning with a two-run double off of Max Carlson. Angel Zarate would tie the game right back up in the top of the 4th with an RBI single to centerfield, allowing Carlson to exit the game after five in a tied game. The Hokies would regain the lead in the bottom of the 6th, though, scoring three runs off of veteran reliever Joey Lancelloti, putting the Tar Heels down 6-3, an advantage that proved too much for the Tar Heels to overcome despite an RBI single from Justice Thompson in the 8th. With the loss, the Tar Heels suffered their first back-to-back losses of the season and dropped below .500 in ACC play.
Sunday: No. 18 North Carolina 9 Virginia Tech 6
Although it is still early in the season, this felt like a huge win for the Tar Heels. The Tar Heels would race out to a 4-0 lead in the top of the 2nd inning with runs driven in by Angel Zarate, Caleb Roberts and Clemente Inclan, who was starting his first game of the season. In the bottom of the inning, the Hokies would chase starter Max Alba, though, after just 1 ⅓ innings and two runs, but the Hokies would also rough up Connor Ollio out of the bullpen to grab a 5-4 lead after the 2nd. The Tar Heels would tie the game back up in the top 3rd with a Tomas Frick single and would take the lead back in the 6th with a Danny Serretti bomb. In the top of the 7th, the Tar Heels would extend that advantage to four runs with RBI’s from Serretti, Zarate and Tyler Causey, giving Shawn Rapp plenty of room to shut the door for the Tar Heel win. Nick James picked up the win for the Tar Heels after pitching 2 ⅓, not yielding a hit or a run, the only Tar Heel pitcher that took the mound this weekend that did not allow a single run.
-The hot pitching definitely cooled off a bit, but it’s not time to be concerned just yet. The depth of this staff remains strong and while they didn’t have the greatest starts, both Austin Love and Max Carlson are still off to nice starts to the season. It’s not time to hit that panic button. Yet.
-Justice Thompson cooled off a little bit this weekend, as he was just 3-13 this weekend, but he still had a big game on Saturday, driving in two runs. It may have been a slower week for this breakout star, but it doesn’t diminish the fact that he is off to a tremendous start to the season.
-Angel Zarate continues an extremely impressive streak, as he has now reached base in 30 consecutive games following Sunday’s game against the Hokies. While Thompson has stolen most of the headlines early on this season, Zarate’s consistency has been a big part of this team’s offensive success over the past two years.