Following a rough series on the road for the Tar Heels last weekend in Blacksburg, this week provided the team a chance to bounce back with four games at home. After a rough start to the week with a mid-week loss, the team bounced back with a weekend sweep to get people feeling confident in the long term outlook of this team going forward in an extremely loaded ACC this season. Here is an in-depth look at the week that was for the Tar Heels on the diamond.
Tuesday: Liberty 8 No. 18 North Carolina 7
After losing the past weekend’s series to Virginia Tech, this felt like the perfect type of game to get back on track in, but that wasn’t quite the case. It was yet another rough outing for the Tar Heel starter, as Will Sandy lasted just 1 ⅓ innings, allowing three runs on four hits before being removed. Even with his struggles, the Tar Heels were able to keep the game in reach through three innings before a big 4th inning from the Flames would give them a lead that the Tar Heels were unable to overcome. Nik Pry had his second consecutive rough outing, allowing three runs of his own on two hits, all in the fourth inning before Davis Palermo would enter the game and attempt to get the team out of the inning, something he was able to do, but not before allowing another run, stretching the lead to four. Clemente Inclan would narrow the lead to three in the bottom of the inning and Angel Zarate would narrow the lead even more with an RBI single in the bottom of the 6th. The Flames would add what would be the winning run in the top of the 7th with an RBI double off of Caleb Cozart. The Tar Heels would cut the lead back to one with a two run-single in the bottom of the inning, but were just never able to get that tying run across the plate in the final two innings, handing them a tough out-of-conference loss, despite having a strong night at the plate.
Friday: No. 18 North Carolina 8 Clemson 3
The Tar Heels were able to recover nicely on Friday thanks to some huge performances at the plate. Both Danny Serretti and Brett Centracchio drove in three runs with their four plate appearances in this one, while Clemente Inclan added two RBIs of his own in his second straight start at third base for the team. The Tigers actually jumped out to a 2-0 lead with a homer in the first off of Austin Love, but he would settle things down after that, only allowing one more run in his 7 ⅔ innings pitched. The Tar Heels’ offensive success was a big reason why Love was able to go so deep into the game, as they scored six runs combined in the 2nd and 3rd, giving him a comfortable cushion for the rest of the day. His strong outing allowed the bullpen to get a much needed day of rest after they were taxed in last weekend’s series and in Tuesday’s game as well.
Saturday: No. 18 North Carolina 5 Clemson 4
Saturday’s game started very similarly to Friday’s game, as Clemson jumped to an early 1-0 in the top of the 2nd before the Tar Heels would roar back in the bottom of the 4th to take a 5-1 lead thanks to three home runs in the inning, including a three-run bomb from Clemente Inclan. Unlike Love the day before, starter Max Carlson wasn’t able to settle himself down, as he would get roughed up in the top of the 5th inning, being on the hook for three runs to Tigers, all of which crossed the plate on walks. Joey Lancelloti would end up getting the team out of the jam and going 3.0 innings before turning it over to Caden O’Brien who would shut the door on the Tigers to clinch the series win. The long ball and the veteran bullpen proved to be the difference in a game where the Tar Heels just weren’t able to find the control on the mound.
Sunday: No. 18 North Carolina 5 Clemson 3
Sunday was no different than the first two games of this series, with the bulk of the scoring happening early in this one. Clemson would jump out to the early 2-0 lead thanks to two run homer in the top of the 1st, but the Tar Heels would have a big inning of their own in the bottom of the 1st scoring all five of their runs in the game in the inning. Clemente Inclan would once again produce the biggest play of the inning, crushing a two run shot to right field, continuing what was simply an outstanding weekend for himself. Clemson would add a late run in the 8th, but that was it, as the Tar Heels were able to complete a huge series sweep of the Tigers. Max Alba bounced back from the early trouble to go 7 ⅔ innings, allowing just three runs on two hits and striking out nine, a great bounce back after a brutal outing in his previous start against Virginia Tech. Caden O’Brien picked up the save for the second consecutive day, putting a bow on a strong weekend for him.
-Clemente Inclan had an amazing week at third base and has seemed to settle down a position that was really having some struggles at the plate. Inclan finished the week 4-10 at the plate with four home runs and eight runs driven in. He hit a home run in each of the four games this week after entering the week with zero career home runs. While it’s tough to read too much into this great week for Inclan, the Tar Heels have to at least give the veteran a chance at third going forward after the struggles that Mac Horvath has had there.
-Caden O’Brien was another player who had a big week for the Tar Heels. In his three appearances this week, O’Brien went 5 ⅓ innings, not allowing a single run while posting a 8-0 strikeout-to-walk ratio on his way to two saves. The fourth year sophomore has settled nicely into his role out of the bullpen and looks like he has done enough to lock down the all important closer job going forward.
-This was a huge sweep for the Tar Heels considering what they have lurking next week. It starts on Tuesday with a trip to Lychburg, VA, where they will try to avenge this week’s loss to Liberty before they travel up to Chestnut Hill for a meeting with a Boston College team that will look to recollect themselves after a rough weekend in Louisville where they were swept. Any series win in the ACC this year is big, so this series sweep of the Tigers is massive.