Will Sandy earns first UNC career save as Diamond Heels clinch series against Duke
The Diamond Heels (18-6, 4-3) earned a win against No. 15 Duke (15-9, 4-5) after a 5-3 win on Saturday.
The Tar Heels started the evening strong by forcing three quick outs. On the offensive side of the first inning, sophomore outfielder Vance Honeycutt hit a ground ball to the left side of the outfield to second base. Two batters later, junior catcher Tomas Frick hit a pop fly out of the reach of a Duke outfielder to advance to second base and send Honeycutt home. However, UNC quickly got its third out to end the first inning with a 1-0 lead. Duke continued its scoring drought in the second inning and the Tar Heels had the same result. A scoreless second ended with a 1-0 lead for UNC.
Duke started off strong with a quick double in the third inning to get their first hit of the day. A double to deep right by Duke second baseman Alex Mooney sent a runner home to tie the game. One batter later, the Blue Devils hit a double in the same spot to send Mooney home and give them their first lead of the day. The Tar Heels had a hitless inning and ended the third frame 1-2. Duke had a quick offense in the fourth inning, getting three quick outs. The Tar Heels tied the game thanks to a home run to left field by junior infielder Johnny Castagnozzi. This was UNC’s only hit of the inning and the fourth frame ended with both teams tied at two.
Duke got its fourth scoreless inning of the game in the fifth frame when junior pitcher Jake Knapp struck out a Duke hitter to send the Blue Devils to base. Junior shortstop Colby Wilkerson got off to a strong start in UNC’s fifth inning as he distributed the ball to right field. One batter later, Honeycutt singled to left field to send Wilkerson to third. The Tar Heels continued their hitting streak with junior infielder Mac Horvath hitting a leadoff hit to send UNC home with three runners on. A double play and an easy out ended UNC’s inning after taking a 5-2 lead.
The sixth frame was a successful one for the Blue Devils, as a North Carolina throwing error allowed a Duke runner on third to advance home and bring the lead within two. Shortly thereafter, Duke earned its third playoff berth. The Tar Heels were unable to get an offensive lead and the sixth inning ended with North Carolina trailing 5-3. The seventh inning was uneventful for both teams as Duke failed to score and the Tar Heels had a runner on third base.
The top of the eighth inning was a familiar one for Duke, getting two runners on base but nothing to show for it. It was a quick inning for UNC as well and the last started with a 5-3 lead for the Tar Heels. The top of the ninth inning was unsuccessful for Duke and the Tar Heels picked up the win without playing the bottom of the inning.
Who stood out?
Honeycutt picked up the first hits of the series, allowing two hits and two runs. Castagnozzi had two hits, including a home run. Graduate pitcher Will Sandy picked up his first win and allowed just one hit over the final three innings. The Tar Heels became the third program in the country to hit 50 home runs this season, trailing only Florida and South Carolina.
When was it decided?
An explosive fifth inning by the Tar Heels sealed the deal with a three-run drive as Duke was unable to mount a comeback. Knapp’s six-inning stay on the mound proved to be a successful one for the Tar Heels, who allowed just three Duke hits, making it difficult for the Blue Devils to get back into the game over the final three innings.
Why does it matter?
The win clinched the Tar Heels’ series against their Tobacco Road rival and set them up nicely for the remainder of conference play. North Carolina can use that momentum to their advantage heading into a six-game road trip.
When do they play next?
The Diamond Heels return to Boshamer Stadium on Tuesday to take on the Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina at 6 p.m.
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