CHAPEL HILL, NC — No. 10 overall seed North Carolina got ahead early to beat No. 2 regional seed Georgia, 6-5, and eliminate the Bulldogs from the postseason.
UNC fell behind first in each of its first two games of the weekend, surrendering leads to Hofstra and Virginia Commonwealth. In the top of the second, Johnny Castagnozzi roped a sharp line drive off the third baseman’s glove to score Alberto Osuna and put the Tar Heels on top.
Mikey Madej piled on with a two-RBI single in the top of the third and very quickly UNC was leading, 4-0. The senior left fielder finished the day with 3 RBI, which ties his season-high. He is on a 12-game hitting streak – 20-for-48 during the streak – with none more important than his performance against Georgia to stave off elimination.
Things got interesting in the ninth when Georgia hit a two-run home run that was changed after review to a ground-rule double. Following a ground out, Chaney Rogers hits a three-run home run to left center field to make it a one-run ball game. Vance Honeycutt robbed the would-be game-tying home run to add to his impressive highlight reel for the season.
Caden O’Brien, who pitched in Omaha in 2018, earned the one-out save on a strikeout looking to send his team forward.
The Bulldogs, after lighting up Hofstra for 24 runs on Saturday, fell short due to missed opportunities. They left 12 runners on base and were 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
Nik Pry earned his third win of the season (3-0) after throwing 2.1 innings, his longest appearance of the 2022 postseason. He allowed one unearned run on four hits while facing a game-high 13 batters.
A Different Tune
The secondary story of the game Saturday night was UNC’s failure to capitalize. That wasn’t the case on Sunday afternoon.
Going 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position last night, the Tar Heels started 2-for-3 in this game to plate three runs early. Mikey Madej had a 2-RBI single first pitch swinging to make it 3-0. And then with runners on the corners, one out, Madej sliced a ball to shortstop to score Honeycutt and reach on the infield single to make it 3-for-6 with RISP.
UNC finished the game 3-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
With a potential double-header on-tap, acting head coach Bryant Gaines used the full arsenal of the bullpen. Five pitchers made an appearance with only one going longer than three innings.
Will Sandy: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 3 BB, 9 batters
Shawn Rapp: 0.1 IP, 0 H, 1 beat
Nik Pry: 2.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R (unearned), 2 K, 1 BB, 13 batters
Gage Gillian: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1K, 6 batters
Davis Palermo: 2.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K, 10 batters
Connor Bovair: 0.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 4 batters
Caden O’Brien: 0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 K, 1 beat
AIR HONEYCUTT ?????? pic.twitter.com/N7v8VMzMxP
— Carolina Baseball (@DiamondHeels) June 5, 2022
With the win, UNC advances to Game 6 of the regional and must defeat VCU twice to advance to the regional. The first contest is on Sunday at 6 pm (ACC Network), with the potential decider on Monday at 6 pm
Since 1999, this is the 10th time the Tar Heels have battled through the losers’ bracket in a regional. They have never made it through to a super regional out of the bottom bracket.