Castagnozzi, Horvath power No. 15 UNC, Sandy saves series-clinching win over Duke

By R.L. Bynum

CHAPEL HILL — The power of No. 15 Carolina’s defensive versatility was on full display Saturday.

Mac Horvath played his fourth consecutive game in right field, shifting from third base to make way for another power threat, fellow junior and housemate Johnny Castagnozzi, to play at third base.

Both hit home runs to lead UNC (18–6, 4–3 ACC) to a 5–3 victory over Duke (15–9, 4–5) to capture the weekend series 2–1.

Fifth-year left-hander Will Sandy continued his impressive pitching of late, striking out five over three one-hit shutout innings to get the save after a solid outing from junior transfer right-hander Jake Knapp (3–0).

“That’s a character win. That’s a big win for our guys,” UNC coach Scott Forbes said.

Duke pitcher Alex Gow (left) watches Johnny Castagnozzi’s drive go 421 feet for a fourth-inning home run.

Castagnozzi blasted a 421-foot shot to left field, with an exit velocity of 107 mph, with two outs in the fourth inning to tie it. Horvath gave UNC the lead for good with his 13th home run of the season, a three-run shot in the fifth inning, to tie for second in the NCAA with Wake Forest’s Brock Wilken.

“He’s been swinging well,” Horvath said of Castagnozzi. “And we want to have all the guys that are swinging well in the lineup and if that means moving right, I’m totally OK with that. I want all the guys who are hot to be in there.”

After Castagnozzi committed two errors in Friday’s 8–5 loss to Duke, Forbes said he thought a lot about whether he should put him back out there at third base Saturday. Castagnozzi rewarded Forbes for sticking with him.

“I just felt like he’s older. I feel like now he’s more confident; he can recover from mistakes better than when he was younger,” said Forbes, musing that if Carolina is going to win a national championship, it might be with that lineup. “Johnny made me look good because he bounced back and made those plays and hit a big home run.”

Castagnozzi told Forbes that he had to make up for those errors. Forbes told him otherwise, saying the errors were gone, and he had to forget about them and have a short memory. 

Castagnozzi made a couple of nice plays at third Saturday after getting a little advice from Horvath before the game about making the right read on ground balls and staying back in certain situations.

“He has helped me over there a lot because he’s played there the most,” Castagnozzi said. “He’s just helping me with positioning and mindset-type things. And I really appreciate him for doing that because it does help me and makes me feel a little more confident.”

Another byproduct of the defensive shift is that it puts Hunter Stokely’s big bat in the lineup at first base.

“He’s got power, and he’s really good at first,” Forbes said of Stokely, who has four home runs, and is hitting .305 in 59 at-bats this season. “He’s our best defensive first baseman. Johnny’s good, but Stoke is really good, like a Gold Glove-type defender. And I also like his bat.”

For the second straight game, UNC took the early lead. Vance Honeycutt led off the first inning with a double to left and scored on Tomas Frick’s double to center field. Frick is tied for the NCAA doubles lead with Delaware’s Joey Loynd at 14.

Duke seized a 2–1 lead in the third on RBI doubles from Alex Mooney and Andrew Fischer. 

But Knapp locked in from there, retiring eight of the next nine batters. Knapp, who gave up another run in the sixth, allowed up five hits, three runs and no walks with five strikeouts.

“He had been under the weather all week,” Forbes said of Knapp. “We weren’t sure if he was going to be able to pitch. He gave us six innings.”

Sandy took over from there and shut down the Duke lineup.

“I’m a firm believer that good things happen to good people,” Forbes said, adding that Sandy is a Tar Heel “through and through” and always wanted to go to Carolina.

“Things haven’t been glamorous for him from top to bottom,” Forbes said. “But, as a coach, he’s a special kid to be around. And he’s one of our main team leaders. And to see him have that success — and he’s had it in the last week or two weeks — was huge for our team because that gives us another really good lefty. He can strike you out. You’ve got to have that mentally.”

Forbes and all the players mentioned how the crowd of 3,969 was a factor in the victory.

“I’ve never really been out there at the end of the game with the crowd like that, really, cheering you on every pitch,” Sandy said. “I hope the crowd knows how much that helps. I was so jacked up out there with so much confidence.”

Carolina knew that Duke had some big swingers in the lineup and that it was important to pitch inside. Both Knapp and Sandy did a good job of executing that Saturday.

“They’ve got some power in their lineup, so being able to establish that inner half was pretty important. That was the game plan and I think we did that pretty well and that led to a lot of our success.”

NOTES — Carolina faces Coastal Carolina at 6 p.m. Thursday at home (ESPN3) before playing a weekend series at Notre Dame starting at 6 p.m. Friday (ESPN3). The Chanticleers (14–6) won 13–6 at home Saturday over Texas State. The Irish (11–8, 3–4 ACC) play a home doubleheader on Sunday against Louisville and face Butler at home on Tuesday. … Carolina leads the all-time series with Duke 198–106–2. … UNC has 51 home runs and became the third team in the country with at least 50, joining Florida and South Carolina. … It was Carolina’s fourth consecutive series win over Duke and seventh in a row in Chapel Hill.

No. 15 UNC 5, Duke 3

(current rank)
17Friday10–8 LSeton HallHome0–1
18Saturday11–2 WSeton HallHome1–1
19Sunday4–2 WSeton HallHome2–1
21Tuesday14–2 WRadfordHome3–1
22Wed.10–0 WLongwoodHome4–1
24Friday6–5 LNo. 15 East CarolinaGreenville4–2
26Sunday6–5 LNo. 15 East CarolinaHome4–3
28Tuesday10–4 WVCUHome5–3
1Wed.14–10 WVCUHome6–3
3Friday3–2 W
11 innings
Stony BrookHome7–3
4Saturday7–5 WStony BrookHome8–3
5Sunday15–4 WStony BrookHome9–3
7Tuesday8–4 W,
5 innings
Western CarolinaHome10–3
8Wed.15–5 WPenn StateHome11–3
10Friday7–3 LNo. 11 VirginiaHome11–4,
0–1 ACC
11Saturday8–4 LNo. 11 VirginiaHome11–5,
0–2 ACC
11Saturday6–0 WNo. 11 VirginiaHome12–5,
1–2 ACC
14Tuesday16–3 WCharlotteCharlotte13–5
15Wed.16–2 WHigh PointHome14–5
17, 18Friday,
17–7 WPittsburghPittsburgh15–5,
2–2 ACC
21Tuesday6–4 WN.C. A&THome16–5
23Thursday6–3 WDukeHome17–5,
3–2 ACC
24Friday8–5 LDukeHome17–6,
3–3 ACC
25Saturday5–3 WDukeHome18–6,
4–3 ACC
28Tuesday12–7 LNo. 9 Coastal CarolinaHome18–7
31Friday10–8 WNotre DameSouth Bend, Ind.19–7,
5–3 ACC
2Sunday5–2 WNotre DameSouth Bend, Ind.20–7,
6–3 ACC
2Sunday9–1 LNotre DameSouth Bend, Ind20–8,
6–4 ACC
4Tuesday5–0 LSouth CarolinaCharlotte20–9
6Thursday8–1 WGeorgia TechAtlanta21–9,
7–4 ACC
7Friday10–6 WGeorgia TechAtlanta22–9,
8–4 ACC
7Friday8–4 LGeorgia TechAtlanta22–10,
8–5 ACC
11Tuesday10–6 WQueensHome23–10
13Thursday5–4 LNo. 8 MiamiHome23–11,
8–6 ACC
9–8 W,
11 inn.
No. 8 MiamiHome24–11,
9–6 ACC
15Saturday4–3 LNo. 8 MiamiHome24–12,
9–7 ACC
18Tuesday5–3 WCharlotteHome25–12
21Friday9–8 L,
10 inn.
Boston CollegeHome25–13,
9–8 ACC
22Saturday9–4 LBoston CollegeHome25–14,
9–9 ACC
23Sunday6–2 LBoston CollegeHome25–15,
9–10 ACC
25Tuesday18–2 WUNCWHome26–15
28Friday7–0 LVirginia TechBlacksburg, Va.26–16,
9–11 ACC
29Saturday12–8 WVirginia TechBlacksburg, Va.27–16,
10–11 ACC
29Saturday13–7 WVirginia TechBlacksburg, Va.28–16,
11–11 ACC
2Tuesday6–5 LNo. 11 CampbellHome28–17
3Wed.2–1 WNo. 15 East CarolinaGreenville29–17
9Tuesday5–4 WGardner-WebbHome30–17
11Thursday9–8 WN.C. StateHome31–17,
12–11 ACC
12Friday9–3 WN.C. StateHome32–17,
13–11 ACC
13Saturday12–2 WN.C. StateHome33–17,
14–11 ACC
16Tuesday8–6 LNo. 9 Coastal CarolinaConway, S.C.33–18
18Thursday14–7 LNo. 3 ClemsonClemson, S.C.33–19,
14–12 ACC
19Friday5–4 LNo. 3 ClemsonClemson, S.C.33–20,
14–13 ACC
20Saturday3–1 LNo. 3 ClemsonClemson, S.C.33–21,
14–14 ACC
ACC tournament
23Tuesday11–5 WGeorgia TechDurham34–21
25Thursday10–2 WNo. 11 VirginiaDurham35–21
27Saturday10–4 LSemifinal vs.
No. 3 Clemson
JuneNCAA tournament
Terre Haute Regional
2Friday5–4 LIowaTerre Haute, Ind.35–23
3Saturday5–0 WWright StateTerre Haute, Ind.36–23
4Sunday6–5 L,
13 innings
Iowa Terre Haute, Ind.36–24
Rankings according to D1Baseball

Photos courtesy of UNC Athletics Communications


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