Seton Hall stuns No. 12 UNC in opener on tough day for deep, unproven pitching staff

By R.L. Bynum

CHAPEL HILL — No. 12 Carolina has its deepest pitching in several years but a huge offensive day wasn’t enough to overcome the staff’s tough start.

Junior third baseman Mac Horvath’s hitting kept the Tar Heels in the game, but Seton Hall stunned them 10–8 Friday at Boshamer Stadium on a chilly Opening Day.

The Pirates went 18–35 last season after Carolina swept them in the opening series a year ago, but banged out 10 hits, most of them timely on Friday. First baseman Pat D’Amico went 2 for 4 with a home run and four RBI.

Third-year UNC coach Scott Forbes said that pressure and anxiety come with a high preseason ranking and that his team must learn to handle that.

“This might be good for us at the end of the day to lose the first game,” Forbes said. “As I’ve been telling them, if you don’t pitch and you’re not fundamentally sound, any team in college baseball will beat you.”

Horvath went 3 for 4 with a home run and three RBI. He was on deck and one single away from the cycle when sophomore center fielder Vance Honeycutt struck out to end the game.

“We did some good things today; did some things that we need to clean up, and we will,” Horvath said (left in top photo), who had nine total bases. “Long season; we’re just gonna keep getting better.”

The Tar Heels were 0 for 3 with the bases loaded, left 11 runners on base and got outhit 12–7.

“It’s the first game of the season,” Forbes said. “We’ve got 55 more regular-season games. I thought we hit a ton of balls right on the nose, and we just couldn’t find that hole.”

Carolina got good relief pitching in 1⅓ innings each from redshirt freshman right-hander Justin Szestowicki (one strikeout, no hits) and junior right-hander Ben Peterson (two strikeouts and one hit). Forbes said both were outstanding.

While Forbes knew that his pitching staff would be deep, he says it’s still unproven. Added to that, putting junior right-hander Connor Bovair in the rotation takes away one of his best returning relievers from last season, leaving Nik Pry as the top returner in the bullpen.

“We knew we’d have to figure this out as we go,” Forbes said.

There are plenty of highly touted newcomers to the pitching staff, but Penn graduate transfer Kevin Eaise and freshman Matthew Matthijs, both right-handers, had tough debuts. Each only got one out in the eighth inning — with Eaise yielding three hits and three runs — before Ben Peterson got out of the inning with a strikeout and finished the game.

“I really thought Eaise was the only guy that was a little bit tentative. I thought everybody else threw pretty well,” Forbes said.

UNC right-handed starter Max Carlson came out after striking out five and giving up three hits and three runs in 4⅓ innings. His 80-pitch day began with a 10-pitch walk to Seton Hall’s Will Gale. That led to a quick run after he stole second and third and scored on D’Amico’s one-out single up the middle.

“I still thought he looked better today than he did at this point last season,” Forbes said of Carlson. “But we need him to be more efficient and not be at that many pitches in that short amount of time for sure.”

Seton Hall made it 3–0 on Zack Sylvester’s deep, two-out home run to left field in the fourth with the wind howling in that direction. The Tar Heels broke through for two runs in the fourth. Hunter Stokely and Tomas Frick led off with walks. Stokely scored on freshman right fielder Casey Cook’s groundout, and Frick scored with two outs when Sylvester, the Pirates’ second baseman, booted Max Reimer’s grounder.

Seton Hall quickly got to Pry, who relieved Carlson in the fifth with a man on and one out. After striking out his first batter, Pry walked Devin Hack and gave up a three-run homer to left field to D’Amico.

Horvath, who hit 18 homers last season, lofted a shot over the right-center field wall to lead off the fifth. The next hitter, Eric Grintz, got hit by a pitch and scored when Cook hit into a double play.

The Pirates chased Pry after 1⅓ innings on Jonathan Luders’ RBI single with two outs in the sixth.

Horvath’s two-run double to center highlighted a four-run UNC sixth as the Heels took their first lead, 8–7, with Cook drawing a bases-loaded walk and freshman Austin Hawke adding a sacrifice fly.

“I felt good, just doing what I can to help the team win,” Horvath said. “Didn’t get it done today. Flush it, and we’ll do it tomorrow.”

Eaise came on in the eighth inning and gave up three consecutive singles to start the inning. All three Pirates scored, including Mark McNelly, who reached when Eaise had trouble with a bunt.

“I thought there were some little things we didn’t do well, like Eaise’s got to pick up that bunt and make a play and that could change the whole inning,” Forbes said.

NOTES — Senior left-hander Will Sandy (1–0, 2.59 ERA last season) will start the 2 p.m. Saturday game with Bovair (5–4, 5.50 ERA) going in Sunday’s 1 p.m. series finale. … Junior infielder Johnny Castagnozzi (.257, 10 homers, 33 RBI) will miss the opening two weeks of the season with an injury. Junior infielder/DH Alberto Osuna (.265, 20 homers, 57 RBI), a right-handed hitter, will miss the opening series after breaking a hamate bone in his left hand. … This will be the first season-opening series that UNC hasn’t swept in five seasons. … A banner listing Carolina’s College World Series covers the old scoreboard in left field. A new scoreboard is expected by midseason and the videoboard will serve that purpose until then. … The game drew 2,582 hardy fans. … Horvath produced the third consecutive Opening Day nine-total-bases game for UNC after Caleb Roberts in 2021 and Honeycutt in 2022.

Seton Hall 10, No. 12 UNC 8

(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

Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics Communications


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