Freshman Padgett impressive in relief as No. 12 UNC rebounds with another big offensive game

By R.L. Bynum

CHAPEL HILL — The offense kept coming for No. 12 North Carolina, and freshman right-hander Cameron Padgett gave the Tar Heels the pitching performance they were missing in their opening-game loss.

Padgett threw 4⅓ shutout innings in relief, giving up only two hits with three strikeouts, as UNC (1–1) rebounded with an impressive 11–2 win Saturday over Seton Hall at Boshamer Stadium to even the season-opening series.

One day after a 12-hit game, the Pirates (1–1) could only scratch out four hits.

Padgett has always been a Carolina fan and was thrilled to get a call while he still was at East Rowan High School from UNC coach Scott Forbes.

“This is always the dream for me,” said the 6–3, 175-pound Padgett. “So when I finally got that call from Forbes that they wanted me, it was no hesitation. I knew I wanted to be here and I love it.”

Judging from his performance Saturday, the fans will love him back. He mixed a fastball, slider and changeup and took an aggressive approach after junior catcher Tomas Frick said that the pitchers in the opening-game loss may have had first-game jitters.

“Everyone has it but we’ll be fine,” said Frick, who was 2 for 4 and drove in three runs. “People still attacked. We just nibbled too much. I feel like we could have gone after them more like Cam did today.”

Padgett (1–0) made the big pitches when he needed them. In the fifth inning, with runners at the corners and one out, he elicited an inning-ending double play. He admitted that it was a relief to escape that jam.

“I’ve got seven guys behind me and one guy in front of me that I can trust at any time that if somebody puts the ball in play that they can make it,” Padgett said. “I’m not the kind of guy that’s going to go up there and feel like I have to wear you out or sit you down on a bunch of heaters or off-speed. So I’m very confident in the guys that I have behind me.”

Frick said Padgett showed a lot of poise during one at-bat in a situation where many young pitchers would have gotten rattled.

“He left a fastball up and in,” Frick said. “The kid smoked it down the line, foul ball. I looked at him and he was like, ‘give me the ball; let’s go.’ And that’s always a huge sign. He just has that confidence, and he got the guy out on the next pitch.”

From experience, Forbes knows you can never predict what a freshman will do on the mound, particularly in his debut. But Padgett gave UNC just what it needed to rebound from Friday’s defeat.

“We knew Cam was gonna pound the zone,” Forbes said. “He’s a tough kid, throws a lot of strikes, but you don’t know for sure when he’s a true freshman. But he’s improved a lot since he’s been here. He can go short, because he’s so athletic, he’s got a good pickoff move. He could go long [in relief] or he could start, so we feel like he’s gonna be really valuable for us.”

Most pitchers probably want to be starters but Padgett isn’t worried about how Carolina uses him.

“I was always the kind of guy, just let me know when you give me the ball, and I’m gonna do my best and get it done,” Padgett said. “So, I don’t really care about labels. Whenever they want you to go out there and do it, I’m gonna do my best.”

Carolina got its second consecutive shaky outing from a starting pitcher. Left-hander Will Sandy only gave up one hit and two runs. But he walked five with no strikeouts, throwing 62 pitches in 3⅔ innings. Padgett took over from there, and retired 10 of the last 11 batters he faced.

“Sandy was just feeling for it a little bit,” Forbes said. “Put a little bit of pressure on himself. He had a great preseason, but he still buckled down. Even though he didn’t have his command or stuff, he still gave us a chance.”

The offense was spread around, with junior designated hitter Eric Grintz (2 for 5 with three RBI), redshirt freshman Casey Cook (3 for 5 with two RBI), junior first baseman Hunter Stokely (two RBI) and sophomore center fielder Vance Honeycutt (2 for 3 with three walks and two steals) all contributing to the 10-hit attack.

Carolina spotted Seton Hall an early 2–0 lead, then took control with three runs in the third inning and four in the fourth inning. But getting down early tested the Tar Heels after losing 10–8 in Friday’s opener.

“Our guys just kept playing, and that’s what you have to do,” Forbes said. “You can’t play tight, and Frick let the air out a little bit with that double, and after those two [Seton Hall runs], we put up all zeros and Cam Padgett was the story of the game on the mound.”


That Frick double went to left-center to score three runs in the fourth inning after Grintz’s RBI single to right. In the third, UNC got an RBI single to right field from Stokely and a two-run single from Cook.

Stokely drove in another run in the fifth on a bases-loaded, two-out walk. Grintz’s two-run double in the seventh and Honeycutt’s RBI single in the eighth gave UNC the final margin of victory.

Junior right-hander Matt Poston struck out two in a scoreless ninth inning, yielding one hit.

NOTES — Junior right-hander Connor Bovair (5–4, 5.50 ERA) starts for UNC 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, is out for 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. … Forbes thanked the fans that came out on another chilly day as the game drew 3,049 fans.

No. 12 UNC 11, Seton Hall 2

(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. 8 East CarolinaGreenville4–2
26Sunday6–5 LNo. 8 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. 5 VirginiaHome11–4,
0–1 ACC
11Saturday8–4 LNo. 5 VirginiaHome11–5,
0–2 ACC
11Saturday6–0 WNo. 5 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
28Tuesday4 p.m.No. 19 Coastal CarolinaHomeNone
31Friday6 p.m.Notre DameSouth Bend, Ind.ESPN3
1Saturday3 p.m.Notre DameSouth Bend, Ind.ESPN3
2Sunday1 p.m.Notre DameSouth Bend, Ind.ESPN3
4Tuesday7 p.m.No. 9 South CarolinaCharlotteESPN3
6Thursday6 p.m.Georgia TechAtlantaSECN+
7Friday6 p.m.Georgia TechAtlantaESPN3
8Saturday1 p.m.Georgia TechAtlantaACCN
11Tuesday6 p.m.QueensHomeESPN3
13Thursday7 p.m.No. 23 MiamiHomeACCN
14Friday6 p.m.No. 23 MiamiHomeESPNU
15Saturday2 p.m.No. 23 MiamiHomeESPN3
18Tuesday6 p.m.CharlotteHomeESPN3
21Friday6 p.m.No. 14 Boston CollegeHomeESPN3
22Saturday2 p.m.No. 14 Boston CollegeHomeESPN3
23Sunday1 p.m.No. 14 Boston CollegeHomeESPN3
25Tuesday6 p.m.UNCWHomeESPN3
28Friday7 p.m.Virginia TechBlacksburg, Va.ESPN3
29Saturday7 p.m.Virginia TechBlacksburg, Va.ACCN
30Sunday1 p.m.Virginia TechBlacksburg, Va.ESPN3
2Tuesday6 p.m.CampbellHomeESPN3
3Wednesday5 p.m.No. 8 East CarolinaGreenvilleESPN+
9Tuesday6 p.m.Gardner-WebbHomeESPN3
11Thursday7 p.m.N.C. StateHomeESPN3
12Friday6 p.m.N.C. StateHomeACCN
13Saturday2 p.m.N.C. StateHomeESPN3
16Tuesday7 p.m.Coastal CarolinaConway, S.C.ESPN3
18Thursday6 p.m.ClemsonClemson, S.C.ESPN3
19Friday6 p.m.ClemsonClemson, S.C.ESPN3
20Saturday1 p.m.ClemsonClemson, S.C.ACCN
23–28 Tuesday–
TBAACC ChampionshipDurhamESPN3
TBANCAA Super RegionalsTBA
TBACollege World SeriesOmaha, Neb.
Rankings according to D1Baseball.

Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics Communications


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