By R.L. Bynum
CHAPEL HILL — Junior right-hander Connor Bovair fits in quite nicely as No. 13 Carolina’s No. 2 starter after his first two college seasons didn’t always go smoothly.
He followed two solid outings to start the season with an impressive showing Saturday to get his first win of the season in the Tar Heels’ 7–5 win Saturday over Stony Brook before a sun-splashed crowd at Boshamer Stadium.
Carolina (8–3) has won four straight games and goes for the series sweep of the Seawolves (0–8) at 1 p.m. Sunday (ESPN3)
Throwing 68 of his UNC-high 103 pitches for strikes, Bovair scattered four hits, gave up one run and struck out five against two walks.
UNC coach Scott Forbes chatted with Bovair after the fourth inning to discuss his approach.
“He pulled me aside and said, ‘I don’t want to say you’re holding back, but I know you have more in the tank,’ ” Bovair said of that talk with Forbes. “Kind of talked to me about not pacing myself. I think that registered to me. Not looking forward, not trying to get into the seventh or eighth.”
Pitching coach Bryant Gaines told him after the fifth inning that he had one batter left and if he wanted a second, he had to earn it.
“I think that was big for me, just letting me attack that hitter to earn that where, throughout the first four innings, I was trying to pace myself,” said Bovair, who pitched to four batters, getting all three outs, including a strikeout.
The former freshman of the year in the MAAC at Siena, his ERA is down to 1.76 this season. He was 5–4 with a 5.50 ERA in nine starts last season at UNC, when he worked out of the bullpen for the last month. That came after he went 4–5 with a 5.34 ERA as Siena’s No. 1 starter as a freshman.
The turnaround from those first two seasons is all about confidence, as he is consistently beating hitters with his fastball and slider.
“I think the biggest part of that is dealing with the struggle, dealing with the adversity,” said Bovair, who admits there were rough spots his first two seasons. “There are some ups and there are downs and I think that’s just helped me go into this year. This fall and spring just understanding that adversity was gonna hit and just the best way to deal with that.”
With his pitching arsenal similar to No. 1 starter Max Carlson, Bovair says that talking to Carlson after his starts is helping him develop a strategy against the team they are playing that weekend.
“I can kind of see what worked for him that night and what they sat on, what they took good swings at and kind of base my outing off that,” Bovair said.
Junior third baseman Mac Horvath, who hit the game-ending 11th-inning home run to win the series opener, gave UNC a quick lead with a one-out homer to left field in the first inning. In the third, after Horvath got hit by a pitch, second baseman Jackson Van De Brake laced a single to left-center and DH Alberto Osuna drove in both with a single to left field.
Bovair worked out of a two-on, no out jam in the fourth after giving up a walk and single to start the inning. He got out of it, allowing a sacrifice fly to Johnny Pilla.
“I thought he got better at the end,” Forbes said. “Best innings at the end, and his stuff got better. Getting better as you go, that’s the mark of a starting pitcher.”
Juniors Patrick Alvarez and Hunter Stokely each hit their first home runs of the season. Alvarez, UNC’s left fielder, followed freshman right fielder Casey Cook’s leadoff double in the fourth inning with his third of his homer career. Stokely, Carolina’s first baseman, hammered a drive down the right-field line to lead off the fifth inning.
Stokely and Osuna each had two of UNC’s eight hits.
“I didn’t think we played well,” Forbes said. “We played well enough to win the game. I was disappointed with our at-bats. After Stokely hit that home run, I thought our bats were awful. Just talked to our guys about it, and we’ll be better there. Sometimes that can happen in baseball, you can get a little stagnant offensively, but I’ve never seen a bad win early in the season. “
Bovair’s relief, redshirt freshman right-hander Justin Szestowicki, gave up three hits, including Evan Giordano’s two-run homer, in ⅔ of an inning. Freshman right-hander Cameron Padgett got out of the inning and gave up one hit with one strikeout in 1⅓ innings. Freshman Matthew Matthijs got the final three outs, but not before giving up a hit and two runs, one unearned.
NOTES — Carolina goes for the three-game sweep at 1 p.m. Sunday (ESPN3), starting right-hander Jake Knapp (1–0, 2.70 ERA). … UNC has won all 11 meetings with Stony Brook, sweeping three game home series in 2007, 2011 and 2013. … Bovair’s career-high pitch total was 111 as a freshman for Siena against St. Peter’s. … Horvath committed two errors, one fielding and one throwing, to give him four through 11 games.
No. 13 UNC 7, Stony Brook 5
|17||Friday||10–8 L||Seton Hall||Home||0–1|
|18||Saturday||11–2 W||Seton Hall||Home||1–1|
|19||Sunday||4–2 W||Seton Hall||Home||2–1|
|24||Friday||6–5 L||No. 8 East Carolina||Greenville||4–2|
|26||Sunday||6–5 L||No. 8 East Carolina||Home||4–3|
|4||Saturday||7–5 W||Stony Brook||Home||8–3|
|5||Sunday||15–4 W||Stony Brook||Home||9–3|
|8||Wed.||15–5 W||Penn State||Home||11–3|
|10||Friday||7–3 L||No. 5 Virginia||Home||11–4,|
|11||Saturday||8–4 L||No. 5 Virginia||Home||11–5,|
|11||Saturday||6–0 W||No. 5 Virginia||Home||12–5,|
|15||Wed.||16–2 W||High Point||Home||14–5|
|17–7 W||Pittsburgh||Pittsburgh||15–5, |
|21||Tuesday||6–4 W||N.C. A&T||Home||16–5|
|23||Thursday||6–3 W||Duke||Home||17–5, |
|24||Friday||8–5 L||Duke||Home||17–6, |
|25||Saturday||5–3 W||Duke||Home||18–6, |
|28||Tuesday||4 p.m.||No. 19 Coastal Carolina||Home||None|
|31||Friday||6 p.m.||Notre Dame||South Bend, Ind.||ESPN3|
|1||Saturday||3 p.m.||Notre Dame||South Bend, Ind.||ESPN3|
|2||Sunday||1 p.m.||Notre Dame||South Bend, Ind.||ESPN3|
|4||Tuesday||7 p.m.||No. 9 South Carolina||Charlotte||ESPN3|
|6||Thursday||6 p.m.||Georgia Tech||Atlanta||SECN+|
|7||Friday||6 p.m.||Georgia Tech||Atlanta||ESPN3|
|8||Saturday||1 p.m.||Georgia Tech||Atlanta||ACCN|
|13||Thursday||7 p.m.||No. 23 Miami||Home||ACCN|
|14||Friday||6 p.m.||No. 23 Miami||Home||ESPNU|
|15||Saturday||2 p.m.||No. 23 Miami||Home||ESPN3|
|21||Friday||6 p.m.||No. 14 Boston College||Home||ESPN3|
|22||Saturday||2 p.m.||No. 14 Boston College||Home||ESPN3|
|23||Sunday||1 p.m.||No. 14 Boston College||Home||ESPN3|
|28||Friday||7 p.m.||Virginia Tech||Blacksburg, Va.||ESPN3|
|29||Saturday||7 p.m.||Virginia Tech||Blacksburg, Va.||ACCN|
|30||Sunday||1 p.m.||Virginia Tech||Blacksburg, Va.||ESPN3|
|3||Wednesday||5 p.m.||No. 8 East Carolina||Greenville||ESPN+|
|11||Thursday||7 p.m.||N.C. State||Home||ESPN3|
|12||Friday||6 p.m.||N.C. State||Home||ACCN|
|13||Saturday||2 p.m.||N.C. State||Home||ESPN3|
|16||Tuesday||7 p.m.||Coastal Carolina||Conway, S.C.||ESPN3|
|18||Thursday||6 p.m.||Clemson||Clemson, S.C.||ESPN3|
|19||Friday||6 p.m.||Clemson||Clemson, S.C.||ESPN3|
|20||Saturday||1 p.m.||Clemson||Clemson, S.C.||ACCN|
|TBA||NCAA Super Regionals||TBA|
|TBA||College World Series||Omaha, Neb.|
Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics Communications