Horvath, shutdown pitching in final 7 innings, power No. 15 UNC by Duke after early deficit

By R.L. Bynum

CHAPEL HILL — Carolina has such an explosive offense that the Tar Heels don’t have to worry much when they fall behind early.

They again showed why Thursday, erasing an early three-run deficit before surging to a 6–3 win over Duke in the opener of a three-game weekend series at Boshamer Stadium for their sixth consecutive victory.

“I preach to our guys that we’re not scoreboard watching; that’s a recipe for disaster in my opinion,” UNC coach Scott Forbes said. “We’re the type of team that can come back. …  We have a potent offense and everybody in the lineup can hit a home run. And when that’s the case, a three-run lead is almost like a one-run lead.”

It helps to have clutch hitting, led by a three-run homer from junior Mac Horvath, and shutdown pitching.

Junior right-handed starter Max Carlson (1–1) fell behind 3–0 but did a marvelous job battling back and working out of jams over five innings. 

Fifth-year right-hander Kevin Eaise pitched three scoreless relief innings and junior right-hander Matt Poston held the Blue Devils (14–8, 3–4 ACC) hitless in the ninth for his second save in three days to secure the win for UNC (17–5, 3–2).

“He didn’t have his best stuff,” Forbes said of Carlson, who he called him the story of the game. “Him bridging the gap for us was really big. It allowed us to get those next two guys who have been throwing so well for us and a big swing of the bat obviously by Mac Horvath.”

After Alex Stone’s two-run homer in the first inning and Devin Obee’s RBI double in the second, Duke got the leadoff man on in the third, fourth and fifth, but only two more hits off and no more runs off Carlson.

Forbes said that Carlson “competed his tail off” and getting five innings from him was huge after he went only 2⅔ innings at Pittsburgh on Friday. Of course, it helped that he didn’t pitch with a fever as he did in the loss to Virginia or after recovering from an ear infection as was the case at Pittsburgh.

Max Carlson battled well for five innings Thursday to earn his first victory of the season.

“If we had to take him out again in the second, they probably score more runs,” Forbes said. “He was definitely better and that’s good for us and for him.”

Junior shortstop Colby Wilkerson, who went 2 for 3, tied it with a three-run double down the left field line in the second inning after two walks and a Duke error to erase the three-run deficit with one swing.

In his second straight game playing right field, Horvath crushed a three-run home run to left field in the fourth inning to make it 6–3.

“Threw slider, curveball first pitch; swung through it; felt good with the swing,” said Horvath of Duke left-hander Owen Proksch (2–3), who gave up a homer for the first time in 18 innings this season. “Threw another one a little more up in the zone.”

After playing the first 20 games at third base, Horvath shifted to the outfield to make way for another big bat in the lineup, with Johnny Castagnozzi playing third.

“This summer, I got to play in the outfield quite a bit, so it makes that transition a little easier. And then in the fall, I played it quite a bit too. So kind of always have it in the back pocket, knowing that I can play out there,” Horvath said.

Horvath is the only player in the country with double-digit homers (12) and steals (10). He’s on pace to become the second 20/20 player in program history after Vance Honeycutt (who has eight home runs and 13 steals this season) did it last season.

“That’s cool. That’s good,” Horvath said. “As long as we win, that’s all that matters. If hitting the long ball or stealing a base to help us win, I’m going to do that.”

It could have been more one-sided, but some hard-hit balls went for outs and a runner got thrown out at the plate on a close play.       

Jackson Van De Brake was 3 for 3 with a pair of doubles and was on base five times.     

“That’s what you want, get on base, let the guys behind you get you in,” Van De Brake said.     

Eaise struck out four, but none were bigger than when he fanned Obee with two runners in scoring position to get out of the eighth inning.  

NOTES — The series resumes at 6 p.m. Friday (ESPN3), with UNC right-hander Connor Bovair (2–1, 2.05 ERA) opposing Duke left-hander Jonathan Santucci (2–1, 4.15 ERA). In Saturday’s 2 p.m. finale (ESPN3), Tar Heels right-hander Jake Knapp (2–0, 3.10 ERA) faces Blue Devils right-hander Alex Gow (2–1, 1.08 ERA). … The two programs have won the last three ACC titles, with UNC winning in 2019 and 2022 and Duke capturing the title in 2021. … UNC leads the all-time series 197–105–2 and has won three consecutive series overall against the Blue Devils and six in a row in Chapel Hill.

No. 15 UNC 6, 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

Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics Communications


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