By R.L. Bynum
CHAPEL HILL — A game that started perfectly for Carolina pitching turned into a perfectly frustrating mix of missed opportunities, poor defense and not enough good relief pitching.
A No. 15 UNC team that is usually solid on defense — although making some nice plays — tied a season-high with four errors. The slugging Tar Heels, who have 49 home runs in 23 games, failed to go deep for only the fourth time this season.
The Tar Heels still went up by two with a four-run sixth inning before it went awry for them as Duke rallied for an 8–5 victory Friday night at Boshamer Stadium to even the three-game series and end UNC’s six-game win streak.
UNC junior right-handed starter Connor Bovair extended his hitless streak to 9⅔ innings and was perfect for 4⅔ innings. But Duke (15–8, 4–4 ACC) took advantage of mistakes by Carolina (17–6, 3–3).
“We just didn’t get it done in the bullpen,” said UNC coach Scott Forbes, noting the exception being a huge strikeout by Matthew Matthijs to get out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning. “More importantly, we didn’t get it done defensively. You’ve got to make plays.”
Carolina batters had more strikeouts (12) than hits (7), with the most strikeouts since fanning 13 times at East Carolina on Feb. 24.
“We don’t strike out a ton as a team,” Forbes said. “But they got some good stuff; that’s their MO. They’re gonna to try to throw fastballs at the top of the zone. But I thought our guys still had good at-bats.”
Tomas Frick’s RBI single in the first gave UNC a 1–0 lead and, thanks to Bovair’s pitching, that was enough until the fifth inning.
Bovair, coming off five scoreless relief innings last Saturday in the 17–7 win at Pittsburgh, had his perfect-game bid end, get restored and lost again in the chaotic fifth inning.
He hit Duke first baseman Luke Storm in the right arm with a pitch with one out. After Storm took first base, the umpires ruled after a replay review that Storm leaned over the plate. When the at-bat continued, Storm flew out to center field to briefly maintain the perfect game.
“I would say, in that moment, the emotions just kind of got a hold of me there,” Bovair said. “Sometimes, I play with a lot of emotion and obviously, that reversed called strike, that just got the best of me there and I take that one. That’s on me.”
Chad Knight, the next batter, hit a drive to center field. Vance Honeycutt couldn’t make a play, the ball got past him, and Knight ended up at third on the error. He scored on a single by Damon Lux, who came home on a Giovanni DiGiacomo single.
“He’s been outstanding for us all year,” Forbes said of Bovair. “I’m proud of him. He works his tail off, a great teammate. He had two quick outs, and they got a little bit emotional and they struck and he didn’t quite recover from that but he will.”
Duke third baseman Andrew Fischer, who had a drive caught at the fence by UNC right fielder Mac Horvath in the fourth inning, sent a shot in the same direction but well past the fence to lead off the sixth inning to push Duke’s lead to 3–1.
Bovair, who came out after Jay Beshears followed with a double, gave up six hits, three runs and no walks with two strikeouts in 5+ innings. Bovair said just being confident on the mound has made a big difference for him. Another solid outing left his ERA at 2.97.
It was a mixed day for third baseman Johnny Castagnozzi. He hit into an inning-ending double play in the fourth with the bases loaded and committed two errors, but hit a tying two-run double down the left-field line with the bases loaded and no out in the four-run sixth.
Castagnozzi played at third for the third game in a row with Horvath moving to right field.
“It’s just learning from it,” Castagnozzi said of the errors. “It’s taking it serious in pregame, working on defense. We know we’re gonna put up runs. It’s just a matter of making the plays, pitching and defending to help us win.”
Lux hammered a homer to left to leadoff the seventh to cut Duke’s deficit to 5–4, but UNC averted much more damage.
Junior left-handed reliever Nelson Berkwich struck out Fischer for the second out. Matthijs loaded the bases with a walk, but struck out Alex Stone — who hit a two-run home run Thursday — to get out of the inning.
Duke couldn’t be stopped in a four-run eighth, though, getting an unearned run after a Castagnozzi throwing error. Alex Mooney then hit a three-run home run to right-center field off UNC closer Matt Poston, the first run off of Poston in 16 innings this season.
Horvath came to the plate representing the tying run with two outs in the eighth inning but struck out.
NOTES — The series concludes with a sold-out 2 p.m. Saturday game, matching a pair of right-handers: UNC’s Jake Knapp (2–0, 3.10 ERA) and Duke’s Alex Gow (2–1, 1.08 ERA). … This is the first of five ACC series for Carolina that will be Thursday through Saturday. The next such home series is April 13–15 against Miami, starting with a 7 p.m. Thursday game. … Roy Williams, instead of sitting home watching NCAA tournament games, was at The Bosh watching baseball. … Alberto Osuna, who had left hamate surgery in January, was hit in the left hand by a pitch in the sixth inning but stayed in the game. … Plate umpire Linus Baker was hit just below his neck on a fifth-inning pitch that bounced off the dirt. After a brief delay while athletic trainers attended to him, he continued. … It was the first homerless game for UNC since an 8–4 loss to Virginia on March 11.
Duke 8, No. 15 UNC 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. 15 East Carolina||Greenville||4–2|
|26||Sunday||6–5 L||No. 15 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. 11 Virginia||Home||11–4,|
|11||Saturday||8–4 L||No. 11 Virginia||Home||11–5,|
|11||Saturday||6–0 W||No. 11 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||12–7 L||No. 9 Coastal Carolina||Home||18–7|
|31||Friday||10–8 W||Notre Dame||South Bend, Ind.||19–7, |
|2||Sunday||5–2 W||Notre Dame||South Bend, Ind.||20–7, |
|2||Sunday||9–1 L||Notre Dame||South Bend, Ind||20–8, |
|4||Tuesday||5–0 L||South Carolina||Charlotte||20–9|
|6||Thursday||8–1 W||Georgia Tech||Atlanta||21–9, |
|7||Friday||10–6 W||Georgia Tech||Atlanta||22–9, |
|7||Friday||8–4 L||Georgia Tech||Atlanta||22–10, |
|13||Thursday||5–4 L||No. 8 Miami||Home||23–11, |
|9–8 W, |
|No. 8 Miami||Home||24–11, |
|15||Saturday||4–3 L||No. 8 Miami||Home||24–12, |
|Boston College||Home||25–13, |
|22||Saturday||9–4 L||Boston College||Home||25–14, |
|23||Sunday||6–2 L||Boston College||Home||25–15, |
|28||Friday||7–0 L||Virginia Tech||Blacksburg, Va.||26–16, |
|29||Saturday||12–8 W||Virginia Tech||Blacksburg, Va.||27–16, |
|29||Saturday||13–7 W||Virginia Tech||Blacksburg, Va.||28–16, |
|2||Tuesday||6–5 L||No. 11 Campbell||Home||28–17|
|3||Wed.||2–1 W||No. 15 East Carolina||Greenville||29–17|
|11||Thursday||9–8 W||N.C. State||Home||31–17, |
|12||Friday||9–3 W||N.C. State||Home||32–17, |
|13||Saturday||12–2 W||N.C. State||Home||33–17, |
|16||Tuesday||8–6 L||No. 9 Coastal Carolina||Conway, S.C.||33–18|
|18||Thursday||14–7 L||No. 3 Clemson||Clemson, S.C.||33–19, |
|19||Friday||5–4 L||No. 3 Clemson||Clemson, S.C.||33–20, |
|20||Saturday||3–1 L||No. 3 Clemson||Clemson, S.C.||33–21, |
|23||Tuesday||11–5 W||Georgia Tech||Durham||34–21|
|25||Thursday||10–2 W||No. 11 Virginia||Durham||35–21|
|27||Saturday||10–4 L||Semifinal vs.|
No. 3 Clemson
|Terre Haute Regional|
|2||Friday||5–4 L||Iowa||Terre Haute, Ind.||35–23|
|3||Saturday||5–0 W||Wright State||Terre Haute, Ind.||36–23|
|Iowa||Terre Haute, Ind.||36–24|
Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics Communications