By R.L. Bynum
CHAPEL HILL — What could have easily been a laugher for No. 18 North Carolina still was a solid win, but the missed opportunities were no joke.
UNC eased past Charlotte 5–3 after rolling past the 49ers 16–3 earlier this season. But, against No. 20 Boston College this weekend — with the Tar Heels needing a big series if they hope to get into the NCAA regional host conversation — they can’t leave 19 runners on base and waste so many scoring chances.
Carolina coach Scott Forbes admits that the Tar Heels (25–12) should have scored a lot more runs but he says that if his pitching staff can perform as it did against the 49ers (19–16) they can overcome that.
“You can’t leave those guys against Boston College. But if we pitch like we did, I think we can beat anybody,” said Forbes, whose team left 18 runners on base while losing two of three games to Miami last weekend. “If you pitch and you defend and you get five runs, you’ve got chance to win the game.”
While Charlotte kept foiling UNC’s chances, the Tar Heels’ pitching got the job done. Freshman right-hander Cameron Padgett struck out a career-high five batters over 3⅓ shutout innings after giving up two first-inning runs in his second start. He gave up five hits and one walk.
Redshirt freshman left-hander Dalton Pence (winner, 2–1) struck out three, giving up one hit, in 2⅔ innings. Junior right-hander Matt Poston (two strikeouts) and fifth-year right-hander Kevin Eaise finished it off, each pitching a shutout inning, with Eaise earning his fifth save.
Pence (top photo) has stacked up the good outings, starting with four shutout relief innings against South Carolina. When he gave up a solo home run to Charlotte’s Eli Weisner in the eighth inning, it was the second run against him in his last 13 innings dating back to March 8.
“It definitely helps with confidence,” said Pence, who missed last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. “Just knowing that you can get out there and go as long as I can physically and just try and throw every pitch as hard as I can. It helps physically just because I know that my body can sustain going out there every day if I needed to.”
The pitching staff is working into its roles, with Eaise established as the closer but Poston another ninth-inning option and Pence available for various assignments.
“But Poston recovers like no other,” Forbes said. “I haven’t coached many guys that can pitch like him — literally a rubber arm — and hold his stuff, so that’s big for us.”
Forbes has junior left-hander Nelson Berkwich to come in against tough left-handed hitters.
“I feel really good about the first two guys you saw today,” Forbes of Padgett and Pence. “Their names are gonna be called even more, so they’re gonna have to take care of themselves.”
Junior left fielder Mac Horvath (left) belted out three hits, including a two-run seventh-inning home run to left-center, and junior third baseman Johnny Castagnozzi had two hits and drove in two. But Carolina left the bases loaded three times, was 0 of 9 with the bases loaded and 2 of 20 with runners in scoring position.
“If you look at our whole season, we’ve been known as an offensive club, a club that hits the ball out ofthe park, a dynamic lineup,” Forbes said. “No matter what, you’re going to have a tough stretch offensively — as a team, not just as an individual — and we’ve been in one of those.
Control issues by Charlotte’s seven pitchers and UNC’s 10 hits fueled numerous Carolina chances. Niners pitchers walked eight batters and hit seven others. The problem? Only two of those 15 baserunners scored.
Horvath’s 399-foot blast just to the right of the scoreboard in left field in the seventh inning released some of the frustration built up by all the Tar Heels’ missed opportunities.
“It was definitely pretty big for us,” said Horvath, who was dealing with a stuffy nose and a sore throat. “It’s gonna happen where he just can’t get guys in. And, unfortunately for us, that happened quite a bit today. But just kind of using that as a learning experience and just know how to be better in situational hitting.”
With the bases loaded in the second and third innings, Vance Honeycutt struck out looking. Jackson Van De Brake flew out after to end the second inning and Casey Cook hit into a force play before Honeycutt’s third-inning at-bat.
Forbes batted Honeycutt second after he began the season leading off and hit cleanup for the past two weeks.
“Just a switch to get him more at the top,” said Forbes, who wants to take pressure off his players and for his offense to reach its full potential. Forbes said he believes Alberto Osuna (hitting .158 with seven homers) and Honeycutt (.260 with nine homers and 16 steals) will get going offensively.
“If you look at Vance right now, across college baseball, he’s having a good year. He’s just not having a great year,” Forbes said. “I just want those guys to know I believe in them. We’re gonna keep them in the lineup. We just hope that those guys will get going. The way I look at it is we’ve won a good amount of games, not as many as we would have liked, and our guys haven’t got really going.”
The 49ers scored two runs in the first inning on a walk, Cam Fisher’s double to right field and Will Butcher’s two-run double to left field.
Horvath singled in the third inning, stole third, and scored on Castagnozzi’s single to left. Colby Wilkerson got hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to drive in a second run before Cook came up.
Tomas Frick’s RBI single in the sixth gave UNC its first lead, 3–2.
NOTES — The series with Boston College (24–11, 9–9 ACC) starts Friday at 6 p.m. (featuring postgame fireworks), with all three games streamed on ESPN3 (Saturday at 2 p.m. for Zac Gallen bobblehead day at noon Sunday). The Eagles fell seven spots in the D1 Baseball rankings after losing two of three last weekend at home against Duke. BC plays at home against Connecticut on Wednesday. … After losing two of three last weekend at home against Miami, UNC fell five spots to No. 18 in the D1 Baseball rankings and the Hurricanes went from unranked to No. 17. … Carolina has won nine of the last 11 meetings with Charlotte and leads the all-time series 37–8–1, including 22–4–1 at home.
No. 18 UNC 5, Charlotte 3
|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|
Photos courtesy of UNC Athletics Communications