CHAPEL HILL, NC – No. 10 seed overall North Carolina scored in each of the first five innings to overcome two early solo home runs and defeat regional No. 4 seed Hofstra, 15-4, in the first game of the Chapel Hill Regional.
Pride found success early against UNC starter Max Carlson, tearing up two solo homers in the first two innings. The Tar Heels responded each time with their own solo plans. Mac Horvath hit his 14th homer in 33 games 409 feet from left center field to tie it at one run apiece. Then, while leading 2-1, Tomas Frick hit his second homer of the season to tie it at two runs apiece.
Horvath returned to home plate late in the third inning and threw the first pitch he saw over the left center field fence to give his team a 4-2 lead, and a UNC lead wouldn’t give up. .
The insurance runs came late in the 7th inning for UNC as Colby Wilkerson scored a single with the bases loaded to score one, Angel Zarate scored two with a single to right center and Wilkerson scored on an attempt errant out at first base. After the dust settled in the seventh inning, the Tar Heels added seven runs to run away with the game, ending with a three-run homer from Vance Honeycutt.
All nine Tar Heel starters recorded a hit and eight of nine starters scored a run.
Carlson bounced back from a rocky start to claim the win (4-2), his third win of the playoffs (wins over Clemson and NC State). The two homers were the only earned runs allowed by the starting right-hander.
UNC used a conglomeration of Gage Gillian, Connor Bovair and Connor Ollio to close out the game by holding Hofstra to two hits and a run in the final 3.2 innings to secure the Tar Heel victory. UNC’s pitching staff retired eight batters from Pride.
Horvath leads home run derby
In Charlotte for the ACC tournament, a new record was set for most home runs in the conference tournament. The assault continued at Boshamer Stadium.
UNC had five home runs led by second Mac Horvath who started his day 2-for-2 with two home runs and three RBIs over the first three innings. He is the first Tar Heel with two homers in an NCAA tournament since Aaron Sabato had two in Game 3 of the 2019 Chapel Hill Super Regional against Auburn.
Horvath last line: 3 for 4, 4 RBIs, 3 runs, 1 stolen base
Hofstra scored three of his four runs via long ball and the Tar Heels finished with five homers, the most since they threw five balls over the fence against Liberty in the 2019 Region. It’s the second times in four games that UNC hits at least four homers in a game.
It took the sophomore pitcher 44 pitches to get past the first two innings; two rounds that featured two solo circuits from Kevin Bruggeman and Santino Rosso.
It was his third straight start in four days off, his last start against the Wolfpack in the ACC Championship Game. He quickly lost confidence in his fastball, then lost control of his off-speed. But he fought back in the third inning to go 1-2-3 and struck out three straight batters in the fourth after a brace.
What started out to look like a quick outing for Carlson actually turned out to be a 108-pitch affair over 5 innings to give the UNC bullpen more breathing space.
Honeycutt stay hot
The star freshman added to his impressive run with a three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh. Over the last 16 games, Honeycutt has 12 home runs and 28 RBIs with an ACC Tournament MVP award.
He finished the day 2-for-6 with three RBIs and a run. Honeycutt is two home runs off the single-season home run record with 22 dingers this season.
Off the camera mount! ??
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UNC will face No. 2 seed Georgia and No. 3 seed Virginia Commonwealth in the winners’ bracket on Saturday at 7 p.m. Brandon Schaeffer will leave for the Tar Heels.
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