No. 10 UNC baseball drops Chapel Hill Super Regional opener, 4-1, to Arkansas
In the first bout of a three-game series, the No. 10 North Carolina baseball team (42-21, 15-15 ACC) fell to the Arkansas Razorbacks (42-19, 18- 12 SEC), 4-1, Saturday afternoon at Boshamer Stadium.
After holding the Razorback scoreless in the first frame, the Diamond Heels looked to be in prime position to score the game’s first inning.
First, leadoff hitter Angel Zarate sliced the first pitch he saw to right field. Moments later, a standing brace from junior shortstop Danny Serretti and a four-length walk charged UNC’s goals with one out. But, back-to-back outings by second designated hitter Alberto Osuna and senior left fielder Mikey Madej left the Diamond Heels empty-handed.
After four scoreless innings, Arkansas struck first.
In the top of the fifth inning, freshman first baseman Payton Stovall solo homered into the right-center net and gave Arkansas the first run of the afternoon. Then back-to-back RBIs by designated senior hitter Brady Slavens and third baseman Cayden Wallace extended the Razorbacks’ lead to 3-0.
As Arkansas continued to keep the Diamond Heels’ bats quiet, the Razorbacks offense added to their lead. After a pair of steps for Arkansas, Slaven’s single passed Serretti’s outstretched glove and drove into the fourth inning of the afternoon for the Razorbacks.
In the bottom frame of the same inning, the Diamond Heels looked set to break their scoring drought. Sophomore Colby Wilkerson’s two-out single sparked a pitch change for the Razorbacks, but Zarate failed on the first pitch he faced and ended North Carolina’s push.
Arkansas looked like they could extend their lead in the next frame after a tee walk and sacrifice bunt put a Razorback in scoring position with one out. But senior pitcher Caden O’Brien fended off Arkansas’ pressure, getting the next two batters out via one strikeout and one rushing strikeout.
Soon after, the Diamond Heels broke through. In the bottom of the eighth inning, freshman Vance Honeycutt threw a solo bomb to left center field, breaking the North Carolina program’s record for homers in a single season with 25 homers.
But the late game push came too late for North Carolina as Arkansas closed out a 4-1 victory in the final inning.
Who stood out?
Arkansas starting pitcher Connor Noland threw a gem against UNC. Although UNC charged the bases in the first inning, the senior right-handed pitcher pulled himself out of trouble and pitched just over six innings without allowing a run.
Additionally, Slavens is leading the charge for the Arkansas offense. The senior designated hitter drove in two of Arkansas’ four runs with a pair of RBI singles in the fifth and seventh innings, respectively.
When was it decided?
The pitching duel strayed for North Carolina in the top of the fifth inning. After Max Carlson engineered four scoreless innings, the sophomore pitcher’s grip on the Razorbacks loosened.
Stoval’s first bombshell in the top of the fifth inning sparked a three-run frame for Arkansas and left the Diamond Heels rocked for the rest of the game. Over the final four innings of the game, the Razorbacks would add one run of insurance while limiting North Carolina to just one run.
Why is it important?
With the loss, the Diamond Heels put themselves in a similar situation to the regional round as UNC will need to win consecutive games without losing to advance.
Likewise, North Carolina will be looking to rekindle its mighty offense which has been limited to just one point – the team’s lowest point total in a game since early April.
When do they play next?
The Diamond Heels will continue their Super Regional series against the Razorbacks on Sunday. The first pitch for the second competition in the series is set for 1:00 p.m.