NCAA baseball: With UNC coach suspended, Heels beat Georgia
The UNC baseball team is one game away from getting its coach back and two wins away from qualifying for the Super Regionals.
Facing elimination, the Tar Heels beat Georgia, 6-5, in their opener on Sunday. With the win, UNC (40-20) moves on to a 6 p.m. showdown with Virginia Commonwealth (ESPNU).
The Rams (42-18) defeated Georgia on Friday and UNC on Sunday to advance to Sunday’s late game in the Chapel Hill area. VCU is one of the hottest teams in the country, with a 17-game winning streak. This sequence is the second in the country behind Stanford.
The Tar Heels returned to the win column after VCU ended its eight-game winning streak on Saturday. It was the first playoff loss for North Carolina. Since the modern 64-team NCAA baseball tournament format, UNC has had to go through the losing streak 10 times. He has never won a regional in those 10 trips in the losers bracket.
With the early victory Sunday, Carolina improves to 46-21 all-time in the regional round of the NCAA Tournament and 30-6 in regionals at Boshamer Stadium.
In losing to VCU on Saturday night, the Tar Heels also lost head coach Scott Forbes to a two-game suspension. Forbes, whose jersey was hanging in the UNC dugout, is serving his suspension for contesting an appeal on Saturday. Assistant head coach Bryant Gaines led the Heels in their win over Georgia on Sunday. After the win over the Bulldogs, Gaines told the media he had several conversations with Forbes before the game.
“I think ultimately he trusts us,” Gaines said. “That’s why he hired us. As frustrated as he is not being in the dugout, at the end of the day he only cares about one thing and that is winning the game. It was obviously a different experience for all of us.
With Forbes’ jersey hanging in the dugout, Gaines said, “He was there in spirit.”
If UNC can beat the Rams, Forbes’ suspension will be over and the Tar Heels will play Monday for a chance to return to the Super Regionals for the first time since 2019. Georgia, after a 24-point game in their win on Hofstra on Saturday, was cooled by seven UNC pitchers.
“It’s a team sport, we talk about it all the time,” UNC starting pitcher Will Sandy said. “As staff, what we want to do is take on each other. My job is to go in and out of this game and give our team a chance to win.
The start of Sunday’s game was not without drama. In the top of the ninth, with a 6-2 lead over UNC, Georgian Connor Tate fired a shot towards the center wall of the field. The ball hit the top of the wall, but bounced inbounds. Tate rounded the bases, thinking he had a two-run homer, but after a review it was ruled a double. His teammate, Chaney Rogers, homered three-run off Connor Bovair to make it 6-5 with one out remaining. Josh Mcallister appeared to have another home run, but UNC freshman center fielder Vance Honeycutt raced up the ladder to hook the ball on the wall.
“I told the team earlier that this was our story for the year,” Gaines said. “Just when you think you’ve done it and it’s in the bag against a good team, you have to make plays, make shots and that’s what we did.”
Southpaw Caden O’Brien came on to face slugger Corey Collins and knocked him out to seal the win.
The Bulldogs (36-23) left 12 runners on base. With Georgia going 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position, UNC capitalized on their chances against the Bulldogs, going 3 for 10.
“Last night we had a lot of tough breaks,” Gaines said of the opener against VCU. “When you have an attack like ours, so powerful from the top down, it’s only a matter of time before someone breaks through and luckily for us it happened today.”
Carolina’s bats powered up in the third inning, scoring three runs on the board to take control of the game.
After scoring an undeserved point at the start of the second, Mikey Madej scored two points at the start of the third. Bulldogs pitcher Jaden Woods threw a wild pitch that got another runner home, making it 4-0 in favor of the Tar Heels.
Tomas Frick started the sixth inning with a solo home run, his third of the season. Madej added to his day, with another RBI in the top of the seventh, scoring Honeycutt.
Georgia got on the board late in the sixth, shooting three-pointers on a brace from Cory Acton. Carolina’s Davis Palermo came in and fanned the only batter he faced to knock Carolina out of the inning. Palermo was impressive, going 2.1 innings, giving up four hits and zero runs, while striking out four batters.
This story was originally published June 5, 2022 5 p.m.