Sportswriter Jonas Pope IV covered college recruiting, high school sports, NC Central, NC State and the ACC for The Herald-Sun and The News & Observer.
ACC Baseball Tournament semifinal: UNC defeats Notre Dame, 7-2
North Carolina clinched the first ticket to the ACC Championship.
The No. 8-seeded Tar Heels defeated No. 4-seeded Notre Dame 7-2 in the semifinals on Saturday afternoon at Truist Field in Charlotte. UNC will return to the ACC tournament title game for the first time since 2019.
The Tar Heels, who opened the game with three points in the eighth, are seeking their eighth tournament title, and the first since 2019. UNC is making its 40th trip to the ACC title game, the more than any school in the league. They will face the winner from NC State and Pittsburgh on Sunday noon.
“Excited for our guys,” UNC coach Scott Forbes said. “I mean, playing for an ACC championship.”
North Carolina, making its third trip to the semifinals in the last five years, has emerged as one of the hottest teams in the league, winning 14 of its last 16 games.
Carolina finished the game with 13 hits. The Heels have had double-digit success in every game of the tournament so far.
North Carolina did themselves a favor this weekend. Currently, D1baseball.com has the heels as the No. 13 seed, which means they could hold a regional round in Chapel Hill next weekend. After being swept to UVA in March, UNC was 8-13. The Heels have never lowered their heads.
“They’re the ones who believe the most,” Forbes said of his team. “It’s been a great group since the beginning of the fall until now. These guys know it’s that time of year, all that hard work,” Forbes said. “It separates you from other teams because that’s when you want to be at your best.”
The big key to recovery?
“We pretended every game was a post-season game,” shortstop Danny Serretti said. “Without pretending, they really are, we had to win every game. »
North Carolina (37-19) went first when Colby Wilkerson reached first on a defensive pick, allowing Mikey Madej to score.
Notre Dame (35-14), the highest seed remaining in the tournament, tied the game on a solo home run by Jack Brannigan in the bottom of the third. The Tar Heels missed a chance to take control, leaving the runners in the corners in the top of the fifth.
The Irish made them pay by taking a 2-1 lead after a solo shot from Carter Putz, his sixth of the year. The Tar Heels tied the game at two when Hunter Stokely scored Madej on a brace. Stokely got help when the ball made an odd bounce between third and left field, just touching the edge of the dirt and grass.
UNC junior Nik Pry threw exactly two pitches (giving up one hit) before making way for Shawn Rapp. The New Jersey southpaw didn’t allow a hit the rest of the inning, striking out Jack Penney before Brannigan came out on center.
The Tar Heels had two runners in the top of the seventh, but couldn’t advance either. Pry continued to do his job, however, not giving up a hit late in the seventh.
In the top eight, UNC came alive when Madej and Tomas Frick took advantage of new pitcher Aidan Tyrell, getting on base with back-to-back hits. Stokely drew a walk to load the bases with no outs.
The Irish brought in two pitchers to slow down the Tar Heels. It almost worked. Jackson Dennies fanned the lone batter he faced and Will Mercer came in, striking out Angel Zarate. But Mac Horvath got his hands on one, driving in a run to give UNC a 3-2 lead. Serretti continued, turning an inside fastball into a two-run brace.
“He fell behind and I was lucky to have a good hitting count,” Serretti said. “I had a feeling he was going to throw a fastball at me, so I was going to be on time. I’m glad it fell.
Carolina added to its total in the ninth, scoring two more runs.
Rapp picked up the win for UNC.
Looking ahead to Sunday, the Tar Heels won the season series against NC State, 2-1, earlier this month. The Heels swept Pittsburgh in March.
“Just the mood is very positive right now,” Serretti said. “Very confident.”
This story was originally published May 28, 2022 4:45 p.m.