Instant Analysis: Heels Handle Hofstra in NCAA Opener

Instant Analysis: Heels Handle Hofstra in NCAA Opener

Mac Horvath (Photo: Jim Hawkins/Inside Carolina)

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — No. 10 overall seed North Carolina scored in each of the first five innings to overcome two early solo home runs and defeat No. 4 regional seed Hofstra, 15-4, in the first game of the Chapel Hill Regional.

The Pride found success early against UNC starter Max Carlson, ripping two solo home runs in the first two innings. The Tar Heels answered each time with solo shots of their own. Mac Horvath hit his 14th home run in 33 games 409 feet to left center field to tie it at one run apiece. Then, while trailing 2-1, Tomas Frick hit his second home run of the season to tie it up at two runs apiece.

Horvath came back up to the plate in the bottom of the third inning and launched the first pitch he saw back over the left center field fence to give his team a 4-2 lead, and a lead UNC would not relinquish.

Insurance runs came in the bottom of the 7th inning for UNC as Colby Wilkerson singled with the bases loaded to score one, Angel Zarate scored two with a single to right center and Wilkerson scored on an errant pickoff attempt to 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 home run by Vance Honeycutt.

All nine Tar Heel starters recorded a hit and eight of nine starters scored a run.

Carlson bounced back from the rocky start to earn the win (4-2), his third win of the postseason (wins against Clemson and NC State). The two home runs were the only earned runs allowed by the starting right-hander.

UNC used a conglomerate of Gage Gillian, Connor Bovair and Connor Ollio to close out the game holding Hofstra to two hits and one run in the final 3.2 innings to secure the Tar Heel victory. The UNC pitching staff struck out eight Pride hitters.

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 onslaught continued at Boshamer Stadium.

UNC tallied five home runs led by sophomore Mac Horvath who started his day 2-for-2 with two home runs and three RBI in 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’s final line: 3-for-4, 4 RBI, 3 runs, 1 stolen base

Hofstra scored three of its four runs via the long ball and the Tar Heels finished with five home runs, the most since they launched five balls over the fence against Liberty in the 2019 regional. It is the second time in four games UNC has hit at least four home runs in a game.

Carlson Bounces Back

It took the sophomore pitcher 44 pitches to get through the first two innings; two innings that featured two solo home runs from Kevin Bruggeman and Santino Rosso.

It was his third straight start on four days’ rest with his most recent start coming against the Wolfpack in the ACC championship game. He quickly lost confidence in his fastball, and then lost the command on his off-speed. But he battled back in the third inning to get a 1-2-3 inning and retired three straight batters in the fourth after a leadoff double.

What started to look like a quick outing for Carlson actually turned out to be a 108-pitch affair for 5+ innings to give the UNC bullpen more of a reprieve.

Honeycutt Stays Hot

The star freshman added to his impressive run with a three-run home run in the bottom of the seventh. Over the last 16 games, Honeycutt has 12 home runs and 28 RBI featuring an ACC Tournament MVP award.

He finished the day 2-for-6 with three RBI and one run. Honeycutt is two home runs shy of the single-season home run record with 22 dingers on the season.

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Up Next

UNC faces the winner of No. 2 seed Georgia and No. 3 seed Virginia Commonwealth in the winners’ bracket on Saturday at 7 p.m. Brandon Schaeffer will start for the Tar Heels.

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