Buy PhotosPhoto by Yates McConnell | The Daily Tar HeelUNC first year second baseman Tyler Causey celebrates a home run with head coach Scott Forbes during Carolina’s 8-1 season-opening victory over James Madison at Boshamer Stadium, Feb. 19, 2021.
After a last-minute rescheduling following COVID-related issues with Kentucky’s team, the North Carolina baseball team (1-0, 0-0 ACC) dominated James Madison University (0-1, 0-0 CAA) at Boshamer Stadium in the first game of opening weekend, 8-1.
The Tar Heels began strong at the top of the first inning with starting pitcher Austin Love striking out the first three Dukes up to the plate. At the bottom of the first inning, two runs were batted in when redshirt sophomore Angel Zarate scored from second base and sophomore Danny Serretti scored from third.
North Carolina added to its two-run lead in the third inning when sophomore Caleb Roberts knocked the ball out of the park for a home run.
After Zarate walked and Serretti singled, Roberts blasted another home run to put the Tar Heels up 6-0 in the fourth inning.
“It felt good to get out there, put some runs up early and get the win,” Roberts said.
In the fifth inning, grad student Brett Centracchio drew a walk and first-year Tyler Causey hit the second home run of his collegiate, finishing the last of the runs scored by UNC.
The Tar Heel pitchers and defense did not let up, only letting James Madison score one run in the ninth inning. North Carolina prevailed in the first game of the three-day series, 8-1.
Who stood out?
Roberts had his first and second career home runs, as well as five runs batted in. That was the most RBI by a Tar Heel on opening day since Chris Maples and Adam Greenburg in their 2001 opener against JMU.
Love threw consistently over 90 mph for about 80 pitches, not giving up a hit the entire game. He had nine strikeouts, tying his career high.
“He set the tone for us right away,” head coach Scott Forbes said. “When you throw the ball like that, you’ll have a chance to win every game.”
When was it decided?
Starting with the first inning, the James Madison pitchers struggled to get in their groove, giving up seven walks. As North Carolina scored six runs in the first four innings, it was clear that James Madison would need to hit more consistently to make up the deficit.
But with the tough pitching trio of Love, Nick James and Caleb Cozart against them, the Dukes could not ever catch up at the plate.
Why does it matter?
This game marks the beginning of the Scott Forbes era, as he took over the head coaching position for Mike Fox in August 2020 after Fox’s 22 years as the team’s skipper.
“I was as excited as these guys,” Forbes said. “The biggest thing that hit me was glancing up and seeing coach Fox in the stands. Having him and my family here meant a lot to me.”
It’s been almost a year since these athletes have played in an actual ball game, and they found their groove quickly.
“We set the tone with no fans and bringing our own energy, which helped us out a lot,” Roberts said. “We’re going to carry that on the next two days.”
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels face the Dukes again on Saturday, Feb. 20, at 2 p.m. in Boshamer Stadium for the second matchup of the three-game series.