Despite an early lead, game three of the Clemson baseball team’s series against North Carolina was all Tar Heels. A five-run first sealed the deal for North Carolina, who only gave up one run after the first inning.
After Elijah Henderson singled into left field with one out, Clemson right fielder Dylan Brewer drove home the game's first two runs with a two-run home run into right field. The next two Tigers, James Parker and Caden Grice, went down in order to end the inning.
Carter Raffield started on the mound for the Tigers. North Carolina, quickly jumped on the righty from Cochran, Ga. early and often. After allowing the first two runners to reach via a walk and single, the Tar Heels cut the Tiger lead in half with a sacrifice fly into center field. After recording a strikeout for the second out of the inning, raffield looked to get out of the inning with his lead intact. The Tar Heels had other plans.
A double off the bat of Tar Heel shortstop Danny Serretti scored the game's tying run. Third baseman Clemente Inclan recorded two RBIs on his home run into right field, a lead the Tar Heels would not relinquish. The Heels added another run before Raffield’s day was over almost before it started. He recorded just two outs. In to pitch came Keyshawn Askew making his first appearance of the season.
The teams exchanged quick innings in the second and third innings, with the only base runner coming on a Carolina single in the second inning.
Dylan Brewer walked to open the fourth inning, but a combination of fielder’s choices and strikeouts sent the Tigers back to the field empty handed.
The Tar Heels had a runner reach third base in the bottom of the fourth. With one out, Askew left the game for Mack Anglin to come to the mound for the Tigers. Despite allowing the runner to move to third, Anglin found his composer and stranded the runner 90 feet from home.
The teams exchanged one-two-three innings in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.
Clemson put together a two-out rally in the top of the eighth when Bryce Teodosio walked on a full count. A walk from Kier Meredith and a single from Elijah Henderson loaded the bases. Up 2-2 in the count North Carolina pitcher Caden O’Brien, ran a fastball too far inside, scoring the Tigers first run since the first inning, cutting the North Carolina lead to two runs. James Parker flew out to right field, leaving three runners stranded in an all too familiar scenario for the Tigers.
Geoffrey Gilbert came on to pitch the eighth inning. After striking out Brett Centracchio looking, Gilbert gave up a single to Serretti. As he usually does, Gilbert recovered and retired the next two batters.
O’Brien retired the Tigers in order in the ninth, striking out one and getting two ground outs to his shortstop.
Carolina first baseman Brett Centracchio was visibly shaken on the final out of the game, a throw that took him off the base and forced him to tag Davis Sharpe. Centracchio fell to the ground, obviously in pain and the Tar Heels held off on storming the field and victory music until Centracchio jumped to his feet, the stadium erupting into music and applause.
For his two outs of work, Raffield received the loss. Carolina starter Max Alba picked up his second win of the season for his 7-⅔-inning gem of a performance.
The series marks the third consecutive time the home team swept the visitor in this matchup. Clemson returns home to Doug Kingsmore Stadium Tuesday, March 16 at 6 p.m. as they play host to the Georgia State Panthers before welcoming the Virginia Tech Hokies to town.