Despite an earlier lead, the Clemson baseball team fell to the North Carolina Tar Heels 8-3 to open the series in Chapel Hill. North Carolina starter Austin Love threw 7 ⅔ innings and collected his third of the season, handing Clemson starter Davis Sharpe his first loss of the 2021 campaign.
The Tigers jumped on the Tar Heels early. First baseman Caden Grice took the first pitch he saw deep to center field. Right fielder Dylan Brewer also scored on the home run after his one-out single earlier in the inning.
Davis Sharpe again took his place on the mound as the Tigers’ Friday night starter. Despite walking the second batter he faced in the inning on a full count, Sharpe retired the other three, ending the first inning with a two run lead.
The Tigers went down in order in the second inning.
North Carolina did not go quietly. First baseman Brett Centraacchio led the inning off with a home run of his own to cut the lead in half. After recording his first out of the inning, Sharpe gave up a walk to third baseman Clemente Inclan. Inclan came around to score on the next at-bat when shortstop Danny Serretti doubled into right field. Sharpe induced two fly balls to center field, ending the inning with the game knotted at two runs each.
Austin Love again sat the Tigers down in order picking up two strikeouts along the way.
In the bottom of the third inning, the Tar Heels broke the game wide open. Center fielder Justice Thompson singled into left field and advanced to second on a fielding error by J.D. Brock. Sharpe balked on the next at-bat by not coming to a complete stop before delivering a pitch, putting Thompson on third with no outs. Sharpe ended that at-bat by hitting the batter, giving Carolina runners on first and third with no outs. After picking up a strikeout, Centracchio tripled down the first baseline, just missing Grice’s glove.
After striking out another batter, Sharpe once again ran a ball too far inside, putting a runner on first base. Danny Serretti hit the Tar Heels’ second triple of the inning, scoring Centracchio and Inclan. A strikeout ended the inning, leaving North Carolina with a four run lead after three innings.
Love sat the Tigers down in order again in the fourth, including catching Grice and French looking to end the inning.
Despite a one out walk, the Tar Heels sent just four batters to the plate in the fourth, and did not pick up any runs.
The Tigers in the fifth again sat down in order, including leading the inning off with two strikeouts looking. Elijah Henderson rolled over a ball to the second baseman to end the inning.
Despite giving up a lead off walk, Sharpe kept the Tar Heel bats quiet in the fifth inning, striking out the next two and inducing a line drive out to left field to end the inning.
Bryce Teodosio led off the top of the sixth with a 1-2 double down the left field line. Fly balls to center field by Kier Meredith and Dylan Brewer brought Teodosio in to score, cutting the Tar Heel lead to three runs.
Sharpe did not return to the mound for the Tigers in the bottom of the sixth inning. Monte Lee opted for redshirt freshman Nick Hoffman to come in relief. Despite giving up a one-out single, Hoffman escaped the inning unscathed.
Austin Love recorded his fifth and sixth strikeouts looking to start the seventh. Bryar Hawkins ended the inning with a slow roller to the shortstop, making it the third time in four innings the Tigers went down in order.
After allowing two fly balls to deep right field that Dylan Drewer, Hoffman allowed a two-out single to Carolina catcher Tomas Frick. Much like the two batters before him in the inning, Clemente Inclan hit a fly ball into deep right field, but unlike the two outs up to that point, Inclan’s kept carrying all the way over the wall, just missing Brewer’s outstretched glove, giving North Carolina their largest lead of the game, five runs, heading into the final two innings of the game.
Elijah Henderson led off the eighth inning with a single up the middle, but was called out at second when Teodosio rolled into a would-be double play to the third baseman. Henderson slid in a bit to the right side of the second base bag, and got called for interference, meaning Teodosio was also out on the play.
After 7 ⅔ innings pitched North Carolina made the call to the bullpen, bringing on left handed pitcher Shawn Rapp to close out the game. Love exited the game to a standing ovation to the Carolina Unlike Love, who did not allow a free pass all night, Rapp immediately hit Kier Meredith with the first pitch he threw, giving the Tigers a two-out base runner. Rapp bounced back, striking out Brewer to end the inning, stranding Meredith.
Hoffman returned to work in the eighth inning, allowing a one-out single but fighting back to retire the next two batters, ending the Tar Heel eighth with one runner stranded.
The Tigers went up to bat with a mountain to climb in the ninth inning down five runs. James Parker struck out for the first out of the inning, making things that much harder. Caden Grice walked, but Rapp retired the next two batters, putting the Tigers down for the final time, claiming the game 8-3 for North Carolina.
The Tigers and Tar Heels return to the diamond tomorrow at 2 p.m. in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels are hunting for the series win while the Tigers are looking to avoid dropping their second straight ACC series to open the season.