Three months removed from its final game of the 2021 season, North Carolina took the field last Monday at Boshamer Stadium for its first scrimmage of the fall.
Play of the weekend
Some plays might have been flashier. But with one out and the bases loaded in the top of the eighth and final inning Friday, fifth-year senior Clemente Inclan picked up his second RBI with a well-placed bunt on a squeeze play. It was the sort of play you’d expect to see from a veteran.
Five who stood out
Inclan: In addition to his great bunt Friday, the third baseman launched a homer to right field. On Saturday, he reached on a bunt single in his first at-bat, earning him another trip to the plate. He proceeded to double and ultimately finished 3-for-7 in both games.
Vance Honeycutt: After going 2-for-4 with two RBIs in UNC’s first scrimmage, the freshman continued to show why the San Francisco Giants picked him in the 20th round of July’s MLB Draft. He went 3-for-6 with a run scored across both games. He also stole two bases and made a great play in center field on Friday, ranging to his right to track down a ball in the gap.
Tyler Causey: Coming off a strong summer with the Carolina Vipers of the Southern Collegiate League, Causey keeps swinging a hot bat. His fourth-inning single Friday – a hard-hit ball to center – gave Navy a 2-1 lead that it did not relinquish. He then went 3-for-3 with two doubles and a run scored Saturday, giving him a team-best four hits on the weekend. A third-year sophomore, Causey has primarily played first base since arriving in Chapel Hill, and while he still played a few innings there this weekend, he spent most of his time in left field.
Will Sandy: Another Tar Heel fresh off a successful summer, Sandy looked much more like the pitcher he was his first two seasons during Saturday’s appearance. The fourth-year junior allowed only one hit over 2 2/3 scoreless innings of relief. He also struck out five batters without issuing a walk.
Shawn Rapp: Not be outdone by his fellow lefty, Rapp surrendered two hits over three scoreless innings of relief Saturday. He also didn’t issue a walk while striking out six – all on his slider.
The seven pitchers who threw Friday – Nik Pry, Kyle Mott, Caden O’Brien, Gage Gillian, Connor Bovair, Caleb Cozart and Davis Palermo – faced 63 batters. They issued just two total walks.
After leading UNC relievers in innings pitched (16 2/3) during the shortened 2020 season, Mott made only four appearances last spring, allowing four runs in two innings. But if his performance to begin fall ball is a sign of things to come, the Pitt Community College transfer could find himself back in a more sizable role in 2022. The 6-foot-4 righty looked as good as I’ve seen him Friday, striking out three in two hitless innings and showing good feel for his curveball and slider.
Bovair – who transferred to UNC this offseason after one year at Siena – allowed one run on two hits while striking out two over three innings Friday. The righty sat 90-93 and has a smooth, repeatable delivery.
Fellow transfer Brandon Schaeffer – who joined the Tar Heels after three years at WVU Potomac State College – surrendered one run (unearned) on one hit across three innings Saturday. He struck out three batters and hit another. The lefty’s fastball sat in the upper 80s to low 90s, but the pitch plays up.
Freshman Alden Segui found himself in a tough spot in the bottom of the seventh Saturday, with runners on first and second with one out. The righty, however, sandwiched a pair of strikeouts around a hit batsman to escape the jam unscathed.
Honeycutt wasn’t the only newcomer who flashed some wheels. Leading off the bottom of the first Friday, Reece Holbrook – the son of former UNC assistant and current College of Charleston head coach Chad Holbrook – hit a grounder to second for what appeared to an easy out, but the freshman hustled down the first-base line and almost beat the throw.
Perhaps no Tar Heel had a better summer than Patrick Alvarez, and he continues to look like he’ll push for more playing time in 2022. He went 4-for-10 with three runs scored across the three scrimmages. The biggest question regarding Alvarez is where he fits into the lineup with Johnny Castagnozzi, Mac Horvath and Danny Serretti returning. With Horvath playing opposite of Alvarez, Castagnozzi and Serretti on Friday and Saturday, Alvarez played second and Castagnozzi manned third.
Angel Zarate always seems to find a way to get on base. The fifth-year outfielder went 1-for-5 with a couple of loud outs Friday and Saturday, but he also drew a team-best two walks.
Friday’s scrimmage got off to a comical start when moments after the first pitch, a fox ran onto the field from the third-base stands, darted across the field and exited through the gate next to the home dugout. The sequence happened in about 30 seconds.