Controversy reigns as UNC Baseball drops regional play at VCU

The VCU Rams upset No. 10 Carolina overall in the winners’ bracket of the NCAA Regionals on Saturday night at Boshamer Stadium, but the post-game chat wasn’t about either team. Instead, attention was turned to the referees. Two controversial calls in the first innings clouded what was a very competitive game from start to finish, one which VCU won, 4-3.

But the outcome might have been different if those two critical calls hadn’t gone against the Tar Heels. In the second inning, Carolina charged with one out and the score was tied at 0-0. Johnny Castagnozzi came up to bat and grounded a fly ball to second baseman. The Rams tried to convert a double play, but Tomas Frick collided with VCU shortstop as he slid to second base. Frick’s header hit the Rams shortstop’s knee. Play is common in baseball, as runners often try to break up a potential double play as much as they can, within legal limits.

Frick’s slip, however, was ruled baserunner interference and Castagnozzi was called, ending the inning. Otherwise, Castagnozzi would have been safe at first base, and Carolina would have led 1-0. The piece has been reviewed, but confirmed.

VCU hit a solo home run late in the inning (the Rams were the home team by virtue of a toss), but Carolina looked like they could rally on top of third. Colby Wilkerson and Mac Horvath stood at second and first base with Danny Serretti at bat with one out. Serretti popped a ball to the infield. In such situations, umpires normally choose to call the rule “Infield Fly”, which in baseball means the batter is automatically out and the baserunners cannot advance whether the ball is caught or not. The rule is designed to prevent teams from intentionally dropping the ball and getting a double play.

But that’s exactly what the Rams did, as umpires didn’t call an inside fly and Wilkerson and Horvath were both forced out on base runs.

A furious Scott Forbes argued with the referee team for the second time in two innings, and his arguments were so vehement that he was ejected from the match. It’s only the second time in Forbes’ short career as UNC head coach that he’s been kicked out. Subsequently, the NCAA decided that Forbes would be suspended for the next two games. In a tweet, UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham called Forbes’ suspension “incredibly disappointing” and said he received “no explanation for the call that ultimately led to the suspension. “.

And that was only the first two and a half rounds!

The game remained close throughout, with Carolina starter Brandon Schaeffer once again putting in a big effort, allowing just one run in 5.1 innings. The Rams got critical insurance runs in the seventh and eighth on home runs to extend their lead to 4-1. Vance Honeycutt had Carolina on the board in eighth with his 23rd home run of the season.

The Tar Heels threatened again in the top of the ninth, scoring twice on a home run from Serretti and then drawing back-to-back walks with two outs. Mikey Madej came up to bat, but couldn’t get the runners home, coming out to end the game. No domestic flight rules were called.

It was a frustrating night at the ballpark for the Tar Heels, who left 12 men on base and felt heavily involved in several officiating decisions. Either way, Carolina will now play for its season on Sunday afternoon against Georgia at 1 p.m. All the Bulldogs did on Saturday was score 24 points in a win over Hofstra. The winner of this match will play a nightcap against VCU at 6 p.m. If the Tar Heels (or Bulldogs) also won this game, a final game would be played on Monday afternoon.

Featured image via UNC Athletic Communications does not charge subscription fees, and you can directly support our local journalism efforts here. Want more of what you see on Chapelboro? Let us bring you free local news and community information by signing up to our bi-weekly newsletter.