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Athletics

Carolina baseball advances to 12th College World Series

The Diamond Heels are heading to Omaha for the first time since 2018 following a Super Regional series win against West Virginia.

The Carolina baseball team posing for a group celebration photo at Boshamer Stadium
The Tar Heels' 47 wins are their most since winning 48 in 2009. (GoHeels)

For the 12th time in program history, Carolina baseball is heading to the College World Series.

First-year Jason DeCaro pitched 6 1/3 innings, and Vance Honeycutt homered on the first pitch of the game to lead the Tar Heels to a 2-1 win over West Virginia Saturday, securing their first trip to Omaha since 2018 and first under head coach Scott Forbes.

The home-standing Tar Heels (47-14), the No. 4 national seed, went to Omaha seven times from 2006-18. They returned by sweeping the best-of-three Super Regional series against unseeded West Virginia (36-24).

“I’m really happy for this team and these players,” Forbes said. “My whole goal was to get these guys to Omaha because they deserve to be there.”

The Tar Heels will play No. 12 seed Virginia in an opening-round game next weekend.

(Rob Holliday/۰ͼ-Chapel Hill)

Honeycutt, who homered on the final pitch of Game One, launched the first pitch of Game Two over the left field wall, sending the crowd into a frenzy.

He led off the third with a bunt single and moved to third on Casey Cook’s base hit back up the middle. Parks Harber followed with an RBI single through the left side, easily scoring Honeycutt.

“I’ve been saying it since the beginning of the season; [Honeycutt] is the best player in the country,” Forbes said. “He said, ‘Coach, just trust us and jump on our back.’ That’s what I’ve done. He changes the game.”

DeCaro (6-1) allowed one run and two hits, struck out four and walked two before being replaced by closer Dalton Pence.

He struck out the side in the second and only allowed one base runner the next four innings before being lifted from the game.

“He’s a special kid,” Forbes said. “We liked Jason today in the matchup. Him, coach Gaines and coach Howell had a plan, and the pitcher has to go out there and execute it. It’s fun calling pitches when he’s throwing it like he was tonight.”

Aerial image of Boshamer Stadium at night during a baseball game between Carolina and West Virginia.

Nearly 4,500 fans attended Carolina’s 2-1 win over West Virginia June 8. The Tar Heels went 37-3 at Boshamer Stadium this season. (Rob Holliday/۰ͼ-Chapel Hill)

Reed Chumley, the final batter DeCaro faced, scored on Kyle West’s RBI single in the seventh. Pence struck out Ben Lumsden to end the inning.

Pence retired the side in order in the eighth, but West Virginia mounted its most serious scoring threat in the ninth, putting the tying run at second base with one out and loading them with two down.

However, Pence induced a groundball to first and won the race with Lumsden to the bag, giving Carolina its eighth Super Regional title.

Pence pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings and struck out six while issuing three walks and allowing one hit to earn his eighth save.

West Virginia’s Tyler Switalski (5-3) allowed two runs and five hits and issued one walk with four strikeouts.

Postgame notes

  • The Tar Heels recorded their 47th win of the season, their most since winning 48 in 2009.
  • Carolina is 8-3 all-time in the Super Regional round. The Tar Heels have 17 Super Regional wins, ninth most all-time.
  • Carolina recorded its sixth Super Regional sweep (2006, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2018, 2024).
  • Carolina improved to 16-2 this season when allowing two runs or fewer.
  • The Tar Heels finished 37-3 (.925) at Boshamer Stadium, recording the highest winning percentage in stadium history.
  • Honeycutt broke his program single-season home run record, belting his 26th of the season. It was the 63rd homer of his career.
  • DeCaro turned in his sixth quality start of the season.
  • Pence recorded his eighth save of the season, tied for 13th most in school history.