Vance Honeycutt’s walk-off homer propels Tar Heels to Super Regional victory

Chapel Hill, NC – In an electrifying start to the Chapel Hill Super Regional, the North Carolina Tar Heels staged a dramatic comeback to defeat the West Virginia Mountaineers 8-6 in the first game of the best-of-three series on Friday night. The victory, marked by a ninth-inning two-run walk-off homer by Vance Honeycutt, showcased the resilience and firepower of the Tar Heels, setting a thrilling tone for the series.

Vance Honeycutt hits a two-run walk-off homer to win the game. (photo by Gene Galin)

The game began with a strong showing from West Virginia, who took an early lead in the third inning with a solo home run by Kyle West. West, who entered the game after a challenging stretch, found his swing when it mattered most, launching a 359-foot shot over the right field wall. This early advantage signaled a tough challenge for the home team.

However, the Tar Heels were not to be outdone. They responded in the bottom of the third with a four-run rally. With the bases loaded, Parks Harber delivered a two-run single, which was compounded by a fielding error allowing an additional run to score. This display of offensive prowess and a bit of luck on the defensive end helped UNC take a 4-1 lead.

The Mountaineers fought back in the fourth inning with West again stepping up to the plate, this time with a run-scoring single, narrowing the gap to 4-2. The momentum seemed to shift back and forth as the game progressed, with both teams showing their mettle under pressure.

By the sixth inning, West Virginia had taken the lead. Reed Chumley, the team’s home run leader, added to his tally with a solo shot after a Tar Heel fielding error. West followed up with a two-run homer, his second of the game, pushing the Mountaineers ahead 6-4.

The Tar Heels, known for their tenacity, chipped away at the lead. Colby Wilkerson hit a solo home run in the seventh, bringing the score to 6-5 and setting the stage for a tense final two innings.

As the game entered the ninth inning, Luke Stevenson, a freshman catcher for UNC, stepped up to the plate and delivered a game-tying solo home run, electrifying the crowd at Boshamer Stadium. With the score tied at 6-6, the stage was set for a dramatic finish.

Vance Honeycutt, a standout player for UNC and a top prospect in the upcoming MLB Draft, seized the moment. On a full count, he launched a towering two-run walk-off home run to left field, sealing the victory for the Tar Heels in spectacular fashion. The crowd erupted as Honeycutt rounded the bases, his 25th home run of the season and the 62nd of his career, setting a new school record.

Vance Honeycutt starts his run around the bases. (photo by Gene Galin)

The win was not just about the late-game heroics. It was also a testament to the pitching duel that unfolded throughout the game. Derek Clark, the starter for West Virginia, pitched deep into the game, throwing 144 pitches before being relieved. Matt Poston, the UNC reliever, was equally impressive, retiring all nine batters he faced and striking out four.

With this victory, the Tar Heels improve to 46-14 on the season and 36-3 at home. They now need just one more win to secure a spot in the College World Series. West Virginia, on the other hand, faces an uphill battle, needing to win the next two games to advance.

As the series continues, both teams will look to capitalize on their strengths and learn from their mistakes. The Tar Heels will aim to maintain their offensive momentum and solid pitching, while the Mountaineers will seek to rebound and continue their fight.

The second game of the series is scheduled for Saturday night at 8 p.m., with the Tar Heels looking to close out the series and secure their spot in the College World Series.