You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

How one swing of Alberto Osuna’s bat helped fuel UNC baseball’s run to Super Regionals

The Charlotte Observer logo The Charlotte Observer 6/9/2022 C.L. Brown, The Charlotte Observer

It’s not often an entire baseball season can be summed up by one at-bat. Yet North Carolina’s run to the NCAA Super Regional against Arkansas may not have happened without Alberto Osuna’s walk-off homer against Florida State on May 19.

That walk-off in the first game of a three-game series led to a sweep of the Seminoles, and an undefeated ACC tournament title run. With it, Carolina earned the No. 10 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, and earned the right to stay at home in Chapel Hill to play host in the regional round.

“There’s no doubt that was the biggest swing of the bat, probably of this run,” UNC coach Scott Forbes said. “And I knew that’s what this team needed.”

The Tar Heels now sit two wins in the Super Regional away from earning their 12th berth in the College World Series, and their first since 2018. They take on the Razorbacks beginning Saturday at 11 a.m. at Boshamer Stadium in a best two-of-three series to determine who will advance to Omaha.

And their fortunes all seemed to change the moment Osuna’s homer landed over the left field wall.

Back on May 19, it was hard to envision Carolina would be in this position. The Heels had yet to secure a spot in the ACC tournament heading into the last regular season series with then-No. 20 Florida State.

Only the top 12 teams in the conference reach the tournament, and UNC was sitting in the 11th spot as a result of losing the tiebreaker with Georgia Tech. The Seminoles had clinched, but still had a lot to play — they had a chance at claiming the Atlantic Division title with a sweep and some help.

‘That actually happened’

Carolina led 4-3 going into the top of the eighth inning, when a Jamie Tibbs delivered a gut-punch to their chances with a two-run homer off sophomore reliever Davis Palermo that put FSU ahead.

Osuna had already faced FSU reliever Wyatt Crowell the previous inning. Three sliders later, “and I was headed back to the dugout,” Osuna said. “It was a really bad at-bat.”

In the ninth, Danny Serretti singled and pinch hitter Johnny Castagnozzi reached on a walk with two outs setting the stage for Osuna. Crowell again got ahead in the count with two strikes in his first two pitches.

Osuna evened the count by taking the next two pitches and then fouled off another. What came next Osuna doesn’t quite remember all of the details from it. He knew Crowell might use his slider since it had been successful, although he said he wasn’t “waiting on it.”

“He just left one and I luckily got a good swing on it,” Osuna said. “I was just hoping we can score, like I thought it was gonna be a double and then I saw it at the end where it hit the net. I don’t remember a thing after that until I reached the dugout. I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, that actually happened.’”

Heels put it all together

Osuna’s three-run shot catapulted the Heels to a three-game sweep of the Seminoles and helped power their run to the Super Regionals. Carolina knew it had the potential to be a special team, but Osuna said until that game and that series, they hadn’t put everything together.

“We weren’t playing well, but I think we all knew like at some point we could turn it around,” Osuna said. “We just all had to kind of raise it up a little bit, which coach Forbes preached on that too. Like everyone just has to be a little bit better and just focus a little bit more.”

The focus is there. The confidence is, too. That’s partly how the Heels were able to win three straight games against Georgia and Virginia Commonwealth — two of which came while Forbes sat out a suspension — all while facing elimination in the regional. It’s put them in a position where getting a trip to the College World Series isn’t just a dream.

“We’re sitting three games under .500 (before Florida State) and I’m thinking we need to win this series,” Forbes said. “I thought with that (Osuna’s) swing of the bat gave us the momentum.”

Momentum that the Heels hope carries them to Omaha.

©2022 The Charlotte Observer. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


More from The Charlotte Observer

The Charlotte Observer
The Charlotte Observer
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon