CHARLOTTE — Perspective has become part of the path back from elbow surgery for North Carolina baseball pitcher Max Carlson.
The sophomore struck an appreciative tone after his starting effort helped the streaking Tar Heels roll past Clemson 9-2 on Tuesday night at Truist Field in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament opener for both teams.
“When I went down last year, I had absolutely no thought in my mind that I was going to be even playing baseball this year,” he said. “So I just take every day to the fullest. I just go out every day and have fun, and be grateful that I can even be in this situation that I am.”
Carlson turned the first postseason start of his college career into his second victory of the season. He scattered six hits while allowing one run and issuing one walk, mixing in four strikeouts during his six-inning outing against Clemson, as UNC’s offense staked him to a 7-1 lead through four innings.
He threw 95 pitches with 59 for strikes, including first-pitch strikes to 19 of the 24 batters he faced. He was working on a tighter turnaround, having started five days prior against Florida State to begin the final series of the regular season.
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“I thought ‘Carly’ was the story of the day, coming off short rest,” North Carolina coach Scott Forbes said. “I thought he looked tremendous.”
Clemson coach Monte Lee said: “Carlson pitched like a No. 1 starter. He kept us at bay and that’s just a testament to him.”
The eighth-seeded Tar Heels (35-19) won for the 12th time in their last 14 games and can advance to the semifinal round by defeating top-seeded Virginia Tech (40-11) in Friday night’s matchup that ends pool play.
By this juncture last season, Carlson had been lost to an elbow injury suffered in April 2021. Forbes feared the right-hander might miss this season, too, but Carlson was able to avoid Tommy John surgery — ligament reconstruction used to repair a tear — and underwent a different procedure.
There he was Tuesday, making his 14th start of the 2022 season and striking out Clemson slugger Max Wagner, the newly crowned ACC Player of the Year, across the course of three straight at-bats. Carlson mowed down Wagner to end the top of the first and third innings, and then a third time to open the sixth inning.
“With those kinds of guys who are putting up big numbers like that, you can’t be tentative,” Carlson said. “You have to really go at them, and I think that helped out with the success (Tuesday) night.”
Adam Smith is a sports reporter for the Burlington Times-News and USA TODAY Network. You can reach him by email at email@example.com or @adam_smithTN on Twitter.
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This article originally appeared on Times-News: UNC baseball: Max Carlson appreciates ACC Tournament after arm injury