The University of Rhode Island baseball team followed up two close losses with a 6-3 victory Saturday against No. 11 University of North Carolina to avoid their second sweep to start off the season.

Rhode Island suffered 4-3 and 5-3 losses last Friday to the Tar Heels before taking a game on Saturday for the Rams first win on the early season after being dealt a three-game sweep by Florida two weeks ago.

Following the win junior starting pitcher Lou Distasio (1-1) claimed Atlantic-10 Co-pitcher of the Week Honors for his nine-strikeout performance to help earn the Rams most recent victory over an opponent ranked No. 11 or better since 2009, when Rhode Island defeated No. 8 Miami (3-0), and No.11 Oklahoma State (5-4). This win also marked head coach Raphael Cerrato’s first victory in charge of his alma mater.

Senior Tim Caputo began the scoring for Rhode Island (1-5) in the first inning when junior Derek Gardella brought him in on a single. Caputo then grounded out to third base resulting in an infielder error and a second run scored for Rhode Island by sophomore Matt O’Neil.

Distasio held the Tar Heels scoreless during his six innings on the mound to keep the Rhode Island lead at 2-0. North Carolina brought the score close during the bottom of the 8th inning at 2-1, scoring off of an unearned single up the middle.

Rhode Island rallied for four runs in the top of the ninth inning to give themselves extra room to close out the Tar Heels in the bottom of the ninth. Sophomore pitcher Tyler Barss gave up two earned runs without allowing a hit during the bottom of the ninth to earn the save, and seal the 6-3 win for the Rams.

“Honestly during the game it was pretty cold but I’m used to that type of environment being from Maine,” Distasio said. “I felt like their team was not as used to those conditions so it benefitted us, but the win is what means the most to me and my team.”

Cerrato said he can already see progression in his team compared to their last series against Florida, during which they were outscored 37-5.

“These last two series have shown us that we can compete with anyone in the country,” Cerrato said. “We showed in the North Carolina series how much more prepared we were to play, win, and showcase ourselves. Comparing this to the Florida series is tough for us, because we had not been outside much. Florida is an extremely tough opponent to be rusty against.”

The Rams battled back from a four-run deficit in the first part of a doubleheader on Friday, scoring three runs in the top of the eighth with help from sophomore designated hitter Martin Taveras and O’Neil. Junior Steve Moyers took the loss for Rhode Island, going 5 1/3 innings with four earned runs and three strikeouts.

Later in the day, Rhode Island led multiple times, but yielded two runs to the Tar Heels in the bottom of the seventh to help them secure the series victory. Junior Derek Kawlewski took the defeat for the Rams after he tossed 2 1/3 innings and allowed two earned runs.

Rhode Island will next face Yale University at Bill Beck Baseball Field for their home opener on March 14 as part of a two-game series.

“In our next series at Yale I expect our guys to do much of the same things we did against North Carolina,” Cerrato said. “We cannot take a team like Yale lightly they are a team many people have predicted to win the Ivy League. However starting out against two of the top opponents in the country should have us feeling confident going into our next series.”