You can ease those fears about Vance Honeycutt’s back, North Carolina.

Those precautionary measures that kept the Tar Heels’ star out of the lineup for Thursday’s ACC Tournament opener against Pittsburgh were just that.

A precaution.

Honeycutt was back in the lineup for Friday’s Pool A showdown against Wake Forest.

And he’s just fine, thank you.

It took him a while to get back into the swing of things. He struck out in both of his 1st 2 plate appearances. Then again, he wasn’t the only one who struggled to make contact against Chase Burns. The Deacons ace punched out 15 hitters through a dominant 6 innings of work.

But once he came out of the game, it was Honeycutt’s turn to take over.

The junior centerfielder showed why he’s been the ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year for the past 2 seasons by robbing Wake’s Seaver King of extra bases on a running leaping catch to save a run in the top of the 8th.

He then drove in the tying run in the bottom of the inning with a ringing double into almost an identical spot – only over the centerfielder’s head – to help the Tar Heels rally from a 4-run deficit at Charlotte’s Truist Field.

Honeycutt also showed that his wheels are still in working order by legging out a double in 12th.

Even though UNC eventually lost the game 9-5 in 12 innings, the result wasn’t nearly as important to the Tar Heels as the answers their most important player provided with his performance.

There was legitimate reason for concern about Honeycutt’s health after he was scratched on Thursday because of back spasms.

Instead of bringing back memories of the last time the ACC came to Charlotte in 2022, when Honeycutt became the 1st freshman in 17 years to win the event’s MVP award while leading UNC to the championship, the ailment produced a much more ominous flashback

The soon-to-be 1st-round MLB draft pick missed last year’s ACC Tournament, as well as the Tar Heels’ NCAA Regional in Terre Haute, Ind., with what was described as a lower back injury.

While coach Scott Forbes insisted that this current issue was unrelated to that previous ailment, saying that Honeycutt “knew there’s a big difference in what he felt then and what he’s feeling now,” it was hard not to wonder if history might be in the process of repeating itself.

Especially after Honeycut went an uncharacteristic 1-for-12 with only 1 homer and 6 strikeouts in the Tar Heels’ regular season-ending series against Duke.

This is a much more talented, balanced UNC team, one fully capable of getting through next week’s regional round in Chapel Hill even without a less-than-100-percent Honeycutt. It might even be good enough to win a Super Regional and get to Omaha as well.

But to have any realistic shot at finally taking their name off the list of “Most College World Series Appearances Without a Championship,” the 6th-ranked Tar Heels are going to need a healthy, productive Honeycutt leading the way.

He’s more than just UNC’s career home run leader and the 1st player in ACC history to amass 50 homers and 60 stolen bases. He’s the catalyst at the top of the batting order that makes the Tar Heels go.

He’s both a table setter with an ACC-best 75 runs scored and a league-leading 28 steals, and the cleanup crew with 22 homers and 57 runs batted in.

But as important as he is at the plate, he might be even more of a factor with his glove. His 14.92 defensive runs saved are the 2nd most in college baseball this season and No. 1 among outfielders, according to

As elite of a defensive player as Honeycutt is, not even he was able to track down Nick Kurtz’s 409-foot opposite-field drive that cleared the wall in left-center to break a 5-5 tie and spark Wake’s winning 12th-inning rally.

The Deacons will take on Florida State in 1 semifinal Saturday while Duke faces surprising Miami in the other.

Despite the frustrating loss that prevented the top-seeded Tar Heels from advancing and ended their chances of adding a tournament title to the ACC crown they won during the regular season, there was still plenty for them to feel good about as they head home to Chapel Hill to regroup for regionals.

“The great thing,” Forbes said, “is that it’s not the last game.”

UNC won’t know who it will play in that next game until the NCAA announces its 64-team tournament field on Monday. But at least they can be certain looking ahead that their best player will be healthy and in the lineup regardless of the opponent.