Photo by Turner Walston
After taking care of business in game one, North Carolina baseball came out firing in game two. A four-run first inning — highlighted by six hits and nine men coming to the plate — helped UNC jump out to an early lead.
This early offensive spark was able to knock Stetson down early, taking away any momentum that had been left over from the Hatters ninth-inning rally a day before.
Stetson got one back on a home run in the second, but UNC got them both back via Ashton McGee's second RBI hit of the day and a sacrifice fly from Brandon Martorano.
With the score now 6-1, Stetson mounted a rally — a trend that would continue for most of the afternoon.
Two runs scored on a hit from Brooks Wilson to pull Stetson back within three. A ground ball up the middle looked to bring in two more, but Zack Gahagan made a dazzling backhanded, jump-throw play to get the out at first and keep the Hatters at bay.
Things went quietly for UNC in the top half of the fourth, but Stetson again mounted a rally in the bottom half. With men on first and second, the Tar Heels brought in Caden O’Brien for the second consecutive day.
O’Brien got the job done, forcing a double-play ground ball. The runner was initially ruled safe at first but due to interference at second base it was ruled an inning-ending double play.
Ike Freeman attempts to avoid the clutches of the Stetson base runner. Photo: Turner Walston. Click the above photo to see the progression.
O’Brien’s 28 appearances ties the freshman record for UNC with Spencer Trayner.
The Tar Heels tacked on another run in the sixth, courtesy a Cody Roberts suicide squeeze to run the score to 7-3. It was a beautiful bunt from arguably Carolina’s best bunter, and gave UNC a much needed insurance run.
An O’Brien and Brett Daniels bottom half of the sixth kept Stetson off the scoreboard, placing UNC nine outs from Omaha. Daniels kept the game relatively quiet until the ninth, allowing only a solo home run, bringing the score to 7-4.
In the ninth, the Hatters gave their last ditch effort to stay alive. A slew of hits got a run in, and then came the high-pressure spot: Josh Hiatt called into the game — a day after throwing 50 pitches — to face the Hatters best bat in Brooks Wilson.
Wilson hit a deep fly off Austin Bergner to end the game yesterday, and today he came up with a chance to send the series to Sunday if he could connect for a home run.
His effort was extremely close, but it didn’t matter to the Tar Heels.
The Chapel Hill Super Regional Champion Tar Heels are heading to Omaha.