The UNC baseball team defeated the No.11 South Carolina Gamecocks in an extra innings win 3-2, Tuesday afternoon.
UNC traveled to Charlotte to play the Gamecocks. In the midst of a two-game losing streak and dropping six of the last seven, UNC (15-12, 9-9 ACC) needed a win to regain momentum in the season. This time, the Tar Heels found themselves on the right side of an extra inning game, as they scored the deciding run in the top of the tenth and kept South Carolina (19-8, 6-3 SEC) off the board in the bottom half.
Junior Angel Zarate started the game with a lead off triple in the top of the first, as the first of four straight hits that gave UNC the 1-0 lead. With the bases loaded and no outs, a double play ball quickly shifted momentum as the next batter struck out to end the inning.
On the bump for the Tar Heels, redshirt first-year Max Alba struggled in the first inning as a lead off walk and hit by pitch later yielded the Gamecocks’ first run to even the score 1-1.
In the bottom of the second, Alba got the first batter to pop up before surrendering a walk. After that, UNC sent senior Gage Gillian to the mound for another relief appearance. With a runner on first and one out, Gillian got the double-play ball to end the inning.
From there, Gillian cut through the Gamecocks with ease; in the bottom of the third he got all South Carolina hitters to ground out. And then in the bottom of the fourth, Gillian struck out the first two batters before surrendering his first base runner with a single, but struck out the next batter.
North Carolina capitalized on two straight walks from South Carolina in the top of the sixth that resulted in the Tar Heels scoring another run to take the 2-1 advantage.
The Gamecocks got the run back via a lead off home run to tie the game 2-2 in the bottom of the sixth. But sophomore Nik Pry bounced back to strike out the next two, and get a ground out to end the inning.
Both teams pitched to a stalemate by the end of the ninth as the game moved into extra innings.
In the top of the 10th inning, senior Dallas Tesser bunted to get himself aboard as the lead off man. The next hitter, junior Angel Zarate, hit into a fielder’s choice where USC got the out at second. With a one-out single, sophomore Justice Thompson put runners on first and second with one out for UNC. In an 0-2 count, sophomore Caleb Roberts singled up the middle to give UNC a 3-2 lead before heading into the bottom of the 10th.
Sophomore Caden O’Brien shut down the Gamecocks as he got a quick ground out followed by two strikeouts to give the Tar Heels the victory in extra innings 3-2.
Head Coach Scott Forbes said his biggest point of emphasis before Monday’s game was that hard work was the key to results and with the great win he felt his team deserved it.
“I was just happy to see them respond because we talked about, ‘Hey let’s just play well, let’s focus on trying to play a complete game, and our guys found a way to get it done,” Forbes said. “It starts on the mound and we made plays behind those guys on the bump, we found a way against a really good club.”
In another relief appearance Gillian held the Gamecocks to one hit and no walks behind three strikeouts in 2.2 innings of work. O’Brein also made another great relief appearance; in 3.0 innings he issued one walk, one hit and struck out two en route to get the W.
The win moved UNC to 15-12 overall and 9-9 in the ACC while South Carolina fell to 19-8 overall and 6-3 in the SEC. The Tar Heels take on their archival Duke at home in a three-game weekend series with game one set for 6 p.m. Friday evening.
For coverage of that weekend series and more on the UNC baseball program, you can count on Keeping It Heel!