Trent Thornton struck out pinch-hitter Joe Bertone in the bottom of the 12th inning to close out a 6-5 road win for the #23 UNC baseball team over its top 25 opponent, the #22 UNC-Wilmington Seahawks–with Carolina right-fielder Tyler Ramirez scoring on a balk earlier in the frame to break the tie.
Suddenly the surging Tar Heels find themselves with a solid 26-15 record, as they hand the red-hot Seahawks just their ninth loss of the season, putting them at 28-9 overall.
Thornton (3-4) pitched the final 2.2 innings, all in extras, without allowing Wilmington to record a hit, while UNC-W reliever Justin Crump (0-1) ruined a fantastic bullpen effort by his teammates with his late, game-changing balk coming at the end of a night that looked like it would turn into a slug-fest.
Coming off a strong birthday performance the night before, UNC catcher Korey Dunbar got the ball rolling with a two-out, two-run single off Wilmington starting pitcher Evan Phillips in the top of the first–giving freshman left-hander Hunter Williams a two-run cushion before he had to throw his first pitch.
The Seahawks manufactured one run in the bottom of the first, but it looked like that may not be enough with the way Carolina came out swinging the bats.
Skye Bolt’s single in the top of the second scored freshman Zack Gahagan, and was followed by a sacrifice fly off the bat of Landon Lassiter, making it appear as if the Tar Heels were poised to break things open.
Switching pitchers didn’t look like it did anything for UNC-W in the next inning, as reliever Austin Magestro allowed Carolina second baseman Eli Sutherland, who came in to the game batting .197, to double home Dunbar and give the team in light blue its fifth run of the game.
Despite looking unhittable over his last four starts on the mound for the Tar Heels, Hunter Williams couldn’t hold onto the big lead against the toughest lineup he’s faced this year. Wilmington scored three runs in the bottom of the third to close the gap to one–ending Williams’ day after just 2.2 innings, with the big man striking out three, walking three, and being credited with earned runs for all four of the Seahawks’ tallies.
And in the very next inning, UNC-W catcher Gavin Stupienski got the better of Carolina’s top reliever, senior Trevor Kelley, for a game-tying RBI single to make it a whole new ball-game in the blink of an eye.
From then on, though, the bullpens for both sides settled down immensely.
UNC’s relief duo consisting of freshman Hansen Butler and sophomore lefty Zach Rice surrendered just four hits combined and held the Seahawks scoreless over the next 4.1 innings, while the Tar Heel offense also fell flat–getting just two hits and no runs over the final six regulation frames, ensuring the fans in Wilmington would see some extra baseball.
As both teams continued to put up zeros in the score column, drama ensued in the top of the 11th, when Skye Bolt was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double–ultimately resulting in some arguing, and the ejection of coach Mike Fox.
Despite not scoring in the 11th, the Tar Heels were granted another opportunity in the 12th–resulting in the game winning balk. They were put in the position thanks to the fantastic effort in relief from Thornton, who came on with one out in the tenth, and did not allow a hit the rest of the way, striking out three Seahawks on his way to the victory.
The Diamond Heels return home this weekend as ACC play winds down in 2015, with the Boston College Eagles visiting Boshamer Stadium for a three game series beginning on Friday at 6:30 p.m.
- Freshman designated hitter Brian Miller, the lead-off man against right handed starting pitchers, led the Tar Heel offense on Wednesday, going 3-5 with a walk, scoring twice.
- Hunter Williams had allowed just two runs in his last 24 innings pitched for UNC. He allowed four in just 2.2 innings in this game.
- Carolina head coach Mike Fox has been ejected in two of the last three games, and is now 18-4 all-time against the Seahawks.
- Wilmington led off five different innings with base-hits.