Nine runs across the eighth and ninth inning fueled an 11-7 victory for the Auburn Tigers over UNC to open NCAA Super Regional play on Saturday in Chapel Hill.
The Tar Heels jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, stringing together base hits.
UNC starting pitcher Tyler Baum also started off strong for Carolina, keeping the Tigers off the scoreboard until a two-run home run for Auburn in the fifth inning.
Baum exited with Carolina up 4-2 after 6.1 innings and striking out seven.
But the bullpen – which has been stellar for Carolina – could not keep the Tar Heels in front. Austin Love, Joey Lancelloti and Hansen Butler have helped the Tar Heels roll through the ACC Tournament play and NCAA Regional play undefeated. But the trio got knocked around on Saturday.
Carolina had the bases loaded with one out in the ninth inning with star freshman Aaron Sabato at the plate. Sabato struck out on three pitches – all of which it appeared Sabato thought were outside the strike zone. UNC was able to push across two runs in the ninth before Ashton McGee flied out with the bases loaded for the final out.
There were threats of rain throughout the day, but the weather cooperated and the game was played without any delays.
The Tigers and Tar Heels will be back at it on Sunday in Chapel Hill, although Auburn will be the home team. If Carolina wins, a third game would be played Monday. Auburn could advance to the College World Series with a win on Sunday to sweep the Tar Heels.
The first pitch of Sunday’s game is scheduled for 11:30 a.m.