The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday October 26th

UNC Walks Away With 2 of 3 From 2001 Champs

The Tar Heels scored a run on a bases-loaded walk in the seventh Sunday to break a 4-4 tie and take two of three from Miami.

On April 17, North Carolina reliever Michael Gross suffered such shame, giving a free pass to an East Carolina batter in the bottom of the ninth of a 2-1 loss.

Thanks to Gross' efforts and some help from the Miami bullpen, he and the No. 19 Tar Heels were redeemed Sunday at Boshamer Stadium.

In the 5-4 win, UNC took an early lead, scoring four runs in the first three innings. But the Hurricanes battled back, plating two in the fourth and two more in the sixth.

In the seventh, Miami reliever Vince Vazquez walked three of the first four batters he faced, recording just one out. He was then pulled for J.D. Cockroft, and the rest will live on in ignominy.

"I saw him in warmups," said Ryan Blake, who pinch-hit for UNC in the at-bat. "I knew he was throwing a lot of off-speed pitches, so I knew I had to sit back a little more than I usually do and just try to make sure I hit something in the outfield."

As it turned out, all Blake had to do was sit back. Four outside pitches later, he walked.

"We started off earlier this weekend chasing bad pitches," Blake said. "Today, we talked to the coaches and they told us, 'Be patient. Quit swinging at pitches that aren't ours.' It showed today."

Said UNC coach Mike Fox: "(Cockroft) knows he's got to throw strikes, but he's got a guy up there that can unload on one, and he's trying to be careful.

"Sometimes it's not the pitcher. It's the hitter being patient."

After the inning, Gross closed the door on the Hurricanes. He retired the next six batters to boost his season mark to 6-3.

When asked if he could relate to the plight of Cockroft because of the loss at ECU, Moore said, "No. I was really happy. No sympathy."

The win was Gross' second of the weekend. Friday, he picked up the victory after freshman catcher Chris Iannetta broke a 4-4 tie with a solo homer in the eighth. On Saturday, UNC's six-game winning streak came to an end when Miami's Brad Safchik singled home the game-winning run for the Hurricanes in the ninth.

The win in Game Three gave the Tar Heels (32-15) a series victory against the 2001 NCAA champions. Despite that the unranked Hurricanes (22-21) lost 13 players to the majors after their championship season, Fox said the one-run victories were important for the Tar Heels, who were 4-10 in games decided by three or less runs prior to the weekend.

"That's probably the best thing of the weekend other than the wins," Fox said. "We haven't won our share of close games throughout the season."

As for the manner in which they picked up the rubber game, Fox summed it up succinctly.

"You take whatever they'll give you."

The Sports Editor can be reached at sports@unc.edu.

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