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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC baseball edges past UNC-Wilmington in five-hour game

The Tar Heels' 6-5 victory over UNC-Wilmington took 12 innings and five hours

North Carolina baseball’s game at UNC-Wilmington had dragged on into the 12th inning and into the fifth hour of play. Something, anything needed to break the stalemate.

It turns out no pitch was even needed to break the tie

UNC-W pitcher Justin Crump tried to pick off Joe Dudek on first base, but no one was covering the bag for the Seahawks.

The result: a balk that scored Tyler Ramirez to lift the Tar Heels to a 6-5 win on Wednesday, ending UNC-W’s 10-game winning streak.

“It was weird because (Crump) picked off at first,” Ramirez said. “The first baseman wasn’t holding the runner on, so I didn’t really know what happened. They yelled balk and I was like, ‘OK, I get to go home.’”

After a solid offensive showing in Tuesday’s win over Campbell and five runs in the first three innings against UNC-W, the Tar Heel bats fell silent. The game turned into a pitcher’s duel, as neither team scored between the fourth and 12th innings.

Typically UNC plays weaker in-state opponents midweek to prepare for various conference series on the weekends. But in playing UNC-W – one of the better nonconference in-state teams – on the road and on the second day of a back-to-back, the Seahawks posed a tough challenge for the Tar Heels.

“This probably wasn’t the greatest scheduling in the world,” Coach Mike Fox said. “When you do your scheduling, you want to play these midweek games, back to back, you want to play in April when the weather’s warm.”

As the clock ticked on, both bullpens continued putting zeroes on the scoreboard. Although the UNC bullpen has struggled this season, Fox elected to use five different pitchers to relieve freshman starter Hunter Williams.

He first turned to steady senior Trevor Kelley, who leads the country with 30 appearances. Freshman Hansen Butler and sophomore Zach Rice also provided quality innings.

“That’s what we needed, to get some other guys in the game,” Fox said. “They performed well with a lot of confidence.”

Then, when UNC needed outs, Fox gave the ball to junior Trent Thornton, who’s been in many tight situations as last year’s ace. Thornton worked out of a bases loaded jam in the 10th inning to extend the game.

“This was one of the biggest games of our season so far,” Thornton said. “This is probably one of the best midweek teams we’ve played. Them being ranked and us coming through with a win, (Wednesday) was really huge for us.”

Thornton once again faced pressure in the bottom of the 12th with a man on third and UNC clinging onto a one-run lead, but he struck out Joe Bertone swinging to finish the game. Winning always beats losing, especially given the effort put into this 12-inning, five-hour game.

“Riding back from midweek games that we play away, if we lose, it’s one of the most miserable trips you can have,” Thornton said. “It’s all smiles and laughs on the bus right now.”

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