The No. 9 North Carolina baseball team nearly turned a wrong shade of blue after holding its breath for eight innings yesterday. Today, the team was able to exhale after three.
UNC (6-0) used a seven-run outburst in the second and third innings to remain undefeated with a 9-3 win over the Radford Highlanders (1-5).
The Highlander bats were awake for the 2 p.m. start time Saturday. Radford’s offense began with a single from their starting pitcher, Danny Hrbek. Catcher Jonathan Gonzalez brought him home in the team’s next at-bat, slugging a two-run home run to the left-center power alley to push Radford ahead, 2-0.
The Tar Heels came with an answer in the bottom of the second, though. The slugfest started with two singles to lead off the inning by second baseman Zack Gahagan and outfielder Brandon Riley. The two were driven in after third baseman Kyle Datres laced a double down the third baseline.
On the very next pitch, designated hitter Ashton McGee squeaked a slow ground ball through the three-four hole to put runners at the corners. After a failed squeeze play that left Datres out to dry, the Tar Heels benefited from a shortstop error and a fielder’s choice to cap off the four-run inning.
After a scoreless top half of the third for the Highlanders, the Tar Heels continued to pile on. Logan Warmoth singled and Gahagan walked to put his shortstop in scoring position. With two outs, Datres garnered his third RBI of the game with a single through the five-six hole, driving in Warmoth.
After a McGee single and a Radford throwing error, Datres crossed the plate again.
The Tar Heels’ pitching came out triumphant for the second time in the series. UNC relied on its bullpen to take the game from the middle of the fifth.
Starting pitcher Jason Morgan notched four strikeouts, six hits allowed and two earned runs in 5 2/3 innings pitched. Radford’s Hrbek, on the other hand, only pitched 2 2/3 innings, allowing seven hits and six earned runs.
Who stood out?
Datres had three hits in four at-bats with four RBIs. In the bottom of the third, he took advantage of a Radford throwing error and slid head-first into home plate for a run.
McGee also had three hits in four at-bats, adding an RBI of his own.
When was it decided?
North Carolina entered the fourth inning with a 7-2 lead and all the game’s momentum. Radford’s first-inning lead had been completely erased, and the Highlanders couldn’t recover.
Radford managed to get runners at the corners in the seventh. A Radford fielder’s choice allowed left fielder Adam Whitacre to score his team’s first run since the opening inning, but the Highlanders had nothing after that.
Why does it matter?
With the win, the Tar Heels extend their unbeaten streak to six games. They will play at the Bosh tomorrow with a chance for their second weekend-series sweep of the season.
With this victory, North Carolina proved it can win in both defensive and offensive games. Despite stranding their center fielder Brian Miller on base three different times, the Tar Heels were able to accumulate nine runs on 11 hits.
When do they play next?
UNC and Radford will complete their three-game series tomorrow at 1 p.m.
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