The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday January 24th

UNC baseball soars past Miami behind Brandon Riley's home run

Brian Miller (5) runs toward third base.
Buy Photos Brian Miller (5) runs toward third base.

It’s tall — somewhere in between the stadium lights in right-center and the three flagpoles next to it. The list of things that have touched the top of that tree is up to one’s imagination. Birds? Maybe a few adventurous squirrels?

After Saturday, one thing is concretely on that list, and it will be forever — Brandon Riley’s home run ball.

Neither UNC nor Miami had scored in the second game of the series. UNC first-year pitcher Luca Dalatri had stranded a Hurricane on third in two consecutive innings.

Now it was time for the offense to cash in.

It started with a bit of luck. Senior outfielder Tyler Lynn reached first base on a Miami throwing error.

After junior Zack Gahagan flied out to centerfield, it was Riley’s turn. The sophomore outfielder stepped up to the plate, and Miami’s Jeb Bargfeldt stood at the mound. It was the first time these two would meet today.

He wasn’t nervous.

“I was actually going up there and planning on taking the first pitch,” he said.

Riley had seen the tape on Bargfeldt. As a lefty, he was guilty of throwing across his body a bit. So when that happened, he was a little surprised — but not unprepared.

“It was just one of those pitches that was too good not to take,” he said.

With a crack of the bat, the ball went soaring. And it kept soaring. Although it didn’t totally clear the pine tree, it came pretty close.

“I didn’t think it was going to go that far,” Riley said.

The scoreboard now read 2-0 as Lynn and Riley jogged around the bases. It didn’t change again until the fourth inning, when Brian Miller got in on the action with a two-RBI triple that just snuck over a Hurricane outfielder’s outstretched glove.

“I was just trying to be aggressive and hit whatever he threw to me,” Miller said.

The Tar Heels won that game, 6-3. Friday’s 7-2 victory was more comfortable, but Saturday’s was action-packed. Sunday’s was a letdown — a 6-2 loss — but Riley still had a strong showing.

He tied Miller with a team-high three hits. On a day when his team allowed a season-high six runs, Riley still showed some life.

He’s been on a tear since Wednesday’s 6-2 win at East Carolina. In that game, he hit his first home run of the season. On Saturday, he doubled his home run total from last season with what will be the longest hit of his career for the foreseeable future.

Head coach Mike Fox singled out on key trait in Riley that’s kept him riding this wave.

“Confidence,” Fox said. “He’s just confident. He works ... There’s nothing like confidence.”

“He had a good weekend.”



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