The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday January 24th

Ashton McGee's 11th inning single propels UNC baseball past ECU

UNC Baseball faced St. John's on Wednesday afternoon.
Buy Photos UNC Baseball faced St. John's on Wednesday afternoon.

Boshamer Stadium’s scoreboard was overflowing with zeros.

Besides a small burst in the second that saw one East Carolina run followed by two for the No. 5 North Carolina baseball team, all the crowd saw was O’s. The by-inning display might as well have been a Connect 4 board.

As the top of the seventh got underway, B.o.B’s “Magic” echoed against the bleachers of a dead stadium. This desperate attempt for energy may have worked on a crowd of middle-school students in 2010, but it did nothing for these fans.

They hadn’t seen a score in four full innings, and they needed some action on this Tuesday night.

East Carolina added an unearned run in the seventh, which evened the game at 2-2.But that was a game-tying run, not a game-winning run. The crowd — and both teams — continued to wait.

Ashton McGee gave the game the finish it deserved.

The first-year designated hitter walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the 11th gave UNC a 3-2 win — its ninth win in 10 games. And he did so in epic fashion.

The set-up looked just like a classic sports movie. Bases loaded. Two strikes and two balls. Two outs.

The game had been one of defense. Since ECU’s game-tying run in the seventh, neither team had gotten anything going. The Tar Heels’ five pitchers had totaled 14 strikeouts, and the Pirates’ had tallied nine.

But in this situation, the game was all about offense. In fact, the very result hinged on it.

“I was looking for a fastball in the zone,” McGee said. “I knew (ECU pitcher Joe Ingle) wasn’t throwing many sliders or lefthanders — and if he did, they were in the dirt.”

On the fifth pitch of the count, he made contact for the first time on the night — he was fruitless on five previous at-bats, striking out three times.

This wasn’t a fourth strikeout, though. It was a high-arching ball to right field with just enough air to fly over a running, falling Pirate outfielder.

“It just goes to show that your first five at-bats don’t matter,” junior second baseman Zack Gahagan said. “(McGee) proved that he can do it.”

Logan Warmoth, who was on second base at the time, flung his arm in the air in celebration. He knew it was over. Adam Pate took off from third and touched home. McGee could only watch as his teammates poured out of the dugout and ran toward him.

“It’s like hitting the last shot of the game,” head coach Mike Fox said. “Nobody cares if you’ve missed 15. If you hit the last one, that’s that.”

This was McGee’s Russell Crowe “Are you not entertained?” gladiator moment. A finish worth waiting for. He was the game’s hero, and he was getting dog piled.

“It felt good,” he said. “I got stepped on a little bit.”

Someone’s cleat nicked McGee’s cheek in in the middle of the celebration. Not like that took away from the moment. That’s what a dog pile is.

“If you get win," McGee said, "it doesn’t matter."

@chapelfowler

sports@dailytarheel.com

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