“Yeah,” Fox said. “I didn’t expect that.”
But maybe he should have. Coming into this game, the Tar Heels have outscored opponents 88-34 in the first three innings of ballgames this season — and they had scored first in 23 of 32 matchups.
It was no different on Tuesday, as No. 5 UNC (27-6) scored six runs in the first two innings en route to a 20-5 win over the No. 11 Gamecocks (21-11).
“We just kept swinging it,” Fox said. “Just one of those nights.”
The runs began for North Carolina in the team’s fourth at-bat of the game and didn’t stop the rest of the night.
Third baseman Kyle Datres came up in the cleanup spot with the bases loaded in the bottom of the first inning. He responded with a long drive into left center, right in front of the scoreboard at BB&T Ballpark. It was the first Tar Heel hit of the night to pierce the Charlotte skyline.
“It’s a big ballpark,” Datres said. “You put it in the gap somewhere and you just take off running.”
His bases-clearing triple set the tone for the night and continued the scoring explosion from this past weekend, when UNC plated a school-record 48 runs in a three-game road sweep of Boston College.
It’s fair to say North Carolina’s offense is on fire.
“We had a really good weekend, we’ve been swinging it well and that’s kind of what happens with offense,” leadoff hitter Brian Miller said. “Hitting is contagious, so you kind of pass it on to the next guy and just trust him.”
Big innings propelled the offense in Charlotte on Tuesday. After scoring four runs in the first, the Tar Heels dropped six more on the Gamecocks in the fourth inning. The onslaught continued in the seventh inning, when UNC scored seven runs.
First-year starter Cody Morris, who had allowed just three runs through 16 2/3 innings this season, only recorded two outs for South Carolina before getting pulled. After that, it was a revolving door of relievers. No one could keep the Tar Heels off base.
This most recent offensive uptick can’t last forever — even the players admit that. But North Carolina will ride the wave as long as possible and can use it as an example of how much damage the offense can do.
“It’s pretty apparent right now that we are playing well,” Miller said. “A lot of guys are confident, and that’s not going to last. We are going to have ups and downs.”
“But when we have the downs, we are going to look back on nights like this.”