Tyler Baum’s 101st pitch may have been even sharper than his first. The fastball whizzed past the bat of Duke’s Erikson Nichols at 94 miles per hour for a strikeout to end the top of the seventh.
Baum hadn’t allowed a run. He’d only given up two hits and a walk while striking out six. But with 13 white LED zeroes lighting up the scoreboard in left field, denoting the 13 futile half frames by North Carolina (20-7, 5-5 ACC) and Duke (14-12, 3-7 ACC), Baum was still needed in the 0-0 game.
“Pitching duel,” UNC head coach Mike Fox said. “Old fashioned pitching duel.”
North Carolina’s Aaron Sabato struck out to start the bottom of the seventh, but the wild pitch got away from Duke catcher Michael Rothenberg and caromed to his left, all the way to the backstop. Known for his bat more than his speed, Sabato took off down the first base line. He easily made it to the bag.
Back in the dugout, Fox didn’t have a moment's pause. It was already the seventh inning, the Tar Heels had two hits in the game, and he needed someone who could fly around the base path. He pinch-ran the fleet footed Dylan Enwiller for the big-hitting Sabato.
After an Ashton McGee single and a Brandon Martorano walk, Fox’s decision looked like it was about to pay off. Dylan Harris stepped up to the plate and knew his job.
“I was trying to swing as hard as I could and hit a pop fly wherever I could,” Harris said. “I didn't have to hit it too deep because Dylan was on third. That kid is fast as lightning.”
Harris hit it hard anyway for good measure, and Enwiller covered the 90 feet to home quickly enough that Blue Devil senior captain Kennie Taylor didn’t even consider winding up for a throw to the plate from center field. Michael Busch popped out to Rothenburg to end the inning, and Baum returned to pitch the eighth with the one thing he hadn’t been able to give to the team: a lead to defend.
A first pitch line out to center put Baum at 7.1 innings pitched, a new career high. Three more pitches resulted in a fly out to foul territory in right. Another three pitches got a groundout to second to end the Blue Devils' half of the inning.