Indeed, fourteen of those 16 UNC runs came after the fifth inning. Going into the sixth, the Tar Heels held a tentative 2-0 lead thanks to a pair of RBIs from junior Dylan Harris, a solo shot in the second inning and a single up the middle two frames later.
Then, it happened – and it didn’t stop happening.
The late-game spurt started with Ashton McGee, whose sixth inning blast over the right field wall batted in fellow junior Ike Freeman to double the Tar Heels’ lead.
North Carolina has hit 75 home runs this year, second most in any season in program history. Fox said that with this team, "You always feel like you're a walk and one swing away from 2-0 to 4-0."
But according to Martorano, a four run lead against Liberty wasn't going to cut it.
"They have an unbelievable team over there, so we knew that four certainly wasn't going to be enough, regardless of who's on the mound for us," Martorano said. "A sigh of relief? Maybe. But we knew that we had to keep the foot on the gas pedal and keep going."
Thus, the UNC offense kept churning. In the seventh came the trio of home runs, the first two of which came on back-to-back at bats from Busch and Sabato. The eighth inning saw the Tar Heel lead balloon to 14-0, which became 16-0 in the top of the ninth. That was when sophomore Clemente Inclan became the eighth Tar Heel to record an RBI after a sacrifice fly.
Much like at the plate, the effort on the mound was a collective one, as is the norm in the postseason. Fox tapped seven different Tar Heels to pitch on Saturday, the first five of whom combined to allow just four hits and hold the Flames scoreless in eight innings.
“Our pitchers were sensational,” according to Fox. Enough said.
Liberty’s solitary run in the bottom of the frame was meaningless, except for the fact that it put North Carolina in a tie for the program's largest margin of victory in any NCAA tournament game.
Still, it was the largest margin of victory of the season for North Carolina. The previous high came in a 17-4 win against UNC-Greensboro on April 9.
Future postseason matchup for the Tar Heels might not feature as many blasts over outfield walls, but for now, 16 runs in a regional game will have to do.
"We've just got good hitters," McGee said. "When they get their pitch, they know what to do with it."
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