UNC retook the lead in the seventh after two quick runs. All the team needed was three outs in the top of the ninth to win the game. But a fielding error by Ashton McGee, a few hits from the Seahawks, and an overturned call at home left North Carolina down one run as they entered the bottom of the ninth.
And then Aaron Sabato happened.
On the first pitch of the inning, the reigning ACC Freshman of the Year slammed his 15th home run of the season. Stare down. Bat flip. Tie game.
“That kid is unbelievable,” Fox said.
It’s difficult to find better words.
“I had had three walks prior and was hoping for that one pitch I that I could get, and that was pretty much it,” Sabato said. “Got a pretty good swing on it, and it ended up going.”
Sabato said the coaches had spoken to him before the at bat. They told him the reliever he faced, Henry Ryan, struggled with his slider, so the first-year knew he didn’t have to worry about that pitch. He looked for a fastball. When one came on the first pitch, it was gone.
“I think for me, that ranks really high,” the first baseman said of his all-time moments at UNC. “Being able to share it with these group of kids who are unbelievable, and my teammates who are gonna be my lifelong friends, (it’s) definitely really high up there for this year.”
The home run seemed to give UNC all the momentum. The score was tied, the home crowd was energized. Danny Serretti walked. Freeman had three balls and no strikes on his count. And then the announcement came — storms were incoming and the game would go on weather delay.
The call came around 6 p.m. By the time players retook the field, it was nearly 9 p.m.
Freeman got the walk. McGee tried to bunt, but the ball popped straight up for an out. A wild pitch let Serretti and Freeman move to third and second, respectively. Brandon Martorano was intentionally walked.
With Dylan Harris in the box, the Seahawks shifted five men into the infield. When Harris took his at-bat, Serretti bolted for home as soon as the pitch left Justin Walke’s hand, trying to pull off a suicide squeeze. When that pitch was a strike, he was caught in the rundown.
Freeman and Martorano looked at each other, unsure of whether to run or not. Serretti tried to backtrack, before committing to the play at home. That’s when UNCW third baseman Cole Weiss threw the ball over the head of catcher Zachary Bridges’ head, and Serretti slid home. UNC won, 7-6.
In all the close games the Tar Heels have won this season, it’d be difficult to find a more dramatic ending.
“We’ve lost our share of those earlier in the year in the ninth inning way back when,” Fox said. “Maybe there’s some karma involved and they all kinda even out throughout the year. So I’m not sure. If that is the case, I’m not going to start counting.”
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