The North Carolina baseball team secured a 6-5 comeback victory over Purdue in extra innings to finish off the team's weekend in Minneapolis. The Tar Heel defense weathered early scoring from the Boilermakers before a momentum shift in the seventh inning opened up the scoring for UNC.
Purdue came out swinging with Skyler Hunter hitting a leadoff double to start. A sacrifice bunt advanced Hunter to third and outfielder Ben Nisle sent him home on an infield single to give the Boilermakers an early one-run lead.
From then on, it was all defense until the fifth inning. Purdue's first-year pitcher, Jett Jackson kept the Tar Heels hitless through the next four innings.
The Boilermakers opened up the sixth with plenty of offense, racking up back-to-back doubles to bump the Purdue lead to 3-0. The Boilermakers finished with a pinch-hit RBI from Justin Fugitt to end the inning with three runs.
The defense was revived for North Carolina, who survived the seventh without giving up another run and left a pair of Boilermakers stranded on base.
The Tar Heels' offense came alive in the bottom of the seventh, with a lead-off single from Danny Serretti followed by a two-run homer from Joey Lancellotti over the left wall coming off an 0-2 count.
North Carolina scored its third run of the inning when Hunter lost Tyler Causey's hit in the sun, giving the UNC pinch hitter his second RBI of the season. North Carolina's big inning was stifled when Aaron Sabato was caught off first base, leaving two Tar Heels on second and third.
The Tar Heels opened the bottom of the eighth with back-to-back singles from Serretti and Lancellotti. Will Schroeder sent Serretti home to secure his first RBI of the season, followed by Patrick Alvarez hitting a single to score Lancellotti and make it a tie game in the eighth.
North Carolina held Purdue scoreless in the ninth, finishing the inning with a groundout to Serretti.
The Boilermakers walked the first UNC batter to open the bottom of the ninth, and Angel Zarate's hit dropped into centerfield just behind Hunter for a single. A wild pitch got away from the Boilermaker's pitcher to advance the Tar Heels' runners to second and third. Purdue intentionally walked Serretti to set up a potential double play with the bases loaded, but Will Stewart hit a fly-out to center field on a 3-1 count, sending the game to extra innings.
The Tar Heels kept the Boilermakers scoreless in the tenth, and Clemente Inclan the day for the Tar Heels with a walk-off double for the Tar Heels which sent in Alvarez to secure the North Carolina 6-5 victory.
Who stood out?
Head coach Mike Fox credited the win to a complete team effort, praising his team's depth and contributions off the bench.
However, the impact of Lancellotti and Serretti was undeniably a key part of the Tar Heels' offensive turnaround. The pair went two consecutive innings with back-to-back leadoff hits, including the only home run of the game in the seventh inning from Lancellotti to put UNC on the board.
When was it decided?
The momentum shifted in the seventh inning when the Tar Heels offense ignited, scoring five runs in just two innings to tie the game. The offensive explosion was led by Lancellotti's home run and backed by a strong defensive stand from UNC as North Carolina only allowed one run in the final three innings.
Why does it matter?
The Tar Heels ended their trip to Minnesota with a win after dropping their last two games, including a gut-wrenching loss in extra innings to Iowa.
"It's a huge win for us, a character win," Fox said. "We had our hearts ripped out last night, ahead four runs in the ninth. To turn right back around again, and having to play this morning at 9:30, down four to nothing in the seventh, it says a lot about the toughness and grit of our kids and our team to be able to come back and win today."
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will return to Boshamer Stadium on Tuesday at 3 p.m. to take on UNCG as they look to carry on their momentum from Sunday's comeback victory.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.