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Friday August 12th

Two years ago, a sweep of Georgia Tech helped propel UNC to the College World Series

<p>UNC's Dallas Tessar (7) runs toward third base against Georgia Tech on April 20, 2019 at Boshamer Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C. UNC beat Georgia Tech 9-3.&nbsp;</p>
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UNC's Dallas Tessar (7) runs toward third base against Georgia Tech on April 20, 2019 at Boshamer Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C. UNC beat Georgia Tech 9-3. 

It was midway through the 2018 season when the North Carolina baseball team faced ACC opponent Georgia Tech on a Sunday afternoon. The No. 8 Tar Heels were aiming for their first series sweep against the Yellow Jackets since 1996.

North Carolina had stomped the Yellow Jackets 9-3 on Friday, racking up three home runs, one of which was inside the park.

Junior Jackson Hesterlee played the hero that Saturday when his pinch-hit grand slam tied the game, 6-6, in the bottom of the eighth of a 9-8 walk-off victory in the 10th inning.

In the Sunday game, junior Cooper Criswell started on the mound for the Tar Heels and made quick work of the first six Yellow Jacket hitters, and in the bottom of the second, North Carolina scored two runs to take an early advantage.

Sophomore Michael Busch smashed his tenth home run of the year with a two-run shot in the bottom of the third, but the Yellow Jackets responded with one run in the top of the fourth to make it 3-1, and neither team was able to pull ahead until UNC exploded for seven runs in the bottom of the seventh.

A two-run home run off the bat of senior Zack Gahagan made UNC's lead 5-1, and junior Brandon Riley hit a sacrifice fly to add another run. Sophomore Ike Freeman doubled to bring in another two runs for North Carolina before the final two runs of the outburst came from junior Cody Roberts’ double and pushed the lead to 10-1. 

Criswell didn't pitch the final two innings and finished with four hits, one walk and five strikeouts in seven innings in the Tar Heels' 10-3 win.

North Carolina had swept Georgia Tech for the first time in 22 years.

After the sweep, the Tar Heels won 10 of their last 14 games in the regular season before the ACC Tournament in late May. Following a 5-4 defeat at the hands of Pittsburgh, North Carolina faced Georgia Tech again and breezed by the Yellow Jackets, 9-0, before the start of the NCAA Tournament.

The huge wins over the Yellow Jackets may have provided a jolt of energy for the Tar Heels, who cruised through the Chapel Hill Regional, outscoring their opponents 34-14 over a three-game span.

The ensuing Chapel Hill Super Regional saw North Carolina quickly dispose of Stetson University in two games, 7-4 and 7-5.

The next stop for the Tar Heels was Omaha, Nebraska, and the 2018 College World Series.

The momentum from the Chapel Hill regional competitions wasn't enough to carry the Tar Heels deep into the tournament. After an 8-6 victory over Oregon State, the team fell to Mississippi State, 12-2, and lost to Oregon State, 11-6, ending UNC's hopes at a CWS championship.

The Tar Heels' season concluded with a 44-20 record, and while the 2018 Tar Heels fell short of a CWS title, it was a sweep of Georgia Tech on a cloudy afternoon two years ago that perhaps helped get them there.


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