GREENVILLE, N.C. — Coming into Tuesday night's game against No. 8 East Carolina following a sweep at the hands of N.C. State, the No. 21 North Carolina baseball team was looking for a way to change its momentum.
For a moment, it looked liked the Tar Heels had.
By the end of the first inning, things couldn't have looked better for UNC, already up four runs and well on its way to another dominant win over their ranked in-state rival.
Even when the Pirates managed to come back and tie the score in the fourth inning, a two-run homer in the sixth from left fielder Angel Zarate proved that North Carolina's bats wouldn't be shaken by shoddy work from the bullpen. By the end of the seventh, UNC had its four-run lead back in hand, and just needed its platoon of pitchers to close out the game.
That's when East Carolina mounted a furious comeback, hitting a pair of two-run homers in the bottom of the eighth to tie the game and finishing it out with a walk-off hit in the bottom of the ninth, after the Tar Heels failed to retake the lead, to finish the game with an 11-10 victory.
"I was proud of the fight our guys showed on the road,” head coach Scott Forbes said. "Punches were thrown back and forth. I thought we jumped on them early. I thought our guys were ready to play, I thought they had the right response to losing that home series to N.C. State and against a good East Carolina team.
"We just couldn’t hold them off, and we just didn’t get it done on the bump.”
Like the series against N.C. State, the game was lost on pitching. Eleven runs is simply too many to give up and win a game against a ranked opponent. Of the seven pitchers North Carolina cycled through on Tuesday, Shawn Rapp was the only one to pitch at least a full inning and not give up a single run.
"You know, we were in the predicament we were in and had to use guys earlier than we wanted to just because our starters didn't give us any any length against N.C. State," Forbes said.