Roberts’ blast puts Carolina up for good in Game 1 of Super Regional

CHAPEL HILL – UNC’s Cody Roberts blasted a three-run homerun to left in the fifth inning to put the Tar Heels up for good as the home team held on to defeat Stetson in the first game of a best-of-three series in the NCAA Super Regional. The 7-4 victory puts the Heels one win away from the NCAA Championship tournament in Omaha, Neb. Stetson, riding the nation’s longest win streak at 18 games, got off to a quick 1-0 in the first inning with a line-drive homer to right by lefty Mike Spooner. Carolina answered in the bottom of the […]

CHAPEL HILL – UNC’s Cody Roberts blasted a three-run homerun to left in the fifth inning to put the Tar Heels up for good as the home team held on to defeat Stetson in the first game of a best-of-three series in the NCAA Super Regional. The 7-4 victory puts the Heels one win away from the NCAA Championship tournament in Omaha, Neb.

Stetson, riding the nation’s longest win streak at 18 games, got off to a quick 1-0 in the first inning with a line-drive homer to right by lefty Mike Spooner.

Carolina answered in the bottom of the inning when Roberts scored on a sacrifice fly by Brandon Riley off Stetson’s best pitcher Logan Gilbert, who came into the game 11-1 and who was just drafted in the first round of the MLB draft by the Seattle Mariners.

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Neither team got much going again until the fifth as the Heels struck with two outs. First, Kyle Datris singled and then Michael Busch walked setting up Roberts heroics. Roberts homer landed well up the net in left field and he proceeded to fly around the basepaths to get to the celebratory arms of his teammates at home plate.

Stetson struck twice in the top of the 7th inning on just one hit to make things interesting. The Hatters scored on a bunt that Datris misplayed to first and on a wild pitch my Josh Hiatt to draw within a run at 4-3.

But the Tar Heels came right back in the bottom of the seventh. With one out, Datris was hit by a pitch before Busch launched a towering homerun to right to get the two runs right back. Gahagan later drew a bases-loaded walk to put the Heels up more comfortably at 7-3.

After Hiatt got Stetson out three-up and three-down in the eighth, the Tar Heel faithful, already suffering through 85-degree weather, got a little hotter in the ninth. With two outs, Hiatt, normally the closer who came in to pitch in the seventh, walked a batter, hit a batter and gave up a sharp single as the Hatters drew to 7-4 with the tying run coming to the plate.

Carolina skipper Mike Fox lifted Hiatt for Austin Bergner, who came on looking for his first save of the season. But Bergner made things even more interesting as he gave up a walk to load the bases, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate in the person of first-team All-America player Brooks Wilson.

Wilson sliced a long line drive to left that looked like it could make it to or over the fence but left fielder Ashton McGee caught up to in on the run to end the game.

“It’s always nice to win the first one,” UNC’s Fox said. “It puts their backs against the wall tomorrow.”

Fox said that obviously the two homeruns were big. He pointed to the three-run seventh as a key to victory. “It was important to come right back after they had just scored two (to get within a run,” he said.

Carolina starter and winning pitcher Cooper Criswell threw a lot of pitches through the first three innings but got Stetson to go down in order in the fourth and fifth before he exited with a 4-1 lead.

North Carolina has a chance to lock up its first visit to the World Series since 2013 Saturday at noon.

Box Score

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