Big first inning helps push Tar Heels to the College World Series

CHAPEL HILL, NC – For the first time since 2013, North Carolina will go to Omaha to compete in the College World Series after defeating Stetson 7-5 in the Super Regionals.

The Tar Heels jumped on the Hatters with four runs on six hits in the first inning. Cody Roberts started the scoring with a bloop double to left that plated Kyle Datris. Then Brandon Riley pulled a double to right field to score Roberts. Zack Gahagan singled to left center to score Riley. Carolina increased the lead to 4-0 as Ashton McGee, a lefty, hit an opposite field double to drive in Ike Freeman, who had singled earlier.

Stetson’s Jonathan Meola recorded his first homerun of the season with a blast to right to draw the Hatters to 4-1 after two innings.

Carolina came right back with two runs during its next at bat. McGee singled in Jackson Hesterlee while Brandon Mortorano hit a sacrifice fly to score McGee later in the inning to make it 6-1.

Stetson starter Jack Perkins, who had an 11-2 record coming in, gave up nine hits and five runs in less than three innings.

The Hatters made a run in the bottom of the third as Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Year Brooks Wilson singled off UNC first baseman Michael Busch’s glove to drive in two, making it 6-3. But Gahagan ended the rally with a nifty play on a ball hit up the middle where he threw out the runner at first base.

Tar Heels celebrate but they want more meat. (UNC Sports Information photo by Jeffrey Camarati.)

Tar Heels celebrate but they want more meat. (UNC Sports Information photo by Jeffrey Camarati.)

The Heels added a security run in the sixth, making it 7-3, when Roberts executed a suicide squeeze bunt to bring in a run.

Andrew MacNeil hit a line drive homer to right off UNC reliever Brett Daniels to draw the Hatters closer at 7-4.

With two out and one on in the ninth, the game seemed in control but after Mike Spooner singled in a run to make it 7-5, UNC coach Mike Fox went to the bullpen for closer Josh Hiatt, who pitched nearly three innings Friday.

Jacob Koos singled for Stetson to bring the winning run to the plate. Wilson ripped one to center field but Riley snagged the ball with his back on the wall to secure the victory.

Caden O’Brien, who relieved starter Gianluca Dalatri, picked up the win to move to 6-0. The Tar Heels improve to 43-18 and will begin play next weekend in the World Series against Minnesota or Oregon State. Stetson, which was trying to force a Game 3 in the Super Regional, ends its season at 48-13.

This will be the 11th time in program history, and the seventh under Coach Mike Fox, that the Tar Heels will be headed to the College World Series.

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