Tar Heels rally for three runs in ninth to topple Tigers

No. 6 North Carolina Tar Heels scored three runs in the ninth inning, two on bases-loaded walks and one on a sacrifice fly, to defeat No. 19 Clemson 6-3 in front of 5,513 fans at Doug Kingsmore Stadium on Saturday.

The Tar Heels, who took a 2-0 series lead, improved to 12-2 overall and 2-0 in ACC play. The Tigers, who had won their last six ACC series, fell to 6-6 overall and 0-2 in the ACC.

The Tar Heels took advantage of eight walks and four Tiger errors to score six runs on only six hits. In fact, North Carolina had just two hits after a leadoff single in the third inning, but scored five combined runs in the fourth, seventh, and ninth innings. The Tigers outhit North Carolina for the second day in a row, but suffered another late-inning setback.

Shane Taylor (3-0), the fifth of six North Carolina pitchers, earned the win by retiring all three batters he faced in the eighth inning. Michael Morin pitched a scoreless ninth inning with a strikeout to record his sixth save of the year.

Daniel Gossett (0-2) suffered the loss in relief, as he yielded three runs on two hits and one walk in the ninth inning.

After the first two Tar Heels were retired in the second inning, Tom Zengel walked after being down in the count 1-2. Michael Russell flared a single to right field, then Parks Jordan singled to right-center to score Zengel.

In the third inning, Jason Stolz led off with a single up the middle, but was erased on Dominic Attanasio’s fielder’s choice. Thomas Brittle followed with a double to right field to advance Attanasio to third, then Steve Wilkerson lofted a sacrifice fly to center to score Attanasio.

The Tar Heels came right back and regained the lead in the fourth inning thanks in large part to a Tiger miscue and without the benefit of a hit. Mike Zolk and Zengel drew one-out walks, then Russell hit a potential inning-ending, double-play grounder to Stolz, but the shortstop booted the ball and all runners were safe. Jordan followed with a safety squeeze bunt that plated Zolk.

In the fifth inning, Spencer Kieboom led off with a single through the left side and moved to second two batters later on Stolz’s one-out single up the middle. Attanasio followed with a double over the first-base bag to score Kieboom and Stolz, giving the Tigers the lead. Wilkerson and Richie Shaffer both hit hard line drives, but both were caught by Tar Heel outfielders, including a diving catch by Jordan in left field to rob Shaffer of a hit and end the inning.

Clemson’s third and fourth errors of the game enabled North Carolina to tie the score in the seventh inning without the benefit of a hit. With two outs, Tommy Coyle hit a routine grounder to Wilkerson at second, but the ball went through his legs for an error. After Colin Moran walked, Jacob Stallings hit a hard grounder to Shaffer at third, who made a diving stop. Shaffer’s throw to first was high and first-baseman Jon McGibbon tagged Stallings in a close play. Stallings was ruled safe, while Coyle never stopped from second base and tied the score 3-3.

Jordan led off the top of the ninth inning with a single up the middle, the first North Carolina hit since a leadoff single in the third inning, then Chaz Frank walked on five pitches. Tommy Coyle followed with a single through the right side to load the bases with no outs, then Moran walked on four pitches to score Jordan and give North Carolina a 4-3 lead.

Stallings drew another walk, this time on five pitches, to bring home Frank. Two batters later, Zolk hit a sacrifice fly to left field to score Coyle.

In the bottom of the ninth inning, Stolz laced a one-out double down the left-field line. But the next two Tigers were retired.

Kieboom and Stolz both had three hits to pace the Tigers’ eight-hit attack. Attanasio added a team-high two RBIs.

Coyle went 3-for-5 with two runs, while Jordan went 2-for-3 with two RBIs, a run, and steal for North Carolina. All six of the Tar Heels’ hits were singles.

Clemson and North Carolina will play the series-finale of the three-game series on Sunday at 1:00 PM.

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