Miami Falls in Extras to UNC at ACC Tourney, 7-5
DURHAM, N.C. – It took 11 innings, but the North Carolina Tar Heels upset the Miami Hurricanes to win Pool D at the 2019 ACC Baseball Championship with a 7-5 win on Friday afternoon.
Miami (39-18) was the No. 4 seed in the tournament and the top seed in its pool, but the No. 5 Tar Heels (40-17) came back from a five-run deficit to force extra innings before taking the lead for good in the top of the 11th inning inside Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
“Very disappointing game for us,” head coach Gino DiMare said. “We obviously jumped on them early, had a five-run lead after three innings, and we’ve had some games like this this year, where we’ve let teams come back. We just didn’t do a good job offensively. We had guys on base, and we had a couple situations, man on second, nobody out, didn’t move the runner over. We didn’t get the big hit. We left, I think, eight guys on base today. We had some guys there with two outs and couldn’t get them in, get the big hit. Just let them kind of creep back in the game.”
UNC put runners at the corners with one out in the top of the 11thagainst Miami reliever Tyler Keysor. Danny Serretti reached on a fielder’s choice after Miami shortstop Freddy Zamora threw to third and Raymond Gil could not tag pinch runner Angel Zarate. The play went under video review, but the call by third base umpire AJ Lostaglio stood and Zarate scored on a sacrifice fly to left by Ike Freeman that gave the Tar Heels a 6-5 lead.
Keysor broke Ashton McGee’s bat, but the ball blooped into shallow right for an RBI single that drove in pinch runner Will Schroeder and doubled the UNC lead to two.
Miami entered the bottom of the 11thwith its top three hitters due up, but reliever Hansen Butler retired Jordan Lala, Anthony Vilar and Freddy Zamora in order to close out the upset win and end the Hurricanes’ stay at the conference tournament.
“Our guys battled,” DiMare said. “They fought the whole time, like we have all year, so I’m proud of them for that. Just disappointing. We had a chance to do something really good there for our program. We’re trying to get it going in the right direction. But the real season begins now next week for us, so we move forward and get ready for the NCAA Tournament.”
The Canes got their bats going from the start, smacking five opposite field hits off UNC starter Austin Bergner to take a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Lala opened the game with a leadoff double to left, marking Miami’s first leadoff batter to reach base in the 2019 ACC tournament.
Two batters later, Zamora laced an RBI double to the right field corner and Lala scored easily to give the Canes an early 1-0 lead. Freshman Adrian Del Castillo ripped a double down the third base line to push home Zamora and make its 2-0 in favor of Miami. JP Gates singled home Del Castillo with a base hit to left to close out the three-run inning.
Miami ended Bergner’s afternoon an inning later, as Lala and Vilar posted back-to-back one-out walks before Tar Heels head coach Mike Fox pulled his starter in favor of freshman right-hander Austin Love. Zamora drove in his second run of the game, hitting a sacrifice fly to center that sent home Lala and gave Miami a 4-0 lead.
Alex Toral crushed a solo shot off Love in the third for his 22ndhomer of the season. The 414-foot bomb made Toral just the sixth player in program history to post a 22-homer season, joining Kevin Brown (22, 1999), Darren Mandel (22, 1984), Pat Burrell (23, 1996), Yonder Alonso (24, 2008) and Phil Lane (25, 1982).
“Personally, I feel our offense as of late is heading in the right direction,” Toral said. “We’ve been swinging the bat great, had good approaches throughout the whole lineup. It’s unfortunate there at the end. [Joey] Lancelotti came in and was pitching well and shut us down. I’m pretty confident of our lineup coming into the postseason, though.”
The Tar Heels finally got some offense going against Miami ace Evan McKendry in the fourth. Dylan Harris led off the frame with an infield single that was the first hit of the game for UNC. Aaron Sabato reached on a hit by pitch and Danny Serretti singled to send Harris home. Ike Freeman followed with a bloop hit to shallow center that drove in Sabato.
Miami got out of the top of the fourth thanks to an unconventional inning-ending double play. Ashton McGee’s grounder to second started the twin-killing, as Vilar flipped to Zamora to retire Freeman at second. McGee beat out the shortstop’s throw to first, but Toral fired to Michael Amditis at home and the UM catcher tagged out Serretti to end the inning with a three-run Miami lead, 5-2.
North Carolina finally held Miami scoreless in the fourth, stranding runners on second and third, and picked up another run in the top of the fifth when Brandon Martorano hit a solo homer to center that brought UNC within two, 5-3.
After allowing a base hit to Dallas Tessar, McKendry was lifted in favor of lefty Jeremy Cook and the sophomore retired lefties Harris and Michael Busch to end the fifth inning and protect Miami’s two-run lead. McKendry finished his afternoon allowing three runs on five hits over 4.1 innings.
Sophomore Daniel Federman followed Cook on the mound for Miami and was outstanding, retiring all six batters he faced to put up a pair of scoreless innings and carry the Hurricanes’ two-run lead to the top of the eighth.
Junior fireballer Gregory Veliz took the ball in the eighth and Carolina’s bats came alive again. Pinch hitter Caleb Roberts, who was UNC’s hero on Wednesday with a walk-off hit by pitch against Virginia, was hit by a pitch to open the inning and Michael Busch hit a game-tying two-run homer with one out in the inning that evened the score at 5.
Love finally left the mound for UNC with two outs in the bottom of the eighth. The freshman shut down the potent Miami offense over a career-long 6.1 innings, allowing one run and getting a career-high six strikeouts.
“He just varied his pitches well,” Toral said. “Threw every pitch he had for a strike, kept the ball down. He really only made one mistake pitch, and besides that, he really dealt for them. He came in for a big role for them and got the job done. We couldn’t figure him out.”
Joey Lancelotti followed with 2.1 scoreless innings of relief and earned the win after Carolina plated two runs in the top of the 11th.
“This team can be dangerous,” DiMare said. “I think it deserves to host. It deserves the NCAA’s respect certainly. It’s a young team. It’s a fun team to watch, you know that. Our place is a great place to have a regional because I’ve been part of a lot of them. Had a lot of great games over the years. Wherever they put us, we’ll accept it. That’s the way it goes, and we’ll be ready to play.”
The Hurricanes await their postseason destination, as the 2019 NCAA Division I Baseball Championship Selection Show will air on ESPNU on Monday, May 27 at noon.