UNC tops Stetson 7-5, earns trip to College World Series
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — It wasn’t that long ago that North Carolina made it seem almost routine going to the College World Series year after year.
Now, after a few seasons away, the Tar Heels are heading back to Omaha.
UNC jumped on Stetson starter Jack Perkins in a four-run first inning and the Tar Heels hung on to beat the Hatters 7-5 on Saturday, securing their first trip to the College World Series since 2013.
The host Tar Heels (43-18), the No. 6 national seed, went to Omaha six times in eight years under coach Mike Fox. They returned by sweeping the best-of-three NCAA super regional series against the No. 11 national seed.
“They get to experience something that’s going to be a lifetime memory for them,” UNC coach Mike Fox said. “And our coaching staff, trainers, equipment manager, operations people — they’ve all been there (to Omaha). But none of these kids have. So they have no idea what they’re getting ready to experience.”
And everything started Saturday with that fast start, a big first inning with the bats that are humming right now.
Cody Roberts, Brandon Riley and Ashton McGee had RBI doubles in that first inning for a 4-0 lead on a pitcher who hadn’t allowed more than two earned runs in a start in two months.
“Our whole game plan really was we knew he was going to throw a lot of off-speed and mix pitches up a lot,” Roberts said. “So we just knew we had to try to attack the pitches that were in the zone and lay off the ones that were out.”
Perkins (11-3) took the loss, allowing six runs and nine hits in 2 1/3 innings — his shortest outing of the year for the Hatters (48-13).
“We knew they’d sacrifice, squeeze,” Stetson coach Steve Trimper said. “We were trying to defend it all and we were putting shifts on. And they did a great job obviously of getting to Perk today early and being aggressive.”
THE FINAL SEQUENCE
Stetson got a run across in the bottom of the ninth on Mike Spooner’s RBI single, and had runners on first and second with two out. But Brooks Wilson ended with a deep centerfield flyout, sending the Tar Heels running to the mound for a dogpile celebration.
“Unfortunately,” Wilson said, “I hit it to the deepest part of the field.”
North Carolina didn’t need much time to get the better of Stetson’s 11-game winners in Perkins and Logan Gilbert this weekend.
Gilbert, the No. 14 overall pick in this week’s Major League Baseball draft, allowed six hits and four runs in Friday’s 7-4 loss before exiting after 5 1/3 innings to match his shortest outing of the season. Perkins, an 11th-round draft pick, managed to get just seven outs.
A week earlier, Gilbert and Perkins combined to allow two earned runs in 16 innings with 27 strikeouts in a pair of regional wins against Oklahoma State.
UNC: The Tar Heels are going to the College World Series for the 11th time in program history. . Reliever Caden O’Brien (6-0) earned the win. ... Starter Gianluca Dalatri allowed eight hits and three runs in 3 1/3 innings. ... The Tar Heels finished with 14 hits and went 7 for 13 with runners in scoring position Saturday.
Stetson: This was the first time the Hatters had advanced out of regional play. . Stetson’s 48 wins tied a program single-season record. . Stetson went 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position Friday, then 3 for 13 on Saturday. . The Hatters had won a program-record 18 straight games before losing twice here.
Jonathan Meola and Andrew MacNeil each hit solo home runs for the Hatters, who had had 13 hits. MacNeil fell a triple shy of hitting for the cycle.
The Tar Heels have earned one of eight spots at the College World Series, which begins play June 16.
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