CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Tyler Cox and Trey Wimmer each hit home runs, as Liberty upended No. 7 North Carolina 5-3 on Wednesday evening at Boshamer Stadium.
Cox had two hits, including his fifth home run of the year, while driving in two runs for the Flames.
Wimmer hit his second home run of the season in the win, while shortstop Zack Haley collected two doubles and scored two runs for Liberty.
Liberty moves to 31-10 on the year. It is the second time this season that the Flames have beaten a nationally-ranked team. The Flames shut out No. 18 Virginia on Feb. 28 in Charlottesville, Va. North Carolina’s record drops to 28-10 on the year with the defeat.
Each team jumped on the scoreboard with a run in the second inning. The Flames opened the scoring in the top of the frame. Cox ripped the first pitch of the inning from Tar Heel starter Chris Munnelly off the scoreboard in left-center field for his fifth home run of the year to stake Liberty to a 1-0 advantage.
North Carolina countered with its first run of the game in the bottom of the inning. Designated hitter Cody Stubbs dropped a double into left field to open the home half of the second. Third baseman Michael Russell followed with a single, tying the game at 1-1.
Liberty took a lead by plating a run in the third. Haley led off the inning with double to left field and scored on a two-out single by Cox for a 2-1 advantage.
The host Tar Heels tied the game in the sixth. With one out, catcher Jacob Stallings singled. Two batters later, Russell doubled into the left-center field gap to plate Stallings and make it 2-2.
With a light rain falling, Liberty went in front in the top of the eighth. With one out, center fielder Andy Smith and second baseman Bryan Aanderud each singled. Cox then walked to load the bases. After a pitching change by the Tar Heels, first baseman Alex Close lifted a sacrifice fly to deep left to deliver Smith for 3-2 edge.
In the bottom of the inning, Tar Heel center fielder Chaz Frank began the frame with an infield single and stole second base. Two batters later, Stallings dropped a single into left field to move Frank to third base. Liberty summoned John Niggli from the bullpen and the right hander got Stubbs to ground into a double play to end the threat and preserve the Flames advantage.
Liberty added two insurance runs in the top of the ninth. Wimmer led off the inning with his second home run of the year over the left field wall, upping the Liberty advantage to 4-2. Later in the frame, Haley doubled for the second time in the contest, and came around to score on a single by Smith for a 5-2 lead.
In the bottom of the ninth, North Carolina tried to rally, as the first three men of the inning were either hit by a pitch or walked by Niggli. However, the right-hander regrouped and got pinch hitter Tom Zengel to ground into double play and completed the save on a groundout by Parks Jordan.
Liberty reliever Jared Lyons moves to 1-2 on the year. The freshman left-hander gave up one run on four hits over 2.1 innings of relief. He struck out three and did not walk a batter.
Niggli earned the first save of his Flames career as the right-hander closed out the final 1.2 innings, yielding one run.
North Carolina reliever Hobbs Johnson falls to 2-1 on the season. The right-hander allowed one run on two hits over 2.1 innings pitched. The second of seven Tar Heel pitchers in the contest, he struck out four and did not walk a batter.
Liberty collected 10 hits in the game, while North Carolina had nine hits. Until the ninth inning, no batter in the game reached safely on anything other than a hit.