Hurricanes still chasing ACC title
Miami (Fla.) tops No. 8 North Carolina for fifth consecutive time
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- In another pitchers' duel at NewBridge Bank Park, No. 21 Miami (Fla.) won its Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament game against eighth-ranked North Carolina by a score of 5-3.
Junior lefthander Steven Ewing erased away the struggles of his final outing of the regular season with an eight-inning gem on Thursday afternoon. He scattered eight hits through the outing, pitching his way out of big jams to keep the Hurricanes in the game. Ewing (6-2), who helped guide his team to its fifth consecutive win against the Tar Heels, threw 109 pitches with 64 strikes.
Sophomore centerfielder Dale Carey delivered a dramatic game-winning hit in the seventh inning, belting a Kent Emanuel offering over the leftfield fence for his second home run of the year. Carey, who fell to the ground earlier in the at-bat after fouling a ball of his left foot, came back to grind out a tough sequence against the first-team All-ACC lefthander. And with one swing of the bat, Carey helped the Hurricanes (35-20) regain a two-run lead, with Miami sporting a 5-3 advantage heading into the eighth inning.
Ewing returned to the mound for the next half-inning, matching his career-high by finishing his eighth frame on the day. The veteran southpaw allowed two baserunners in the inning, but exited the inning unscathed by recording the final out of the inning with a weak groundout to second base.
"Steven's thrown outstanding for us all year. I really wanted to leave him in the game, but I felt like in the eighth inning he was getting tired, so it was time to get him out," coach Jim Morris said. "I know he's a guy that will go after you, and he's a winner. He just pitched extremely well today against an outstanding team."
Sophomore closer AJ Salcines loaded the bases with two outs with one of the premier hitters in the conference heading to the plate in the ninth. But Salcines caught Tar Heels' third baseman Colin Moran looking on an inside fastball, sealing the sixth-seeded Hurricanes' upset.
As they were able to do in the regular-season matchup against Emanuel, the Hurricanes jumped out to an early advantage. With junior shortstop Stephen Perez on third base after belting a double into the gap earlier in the inning, junior outfielder Chantz Mack connected on an RBI groundout that gave Miami a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first.
The Hurricanes struck for five runs off the lefthander on Thursday. Back-to-back doubles from Chantz Mack and Brad Fieger to open the fourth inning gave Miami a 2-1 advantage, while an error charged to Moran in the fifth plated Perez to make it 3-1.
A two-run home run from pinch-hitter Grayson Atwood in the top of the seventh tied the game for the Tar Heels, setting up the Hurricanes for the decisive bottom half of the inning. Carey's two-run shot, his first homer since opening weekend against Rutgers, gave Miami a lead it would not relinquish.
Thursday's game also marked the return of senior captain Peter O'Brien, who started the game at first base and hit sixth in the line-up. O'Brien finished the day 1 for 4 with a single.
With some help, the Hurricanes can still advance to Sunday's ACC Tournament championship game. Wins by Wake Forest Thursday and North Carolina on Saturday against North Carolina State, coupled with a Hurricanes' win against the Demon Deacons on Friday night, would seal Miami's spot in Sunday's final game.