CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — No. 29 Miami (Fla.) handed No. 1 North Carolina its first loss of the season Friday at Boshamer Stadium, upending the Tar Heels 4-1.
Behind a strong outing from sophomore left-hander Chris Diaz (2-1) and some timely two-out hitting from its offense, Miami captured its sixth consecutive victory against the Tar Heels and its first upset of a No. 1-ranked team since a May 13, 2011 win at Virginia.
After struggling to develop any offense in the game’s first few innings, the Hurricanes struck for three runs in the top of the fifth. North Carolina ace Kent Emanuel (3-1), who entered Friday night’s series opener having allowed only six walks on the season, issued a four-pitch free pass to freshman Ricky Eusebio to lead off the frame.
Fellow newcomer Brandon Lopez successfully advanced Eusebio with a sacrifice bunt down the first base line, while Eusebio took third on his fourth stolen base of the season. With two outs, freshman Christopher Barr worked an eight-pitch at-bat and was rewarded with Miami’s second walk of the inning.
With runners on the corners, junior Alex Hernandez blooped an Emanuel offering in between Carolina first baseman Cody Stubbs and freshman outfielder Skye Bolt just inside the right field line. Eusebio raced home from third to open the game’s scoring 1-0.
After Hernandez stole second, senior Chantz Mack ripped a two-run single up the middle on a full-pitch count, plating both runners to take a 3-0 lead.
That was all the run support Diaz needed. He battled his way to seven efficient innings, earning his second win of the season by scattering six hits and just one earned run in 111 pitches.
Catcher Alex San Juan provided the game’s first highlight on a play that kept the Tar Heels off the board early. With runners on the corners and one out in the bottom of the first, a wild pitch from Diaz made its way past San Juan and towards the backstop. At full speed, San Juan picked the ball up, turned and underhanded to Diaz, who beat Landon Lassiter to the plate and applied a successful tag at home. Diaz then induced a groundout from Bolt to work his way out of the jam.
Miami’s next highlight came in the bottom half of the third. Mack, racing to his left to track down a flyball from Alex Raburn, made a running catch and ran square into the wall separating the field from the visiting bullpen. Luckily for Mack, the panel swung right into the pen, as he held the ball above his head as proof of a catch.
The Hurricanes nearly tacked on to their three-run lead in the top half of the sixth. Back-to-back singles from San Juan and freshman David Thompson, combined with a fielding error from center fielder Chaz Frank, gave Miami runners on second and third with just one out. Eusebio drove a ball to left that was caught by Raburn, as San Juan sprinted home to try and score on the flyout. Raburn’s throw made its way into the glove of catcher Matt Roberts, who held on to the ball and doubled off San Juan at home plate.
Carolina struck for a run in the sixth, as an RBI single from Bolt cut the Hurricanes’ lead to 3-1. After issuing a follow-up walk to Cody Stubbs on only four pitches, Diaz appeared to be in trouble with only one out in the inning. However, he induced a groundout and a flyout to keep Miami’s lead at two runs.
Small ball paid off once again for Miami in the seventh, as Lopez led off the inning with a single through the left side of the infield. After he took second on a sacrifice bunt from junior Dale Carey, Barr recorded his first career RBI on a single to right field to regain a three-run advantage at 4-1. The base hit signaled the end of the night for Emanuel, who allowed a season-high four runs and matched season-high totals of eight hits and three walks in 6.1 innings.
AJ Salcines and Eric Nedeljkovic combined to pitch the final two scoreless innings.