CHAPEL HILL. N.C. -- Intent on upstaging a postgame fireworks show at Boshamer Stadium, No. 15 Miami (Fla.) scored three runs in the ninth inning to capture a thrilling come-from-behind victory in its series opener with No. 22 North Carolina.
Trailing 3-1 and facing Tar Heels closer Trent Thornton in the ninth, Miami (19-8, 7-3 ACC) tagged the righthander for three runs on four hits in the decisive frame.
"I thought it was a great game, first of all. We played well, they played well, and we did a great job of coming back," head coach Jim Morris siad. "That's probably what I'm most proud of, that we battled back there to get the last couple of runs."
Sophomore Zack Collins opened the ninth with a leadoff single and senior Garrett Kennedy followed one batter later with a single of his own to set up the scoring opportunity.
After both Collins and pinch runner Jacob Heyward advanced into scoring position on a wild pitch, sophomore Willie Abreu cracked a single up the middle to plate both runners and tie the game 3-3.
"At the University of Miami, we always pride ourselves on having that swagger and that confidence, especially in tight games," Abreu said. "In that situation, we just continued to battle ... we have that confidence that we're going to get it done."
Abreu would take second base on a sacrifice bunt from Christopher Barr, and nine-hole hitter Johnny Ruiz came up with a clutch two-out RBI single rifled back up the middle to score Abreu and give Miami a one-run lead at 4-3.
Sophomore closer Bryan Garcia built the late drama by allowing a dribbler of a single and a one-out walk, but he retired Tar Heels third baseman Alex Raburn on a flyout to left to clinch the win.
No hit was bigger than Abreu's single that tied the game 3-3 off Thornton (1-2). He finished the game 2-for-4.
"I was able to see all of his pitches. I was able to lock in and be able to see what he had," Abreu said of his at bat against Thornton. "I was patient, and I was lucky enough to get a good pitch to hit and pick up my team to tie the game."
The game's two starters, Miami's Thomas Woodrey and North Carolina's Zac Gallen, combined to allow just one earned run in 13.2 innings.
Miami (19-8, 7-3 ACC) jumped out to a first-inning lead on the second home run of the season from junior Ricky Eusebio. The centerfielder cracked a 1-2 pitch from Gallen over the leftfield fence for a solo shot to give the visitors an advantage.
The Hurricanes looked poised to add to their lead in the second, when junior David Thompson connected on a leadoff double and senior Garrett Kennedy followed with a walk. But Gallen set down the next three batters in a row to get out of the jam, beginning a stretch of 16 consecutive batters retired until the sixth inning
The double extended Thompson's hitting streak to a career-long 16 games.
The way Woodrey opened his night, the 1-0 lead seemed comfortable for the Hurricanes. Outside of a second-inning bloop single from Tar Heels shortstop Logan Warmoth, Woodrey retired 12 of the first 13 batters he faced until a one-out triple from Tar Heels rightfielder Tyler Ramirez in the fifth.
"I could tell from my bullpen before the game that I felt good," Woodrey said. "When I talked to [pitching coach] J.D. [Arteaga] before the game, he told me, 'Make sure you stay focused, make sure you stay locked in."
But Woodrey managed to work his way out of the jam, inducing back-to-back groundball outs to maintain Miami's 1-0 advantage.
Thompson's second hit of the night, a one-out single in the seventh, ended a streak of 16 in a row retired by Gallen, who tossed seven solid innings. Sophomore Willie Abreu singled to put two runners on, but Gallen induced a popout from Christopher Barr to strand both runners and end his night after 104 pitches.
North Carolina (16-9, 6-4 ACC) tied the game on an RBI groundout and took the lead on a two-run home run from Korey Dunbar, all coming in the bottom of the seventh. On an attempted sacrifice bunt from Skye Bolt earlier in the inning, it was ruled Ruiz took his foot off the base, leaving both runners safe. Another sacrifice bunt advanced both runners into scoring position, and a groundball out from Ramirez tied the game 1-1.
Dunbar followed with a home run to right-center on a changeup that gave the Tar Heels their first lead of the night at 3-1.
"It was more hats off to them," Woodrey said. "I thought the home run was on a good pitch. They're a great team. They battled the whole way, and they made their adjustments that inning."
Woodrey (3-2) exited after 6.2 impressive frames, allowing just four hits and three unearned runs. He struck out two batters and walked just one, and left with a no-decision.
"Against a team like this, you have to be on top of your game the entire way. I felt good all night," Woodrey said.
Woodrey's strong performance was followed by 1.1 scoreless innings from Cooper Hammond (3-1), which gave Miami a chance to tie the game late. The Hurricanes did just that on big hits from Abreu and Ruiz, stretching their early Coastal Division lead in the process.
"It's a blessing to be able to play with this group of guys. Last year as a freshman we had a great team, and this year it gets better and better," Abreu said. "The camaraderie that this team has, always pushing and striving for more, I can't ask for any more of my teammates."