CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- The UNCG baseball team jumped out to a 5-0 lead and held on for a 5-3 victory against No. 27 North Carolina Tuesday evening at Boshamer Stadium.
The victory is UNCG's second consecutive triumph in Chapel Hill. The Blue and Gold now has five wins against ranked foes in head coach Link Jarrett’s tenure but it was the first to occur in a true road game.
UNCG (20-20) out-hit the Tar Heels (29-16) 14-7 in the contest and have now racked up double figures in the hit column in three consecutive outings.
Sophomore catcher Jake Kusz led the way offensively with three hits, two runs scored, two RBI and a home run. Senior outfielder Eric Kalbfleisch also turned in three hits to go along with a run scored. Senior outfielder Tyler Long extended his hitting streak to 12 games following a 2-for-3 performance. He would also drive in a pair of runs. Alex Raburn paced North Carolina offensively with three hits, two runs scored and a RBI.
Freshman RHP Michael Bates (1-3) earned his first collegiate victory in perhaps his strongest start of the season. He tossed 5.1 innings allowing just one run on five hits with a walk and two strikeouts. He fell just one out short of the longest outing of his career. Hunter Williams (4-2) was tagged with the loss after surrendering two runs (both unearned) on five hits with a walk and a strikeout in 2 1/3 innings of work.
UNCG threatened first in the top of the second. Kalbfleisch drew a leadoff walk in the top of the second before Long laid down a bunt single up the third base line with one down. Ruiz then flew out to shallow left field and Shelton sent a ball to the warning track in left center for the third out leaving the Spartans scoreless.
Bates ran into some two-out trouble in the bottom of the frame, allowing a single to Skye Bolt and a ground rule double to Alex Raburn. He would escape the inning by inducing a fly ball out to center off the bat of Zack Gahagan.
The Blue and Gold struck first in a big way in the top of the third, throwing up four runs on five hits and a Tar Heel error. The big blow was a Long two-run single with the bases loaded. UNCG also benefitted from a two-out catcher’s interference call that extended the inning.
After a scoreless fourth inning by both teams, Kusz extended UNCG’s lead to 5-0 in the top of the fifth with his fourth home run of the season. Raburn responded in the bottom of the inning with a leadoff long ball of his own to trim the Spartan cushion back to four runs.
UNCG threatened to build on its lead in the top of the seventh, loading the bases with two outs. However, Ruiz struck out swinging to send the game to the stretch. North Carolina also loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh but did it with no outs. The Tar Heels capitalized with a pair of runs but Abreu come on in relief and fanned Tyler Ramirez as well as inducing a 6-4-3 double play to wriggle out of the jam with no further damage.
Abreu worked a 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the eighth and gave way to junior infielder Collin Woody in the bottom of the ninth as Woody attempted to record his first save of the season. Despite walking the leadoff batter, he was able to induce a fielder’s choice play for the first out and let the defense do the rest as Adam Pate grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the contest.