Liberty rallies, stuns No. 3 UNC, 5-2
Four two-out runs in the eighth inning powered the Liberty Flames past the No. 3 North Carolina Tar Heels, 5-2, Tuesday night at Boshamer Stadium.
Trailing 2-1 in the eighth inning with the bases loaded and two out, Liberty third baseman Trey McDyre lined a double off the top of the left-center field wall, clearing the bases and giving the Flames a 4-2 advantage. Left fielder Jake Barbee followed with a triple to center field for a 5-2 lead.
Reliever Shane Quarterly then pitched a scoreless eighth, wiggling out of a bases-loaded jam, and Jack DeGroat pitched a scoreless ninth to close out the 5-2 win.
Liberty moves to 21-14 on the season and wins in first-year head coach Scott Jackson’s return to Chapel Hill. Jackson was an assistant coach at North Carolina the past eight seasons.
The Tar Heels are the highest ranked team Liberty has defeated in program history. Before tonight, the highest ranked team the Flames had beaten on the diamond was No. 5 South Carolina, 3-2, on Feb. 17, 2013.
North Carolina falls to 29-8.
Four Liberty pitchers silenced the North Carolina bats throughout the night. Liberty starting pitcher Jackson Bertsch limited the Tar Heels to two runs on four hits over the first five innings, before giving way to right-hander Cody Gamble. Gamble, who evened his record at 1-1, pitched two-plus scoreless innings. Quarterley and DeGroat closed out North Carolina, throwing scoreless frames in the eighth and ninth.
Both teams stranded runners at second and third base in the second. With two outs in the top of the inning, Liberty right fielder Will Shepherd doubled and catcher Matt Allen walked. A wild pitch moved both Flames into scoring position, but Tar Heels right-hander Tyler Baum retired the next batter to end the threat.
In the bottom of the inning, right fielder Brandon Riley walked and two batters later, moved to third on a one-out double by catcher Cody Roberts. Liberty’s Bertsch battled back and held the Tar Heels off the scoreboard by retiring the next two North Carolina batters.
After Liberty once again stranded runners at second and third in top of the fourth, the Tar Heels broke through for the first run of the contest in the bottom of the inning. First baseman Tyler Lynn hit his fifth home run of the season over the right field wall for a short-lived 1-0 North Carolina edge.
In the top of the fifth, D.J. Artis, who had three hits in the contest, knotted the game with his fourth home run of the year. Leading off the inning, the Liberty center fielder ripped a 2-1 offering from Tar Heel reliever Jason Morgan over the right field wall to even the score at 1-1. Later in the inning, the Flames loaded the bases with two away, but came up empty, as reliever Rodney Hutchinson, Jr. entered and retired the first batter he faced to keep the game deadlocked.
Host North Carolina answered in the bottom of the inning with a solo home run of its own. With two outs, designated hitter Ashton McGee lifted his fifth home run of the year to right field to give the host Tar Heels a 2-1 lead.
Liberty went in front with four two-out runs in the top of the eighth. Second baseman Andrew Kowalo, who had three hits in the game, led off the inning with a single and moved to second on a one-out single by pinch hitter Dylan Allen. After Artis drew a two-out walk, McDyre ripped a double off the top of the left-center field wall, clearing the bases and giving the Flames a 4-2 lead. Barbee followed with a triple to center field to score McDyre for a 5-2 advantage.
In the bottom of the inning, the Tar Heels loaded the bases with two outs, but Quarterley got Roberts to fly out to center to keep the Flames’ three-run lead.
DeGroat struck out two in the ninth to earn his third save of the year and seal the Liberty win.
Hutchinson, Jr. drops to 4-2 for North Carolina. He allowed four runs on four hits over three innings. He struck out five and walked one.
Liberty collected 14 hits, the most by a team against UNC this season.
Up Next: Liberty travels to Boiling Springs, N.C. for a three-game Big South series against the Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs. The series gets underway Friday at 7 p.m.