CHAPEL HILL, N.C.---- The No. 11 North Carolina Tar Heels hung on for a 6-5 win over the Bulldogs Sunday at Boshamer Stadium to advance to the Regional Final while Georgia's season comes to an end.
The Bulldogs (36-23) nearly erased a 6-2 deficit with a furious rally in the bottom of the ninth. Graduate Cole Tate lined a single up the middle. His identical twin, graduate Connor Tate, smashed a ball off the top of the wall in left center that was initially ruled a home run. After a replay review, he was awarded a ground-rule double. Following a groundout by Parks Harber, graduate Chaney Rogers smashed a three-run home run off Connor Bovair. The blast, his fifth of the year, made it 6-5. Senior Josh McAllister followed with a nine-pitch at bat and crushed a ball to straight away center that Vance Honeycutt jumped up and caught at the top of the wall for the second out. The Tar Heels went to left-hander Caden O'Brien to face the left-handed pinch-hitter Corey Collins. He struck him out to send UNC to a rematch with VCU for the regional championship.
UNC took a 1-0 lead in the second on a two-out, run-scoring single by Johnny Castagnozzi. In the third, UNC sent eight batters to the plate and extended its lead to 4-0, scoring three runs on three hits and a wild pitch. Sophomore left-hander Luke Wagner started and left with two on and two out in the third when the Bulldogs looked to sophomore Jaden Woods. He hit Alberto Osuna on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases. Then, left fielder Mikey Madej lined a two-run single. Osuna advanced to third on the play and scored on a wild pitch to make it 4-0.
Georgia pushed across a run in the bottom of the third on a two-out, run-scoring single from Rogers. The Bulldogs missed a handful of scoring opportunities, stranding nine through the first five frames and 12 for the contest. UNC catcher Tomas Frick connected for his third home run, a solo shot to start the sixth to make it 5-1. With one on and two outs in the sixth, Georgia brought in senior right-hander Jack Gowen. He got the final out of the frame. In the bottom of the sixth, Cory Acton's RBI-double trimmed the deficit to 5-2. UNC made its fifth pitching change of the afternoon, bringing in closer Davis Palermo who retired Cole Tate to send it to the seventh. A one-out run-scoring single by Madej gave UNC a 6-2 lead in the seventh.
"I was going through my mind in the last inning as each guy came up, Cole, Connor, Chaney and Josh, I was thinking how are these guys going to go out?" said Georgia's Ike Cousins head baseball coach Scott Stricklin. "I envisioned them going out by doing something special, and all of them did. It's a cruel game. It's a game of inches. That was my dad's favorite saying. It's a game of inches, and it came true today. (Josh) McAllister had an unbelievable at bat, and we just came up a little bit short. We didn't stop fighting. I'm really proud of this team. That's the kind of team we were all year long. We kept fighting no matter what adversity they faced."
Gowen pitched 2.1 innings and allowed one run on three hits with one strikeout and freshman Chandler Marsh pitched the ninth. UNC reliever Nik Fry (3-0) earned the win while Wagner dropped to 5-3. O'Brien picked up his fifth save. Cole Tate ended his career with a career-best 11-game hitting streak. Also, Acton extended his hitting streak to seven games.