Coming into this three-game series against the #10 Oklahoma State Cowboys, the UNC Tar Heels had not collected a walk-off victory since April 11th of last year. However, the Tar Heels got a taste of winning in walk-off style on Friday. They liked it so much that they did it again on Saturday.
One day after being walk-off winners by a 2-1 score against the Cowboys, the Tar Heels did it againthanks to a walk-off single by Brian Miller that gave UNC the 7-6 win. The #12 Tar Heels improved to 4-1, with all four wins coming against ranked teams. They took two of three from #11 UCLA last week.
Oklahoma State Sparks Crazy First Inning
In last weekend's series versus UCLA, the Tar Heels scored first in every game. They had continued that pattern, scoring first against the Cowboys on Friday night. However, this time, Oklahoma State was determined to get on the board first. They jumped all over the Tar Heels, getting a lead-off single to spark the big inning. UNC, who had trouble with control last weekend, promptly walked the next two batters to load the bases. It appeared the Tar Heels might escape the huge jam when they recorded two straight strikeouts, but it was not to be. Dustin Williams came through in the clutch for the Cowboys, walloping a grand slam for the 4-0 lead. UNC got out of the inning without further damage but, for the first time all season, they were the team digging out of an early hole.
UNC responded well to trailing early, putting a pair of runs on the board for themselves in the bottom half of the inning. A single and stolen base got a runner in scoring position for the Tar Heels quickly, and UNC cashed in. Kyle Datres singled with runners on first and second to score a run and put runners on the corners. They scored once more in the frame on an RBI walk to cut the deficit to two runs. Their second run of the inning concluded a crazy six-run inning to start the game.
UNC Rallies To Tie Game In Third Inning
Dustin Williams came up big for the Cowboys again in the third inning when he smacked an RBI single for a 5-2 lead, but the Tar Heels would not be stopped on offense. UNC loaded the bases with nobody out but grounded into what looked like a rally-killing double play. Their lead runner was cut down at the plate, and the potentially huge inning seemed to have been tamed. However, UNC wasn't quite done as they still had two runners in scoring position. Cody Roberts grounded a single through the infield that scored both runners. Roberts came around to score on an error, tying the game at five runs apiece.
Game Settles Down After Offense-Happy Start
After the teams combined for ten runs in the first three innings, both bullpens managed to calm the opposing offenses. Each team was retired in order in the fourth inning, and the Cowboys were held scoreless in the fifth to mark the halfway point of the game. Roberts helped manufacture a run for the Tar Heels in the fifth inning which gave UNC their first lead of the day. Roberts singled to advance a runner to third; he promptly took off for second on the next pitch and forced a throwing error, allowing the take-the-lead run to scamper home.
Both offenses stayed quiet for the next few innings; UNC totally shut down the Cowboys, holding them hitless for four straight frames. However, Oklahoma State was finally able to scratch out the game-tying score in the eighth inning. Again, Dustin Williams was instrumental in manufacturing the run. Williams worked a two-out walk that pushed a runner into scoring position for the Cowboys. Conor Costello picked up an RBI for Oklahoma State by singling in the sixth run of the day for the Cowboys. Neither team could score another run, and the game went to extra innings.
UNC Goes Home Happy In The Tenth Inning
As they had for much of the game, UNC shut down the Cowboys in the tenth inning, setting the stage for yet another walk-off win. The Tar Heels got their lead runner on a walk, but the next batter failed to advance the runner, fouling out on a bunt attempt. However, an infield single pushed the winning run to second base with just one out. Eli Sutherland, a late-game pinch-hitter, quickly watched two strikes go by but he managed to work the nine-pitch walk that loaded the bases. The walk set up the heroics of Miller, who didn't wait around before ripping a single on the second pitch. The winning run came scampering home and the Tar Heels began celebrating once more.
Stars Of The Game And What's Up Next
Though it was UNC that came out on top, both teams had some stars during Saturday's game. For the Cowboys, it was Dustin Williams, who provided a spark with his first-inning grand slam and 5-RBI performance. Meanwhile, for the Tar Heels, it was Cody Roberts, who picked up three hits and was making things happen for UNC all day. And, of course, the hero of the game, Brian Miller, had a pretty decent day, with two hits, a run scored, and the walk-off single. Miller and Roberts will look to continue their hot performance tomorrow as the Tar Heels go for the series sweep over the Cowboys.
Maybe the Tar Heels have a little more walk-off magic left in them for the series finale.