Rally Propels Heels Past Stagnant Start

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—Mike Fox's streak of 11 straight home-opening wins fell by the wayside Friday afternoon and the series was on the verge of following suit Sunday until a ninth-inning rally secured a 3-2 victory over Xavier and awoke a struggling offense looking for a spark.

"Time will tell on that, we'll see if it carries over," Fox told reporters after Sunday's thrilling finish. "We've obviously got a lot of work to do and a lot of improvement to be made but this has to help because winning cures a lot of things."

The Tar Heels faced a 2-0 deficit heading into the bottom of the ninth with the top of the order up. The sequence set in motion after a sacrifice bunt by Skye Bolt moved runners into scoring position and from there an intentional walk, a wild pitch and two critical hits led to a 3-2 victory for Fox's young team.

Alex Raburn tied the game with a single to left field before Adam Pate won it with an infield single to the left side. Spencer Trayner picked up his first career win in 1.1 innings of relief.

"It couldn't have happened any better as far as emotions for the freshmen, getting them engaged and everything," senior Parks Jordan said. "The fact that it was walk-off fashion was unreal. I think that's going to turn out being big for our team."

The Tar Heels opened the season struggling to find their offensive groove, leading to a 2-3 start with the chance of losing consecutive series for just the second time during Fox's tenure in Chapel Hill. The ninth-inning heroics saved that statistic and gave Fox hope that the tide may change for a young Tar Heel team looking to adopt the winning ways associated with Carolina baseball in recent years.

"It just kind of keeps building up, the frustration when you just can't muster anything and you're not even threatening to score," Fox said. "It's hard and it builds as the game goes on because you can sort of see the innings go by and then it makes every pitch that much more critical and every play that much more critical. You're trying to be encouraging but I think it's just part of the game. I've got to give our kids a lot of credit for staying in there and believing. I'm hoping today's win is going to help us a lot."

UNC is hitting .227 as a team on the season and the only two players hitting over .300 are freshmen Wood Myers (.333) and Alex Chacon (.318). Runs have been hard to come by with the Heels only able to post 23 runs through their opening six games. A 12-run outing in the lone win over the College of Charleston accounts for nearly half of those scores.

The defensive efforts and pitching have been where the Heels have hung their hat thus far yet belief in the bats remains.

"We've just go out there and try to give ourselves a chance every game," freshman Sunday starter Zac Gallen said. "If we can keep it to one run or two runs then we know our lineup is good enough. The hitting is going to come around. There's no fear in that. We just tell our guys that we're going to keep them in the game and we know they'll start squeezing the runs across."

The Tar Heels will host their first midweek matchup Tuesday against Appalachian State.


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