CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Gardner-Webb lost its second game in two nights on the host team’s final swing, as No. 15 North Carolina got a one-out single in the bottom of the ninth from Ryan Graepel to win, 6-5, Thursday afternoon.
The Diamond ‘Dogs traditionally give the nationally-ranked Tar Heels (7-1) a tough game in Chapel Hill, and Thursday was no exception.
Gardner-Webb (2-7) bolted to a 2-0 lead in the first, using an RBI double from Josh Drewery and a sacrifice fly from Jake Watts to put the Tar Heels in an early hole.
North Carolina answered in the bottom of the second, getting a triple from freshman Brian Goodwin, a sacrifice fly from Graepel and a solo home run from Jesse Wierzbicki to even the score.
Drewery remained on fire at the plate, however, and put Gardner-Webb up 4-2 with a two-run home run in the third inning – his second of the year. Aaron Miller led off that frame with a single and Kurt Fulginiti reached on a fielder’s choice just in front of Drewery in the order.
The Tar Heels plated a pair of runs in the fifth to go in front 5-4, using an RBI hit from Levi Michael and a squeeze bunt from Graepel to take the lead.
Gardner-Webb drew even in the seventh, with Fulginiti reaching on a single and Drewery belting his second double of the game to make the score 5-5.
With one runner on and one out in the top of the eighth, North Carolina went to freshman closer Mike Morin, and the rookie got out of the inning with a strikeout and fly ball. GWU’s Miller singled with one in the ninth, but was picked off first base. Fulginiti followed with a line drive, but the ball was snagged at first base to end the frame and set up the Tar Heels with a chance to win in their last at bat.
A leadoff single by Tommy Coyle and a stolen base got things started, and Levi Michael drew a walk to put two on board. A sacrifice bunt moved both men into scoring position and GWU chose to intentionally walk the dangerous Goodwin to set up a potential double play.
Graepel ended the game, however, with an RBI single to left to drive in Coyle for the Tar Heels’ sixth run.
Brock Wilson (1-1) took the hard-luck loss in relief for the Diamond ‘Dogs, working 4.0 innings of relief and allowing just one run on four hits (three singles) with a strikeout. Conner Scarborough got his first career start Thursday for the ‘Dogs, and went 4.1 innings while scattering eight hits and five runs with a strikeout.
Gardner-Webb had nine safeties on the day, with Drewery going 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles, a home run and four RBI. Miller and Fulginiti each went 2-for-5 for the Diamond ‘Dogs.
North Carolina managed 12 hits, with three different players collecting two each. Morin worked 1.2 innings to get the relief win. The Tar Heels used four pitchers in the game, with Garrett Davis working 2.2 innings and allowing four runs in a no decision start.
Gardner-Webb returns to action Friday, traveling to face Wofford College at 6:00 pm ET in Spartanburg, S.C.