CHAPEL HILL – Trailing 4-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning, Gardner-Webb saw its chances at a mid-week upset go up in smoke as No. 3 North Carolina plated six runs in the frame to key a 10-3 win over the Diamond ‘Dogs.
Gardner-Webb (3-4) lost its third straight, but proved to be a tough out early for the Tar Heels (8-1).
GWU tied the game, 1-1, in the second on a failed pickoff of Ty Boyles at third base – but North Carolina would answer with three runs (two unearned) after an error in the bottom of the third to go up 4-1. Garrett Gore’s two-run double was the big blow in that frame.
Jon Ahearn led off the fifth inning with a double, stole third base, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Daniel Cooke to cut the Tar Heels’ lead to 4-2. That would be as close as the ‘Dogs would get.
Two infield singles with one out in the sixth off of GWU reliever Michael Lewis got the Tar Heel rally started. Levi Michael then roped an RBI double to left center to push the lead to 5-2 and – after a walk to Dustin Ackley loaded the bases – Kyle Seager used another infield single to drive in a run for a 6-2 North Carolina edge.
Michael was thrown out at home attempting to steal, but Gore coaxed another walk to load the bases for what would be a lethal blow to Gardner-Webb’s chances at a win. Mark Fluery belted a 1-0 pitch over the wall in right for his first grand slam of the year and a 10-2 Tar Heel lead.
Bubbie Spake ripped a solo home run down the left field line off of freshman sensation Jimmy Messer in the eighth to trim the lead to 10-3. It was Spake’s second home run against the Tar Heels in two seasons, and his fourth of 2009.
Gardner-Webb managed eight hits in the game, with Justin Loyd pacing that effort by going 3-for-4 with a double. The Diamond ‘Dogs fanned 13 times at the plate in the game.
Brett Stackhouse (1-2) took the loss for Gardner-Webb, allowing two earned runs in 3.0 innings of work. The GWU pitching staff issued nine walks in the game and fanned just four, with Devin Campbell collecting two of those strikeouts in a scoreless eighth inning.
Bryant Gaines picked up the win for North Carolina, fanning six batters and allowing just one earned run in 5.0 innings of work. Ben Bunting went 3-for-5 to pace a 14-hit attack for the Tar Heels and Fluery went 2-for-2 with five RBI.
Gardner-Webb will begin Big South Conference play on Friday, as the ‘Dogs host Presbyterian College in a three-game set. The opener is set for a 2:30 pm ET first pitch on Masters Field.