CHAPEL HILL - Gardner-Webb's pitching staff held No. 12 North Carolina hitless through 6.0 innings, but the Tar Heels came alive with seven runs in the seventh en route to an 8-1 win Tuesday.
The Runnin' Bulldogs (28-14-1) had its eight-game win streak snapped in the process, falling just short of the season-best nine-game win streak in March.
North Carolina (34-10) could not solve Gardner-Webb early at the plate, as starter Erik Heiligenstadt threw his scheduled 40 pitches for the 'Dogs, retiring the Tar Heels in order in the first and second inning before giving way to the bullpen.
Reliever Brock Wilson fanned a pair of batters as part of a quick third inning, before North Carolina took advantage of a hit batter and a walk to start a rally in the fourth. Levi Michael was plunked to lead off the inning, moved to second on a walk and stole third base. As Michael slid into third, the throw down sailed past third base - with the error allowing Michael to score for a 1-0 Tar Heel lead.
Gardner-Webb had threatened briefly in the top of the fourth, with Daniel Merck and Jake Watts leading off with back-to-back singles, but could not get a run across.
Aaron Miller singled, stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch in the fifth with two outs, but was stranded to keep the score at 1-0. Scott Coleman led off the top of the seventh, reaching when he was hit with a 2-2 pitch, but reliever Andrew Smith recovered with a pair of strikeouts and a fly ball out to leave Coleman on first.
Chaz Frank started North Carolina's decisive rally in the seventh, walking on five pitches. A hit-and-run play put Gardner-Webb's infield in motion, allowing a single from Jacob Stallings to get past the defense for the Tar Heels' first hit of the game. Tom Zengel connected on an RBI single with runners at the corners to push the lead to 2-0, and Ben Bunting's bunt single loaded the bases with no outs. Greg Holt drove in two runs with a single off of reliever Brett Stackhouse to extend the score to 4-0 and, after a walk loaded the bases again, Michael hit a grand slam to give North Carolina a comfortable 8-0 lead.
Gardner-Webb responded with a run in the eighth, with Merck driving in Miller with a single up the middle. Watts followed with a single, but the Tar Heels escaped further damage with an inning-ending double play.
Wilson (4-1) was tagged with the loss, allowing two earned runs in 4.0 innings of relief (three strikeouts). Stackhouse was touched for five runs on four hits and two walks in the seventh, with Jeff Howell and Adam Izokovic hurling scoreless innings to end North Carolina's scoring.
Chris Munnelly started and picked up his fourth win for North Carolina, pitching 5.1 innings, scattering four hits and striking out five.
Gardner-Webb and North Carolina each had six hits in the game, with Merck (2-for-3) and Watts (2-for-4) pacing the Runnin' Bulldogs. Six different Tar Heels collected hits, with Michael's grand slam the only extra base knock for either squad.
The Runnin' Bulldogs will now turn their attention to No. 21 Clemson, with a three-game weekend series on tap beginning with a doubleheader in Clemson, S.C., on Saturday at 2:00 pm. The Runnin' Bulldogs and Tigers will wrap up the series with a single game in Boiling Springs, N.C., on Sunday, May 8, at 2:00 pm in John Henry Moss Stadium / Bill Masters Field.