In Chapel Hill, North Carolina, over six innings, the No. 14 Tar Heels slowly built a 4-0 lead over Liberty in the NCAA Tournament regionals. The deficit for the visiting Flames wasn’t insurmountable — yet.
In the seventh inning, though, UNC made sure it couldn’t be caught. The Tar Heels blasted three of their five home runs in the frame and scored six times — marking the second of four innings they would put up multiple runs — en route to a 16-1 throttling of the Flames.
Liberty reliever Landon Riley recorded just two outs in the seventh before he was pulled, giving up five runs (all earned) on three hits.
Riley allowed a leadoff single and moved the runner to second on a balk, then gave up back-to-back home runs to Michael Busch and Aaron Sabato that put UNC up 7-0. Riley walked two more runners before he was pulled, but Liberty pitcher Logan Barker couldn’t stop the bleeding and allowed another UNC homer, this one a three-run shot from Brandon Martorano.
The Tar Heels (44-17) wrapped up the win by tacking on four runs in the eighth and two in the ninth on a combined six hits. Carolina tallied 11 of its 16 hits in the final three frames.
Dylan Harris went 3 for 5 for UNC and was one of four players with multiple hits. He and Mortorano had three RBIs apiece, while Ashton McGee (2 for 5) led Carolina with four RBIs.
Andrew McInvale (10-3) took the loss in his six-inning start, allowing four runs (all earned) on five hits, walking two and striking out four.
Seven pitchers combined on a six-hitter for UNC.
Hansen Butler (5-0) earned the win in his scoreless relief appearance, when he recorded two outs, allowed one hit and walked two. Butler followed UNC starter Will Sandy, who allowed a hit in the third before he was pulled, and walked a pair of batters to load the bases. But Butler worked out of the jam by getting Cam Locklear to swing at his full-count offering.
Liberty’s lone run came with the game way out of hand in the bottom of the ninth. The Flames (43-20) got runners to first and second on back-to-back walks, then loaded the bases on Ayden Karraker’s single, and Trey McDyre recorded the RBI on a sacrifice fly.
UNC moves on to the championship round of the double-elimination regional, while Liberty is set for an elimination game against Tennessee today at noon.
The Flames beat the Volunteers 6-1 in the teams’ first game of the regional Friday.
If Liberty wins today, it must beat UNC twice to advance to the super regionals. The first of those games would take place at 6 p.m. today, and a second game, if necessary, is scheduled for 1 p.m. Monday.