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May 25, 2013
DURHAM, N.C. - North Carolina rallied from a five-run deficit in the ninth inning, then exploded for five more in the 14th inning to defeat Clemson 12-7 Friday night in the ACC Baseball Championship at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
North Carolina (50-8) will meet NC State Saturday night at 7 p.m. with the winner guaranteed a spot in the championship final on Sunday against Virginia Tech. Clemson (39-19) will meet Miami at 3 p.m. on Saturday afternoon in a game that could have an impact on both teams' NCAA Tournament seeding.
The Tar Heels - the ACC regular-season champion - looked beaten as the ninth inning started with the Tigers up 7-2 and seemingly in total control after a strong starting performance by starter Zack Erwin. But reliever Matt Campbell opened the ninth by walking leadoff hitter Chaz Frank, then allowing three singles to the next four batters - scoring a run and loading the bases.
Clemson brought in reliever Scott Firth (L, 6-5) to try and end the game, but he gave up a sacrifice fly to shortstop Michael Russell to make it 7-4, then grooved a 3-1 pitch to Brian Holberton, who lofted it over the right-field wall for a game-tying three-run homer.
UNC reliever Reilly Hovis (3-0) then took control of the game, holding Clemson scoreless in the bottom of the ninth, then through the 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th innings.
Firth remained in the game for Clemson and was equally effective after the Holberton homer, holding the Tar Heels scoreless through the 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th innings.
But he surrendered a single to UNC first baseman Chuck Stubbs to open the 14th and he quickly moved to third on a sacrifice and a passed ball. After a walk to Hoberton, who promptly stole second, second baseman Mike Volk hit a little dribbler in front of the mound. Firth fielded it as he slipped to the ground, but his throw to the plate was too late to get Stubbs with the go-ahead run.
UNC added four more runs - the big blow a bases loaded triple by Chaz Frank - before reliever Joseph Moorefield could get out of the inning.
Tar Heel reliever Mason McCullough pitched a perfect bottom of the 14th to secure the marathon victory for the Tar Heels.