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After 14 innings of frustration from all the missed opportunities, none of it mattered after Esteban Tresgallo ended things with one swing of the bat.
Tresgallo took a 1-1 Michael Morin fastball down the left field line and over the 330 ft. sign on a night where the wind was blowing in to send the Hurricane faithful home happy at 12:40 a.m. early Easter Sunday morning.
"I hit a fastball. I was trying to get on top of the ball. I didn't get on top of it, but I hit it pretty good and it snuck out down the corner," said Tresgallo, who came into action Saturday as a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning.
No. 13 Miami (23-8, 10-4 ACC) defeated No. 3 North Carolina (23-8, 9-5 ACC) 4-3, clinching the home series against the conference foe after also taking game one of the series 8-0 Friday night.
The two closers, Miami's E.J. Encinosa and UNC's Michael Morin got into a pitcher's duel once the game reached extras.
Encinosa pitched six perfect innings- 18 up, 18 down, striking out six in and earning the win.
"I was expecting just my normal gig, that one inning," Encinosa said. "But it was fun to get some innings in. I needed some work."
Morin ended up pitching seven innings in relief before serving up the walk-off. He gave up the one run off four hits.
Encinosa was one strike away from sealing the deal in the top of the ninth, but an 0-2 pitch that came in on UNC's Michael Russell got passed catcher Corey Janson, allowing the tying run to score. Encinosa struck out Russell on the very next pitch, but not before the Tar Heels tied the game at three.
It would've been easy for Encinosa to lose focus after the passed ball, but he didn't let it affect him.
"I told myself, 'Trust your stuff,'" Encinosa said. "I just have faith in my stuff and knew I was going to get the next pitch over the plate."
That tying run was charged to lefty reliever AJ Salcines. Coach Jim Morris opted to let Salcines start the ninth after retiring the side in order in the eighth. Encinosa entered the game with runners on first and second and nobody out.
Morris said post-game he left Salcines in to start the ninth because UNC brings a series of left-handed hitters to the plate after catcher Jacob Stallings, who was leading off the inning.
Miami had a chance to end it in the tenth. With one out and runners on the corners, Dale Carey lifted a fly ball to right field. The right fielder Russell got under it and gunned down Michael Broad trying to take home.
"It's easy to look back on that," Morris said, "but you've got to be aggressive and [Russell] made a perfect throw Michael Broad was actually our fastest guy in the 60. So you've got to be aggressive there."
Miami took its first lead of the game in the seventh to make it a 3-2 game. Down 2-1 with nobody out and the bases loaded, Brad Fieger singled to center to drive home Tyler Palmer. The very next batter, Chantz Mack, grounded softly to first on a play that forced UNC first baseman Cody Stubbs to dive to keep the ball from heading to the outfield. Stubbs got Mack at first but allowed Carey to score the go-ahead run.
The rally ended when Jarred Mederos grounded into an impressively turned double play by the Tar Heel infield, but the Hurricanes were able to plate two runs on two of Carolina's top relievers: Chris McCue, who was responsible for both runs, and Morin, who was dealt his second blown save of the season seven innings before he was given the ultimate loss.
Miami starter Eric Whaley got off to a rocky start, but settled down after giving up two runs in the first.
He didn't allow a run after that and his seven innings resulted in just the two runs and seven hits. He only struck out one but didn't walk a batter.
North Carolina starter Chris Munnelly went five plus innings shutting out the Canes through five but responsible for the one run in the sixth for the man he put on. He allowed only three hits, but Hurricane hitters made him work for his outs and were able to chase him out of the game early.
The first three hitters in the Tar Heel lineup all reached with hits off Whaley in the first inning, and Carolina put a two-spot on the board against the junior right-hander.
Were it not for Tresgallo's walk-off home run to save the day, the story Saturday would've been the countless opportunities the Canes missed on. Miami left 17 runners on base Saturday, three shy of the school's all-time high.
"We kept our hopes up," Tresgallo said. "The energy was great. We were getting great chances to win almost every inning, but we didn't get it done until the last inning.
Miami came into this weekend series against the Tar Heels losers of three of four and four of six, but the team has made a quick turnaround, taking the first two against the No. 3 ranked conference rival.
"Just having fun," Encinosa said. "I feel like we haven't done that in a while and finally our team's coming around. We're enjoying the game. We're just having fun playing together."
As if the extra innings at the tail end of the game were not enough, the start of the Saturday night affair was delayed over an hour because of rain. The first pitch came at 8:24 p.m. instead of the scheduled seven o'clock.
On an injury note, Rony Rodriguez was hit on the wrist on a fastball that came in on his hands. He's having X-rays on the wrist tomorrow, but he'll miss Sunday's game.
The Canes look to sweep the Tar Heels and wrap up the three-game series Sunday afternoon with junior lefty Steven Ewing (4-3, 3.40 ERA) facing North Carolina's Benton Moss (2-1, 1.93 ERA).
"We just have to get greedy right now and get it done one more time," Morris said.