North Carolina freshman Aaron Sabato hit for the cycle as the Tar Heels came from behind to win the first game of its series against N.C. State.
After being down 3-2, UNC scored two runs in the seventh inning Thursday to retake the lead. The Tar Heels added another run in the eighth to beat the Wolfpack 5-3 in the first game of the rivals’ three-game series at Boshamer Stadium in Chapel Hill.
“I thought the key was Tyler Baum,” UNC coach Mike Fox said. “To get into the seventh (inning) was huge.”
Junior pitcher Baum, who started for the Tar Heels on Thursday, pitched 6 2/3 innings, struck out seven batters and gave up two earned runs.
Jason Parker, a junior pitcher, started for N.C. State and went 4 2/3 innings, while giving up two runs. He struck out five and walked four batters.
With the win, No. 15 UNC (38-15, 17-11 ACC) remains one game behind Georgia Tech for first place in the ACC Coastal Division. No. 14 N.C. State (39-15, 16-12) falls 3.5 games behind Louisville in the ACC Atlantic Division.
The winner of this series will likely host a regional, while the loser may not.
In Game 1, the Tar Heels struck first after Sabato, a 6-2, 230 pound first baseman, hit a two-run home run over the center field wall in the first inning. The Wolfpack scored three runs in the third.
But Sabato answered with a two-run triple in the bottom of the seventh inning to help give the Tar Heels a 4-3 lead.
“I just wanted to hit hard contact and really try to put this game back into our control,” Sabato said, adding that he wanted to redeem himself from a previous game. “I was thinking I know I can do this. I’m meant for this spot.”
UNC junior infielder Ike Freeman hit a solo home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to make it 5-3.
Sabato, who is hitting .341 this season, hit for the cycle and finished 4-for-4 with a home run, triple, double, single and three runs batted in. His batting average is .636 in his last eight games.
N.C. State catcher Patrick Bailey went 2-for-4 and had one RBI.
UNC and N.C. State will play on Friday at 6 p.m. at Boshamer Stadium for Game 2.
“It’s going to be close,” Fox said of Game 2. “It’s going to come down to preventing the big inning and making a big pitch, getting a good swing of the bat.”
NC State at UNC
When: 6 p.m., Friday
Where: Boshamer Stadium, Chapel Hill
Watch: ACC Network Extra