Emotions, Games Swings in UNC's Favor

What a way to go. A baseball team that no one expected to do much of anything battled to the end Saturday night, getting a home run from freshman Alex Avila in the top of the ninth inning to re-take a lead it held for most of the game, before ultimately falling 8-7 on UNC first baseman Chad Flack's walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth - his second in as many innings.

In the NCAA super regional games, teams alternate turns being the home and away team, even though all the games were played at Alabama's Sewell-Thomas Stadium.

Alabama led most of the way scoring single runs in the first, second, fourth and seventh, while Alabama starter Tommy Hunter held UNC to single runs in the third and fourth for a 4-2 Alabama lead.

Hunter hit the first batter in the eighth and gave up soft single before an inside fastball to on a 2-1 pitch to Flack was up in the zone and caught too much of the plate.

It sailed over the scoreboard, and gave North Carolina its first real life of the game with a 5-4 lead. David Robertson came on in relief, and allowed another run to cross before retiring the side.

Flack was 3-for-5 in the game with a triple and two home runs.

Alabama battled back in the ninth, however, when Matt Downs reached base on a throwing error and Kody Valverde drew a walk. Alex Avila strode to the plate with one out and took a 2-1 pitch over the left field wall, and Alabama had a 7-6 lead.

"I was real proud of our team and the way we fought back there," Alabama Coach Jim Wells said. "I don't know if I've ever had a better experience with a group ever. It's incredibly tough and it should have ended differently."

Wells said he called the wrong pitch on Flack's eighth inning homer. He signaled in a fastball, but, "when it left the hand I knew it wasn't good."

"I mismanaged the game at the end. I went against my better instincts. We were trying to get Tommy through a couple of more batters and if I had called the breaking ball we probably would have."

Hunter allowed just five hits through seven innings before the eighth-inning comeback.

"I was throwing inside at will," Hunter said. "I was busting them in consistently all night, and then you leave one up over the middle of the plate and they're going to put it over the trees."

There was a base open when Robertson faced Flack again in the ninth, but the reliever's fastball caught too much of the plate and Flack deposited it over the right field wall.

"We were trying to stay away from him but the ball didn't get there," Wells said. "It ran back over the plate."

Alabama's more severe missteps in the game came early, when the Tide stranded five base runners in the first three innings and got two men put out trying to score from third on horrible base running decisions.

In the second inning, Greg Paiml tripled to drive in a run, but on the next ball in play he was tagged out by the pitcher midway between third and home by the pitcher, who field a one-hoppper and strolled over to make the easy play.

An inning later, Kody Valverde tried to score on a sharply hit ball right at shortstop Josh Horton and was thrown out at the plate.

In the first inning, UNC starter Daniel Bard hit three batters and walked another one. He recorded only a single out in his first five batters faced, which came on a Valverde sacrifice attempt. But Bard got out of the inning with just one run scoring after Ryan Rhoden hit into a double play.


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