CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Senior captain Tyler Palmer’s two-RBI single capped a thrilling come-from-behind win in 16 innings Friday afternoon, as the No. 4 Miami Hurricanes walked off with a dramatic victory in game one of a doubleheader against visiting North Carolina.
Trailing 5-4 entering the bottom of the 16th, Miami (39-14, 23-5) loaded the bases on two singles and a walk to set the stage for Palmer. Playing in his last regular season series as a Hurricane, Palmer drove a 1-2 pitch from Tar Heels reliever Trevor Kelley through the rightside to score two runs – including the game-winner on a picture-perfect slide from sophomore Ricky Eusebio under the tag of Carolina catcher Adrian Chacon – to cap the second-longest game in Miami history.
"It was a fastball away," Palmer said of the pitch. "Kelley was throwing from pretty much behind my back, and I just stayed on it and drove it to the opposite field. He was working me away...thankfully it ended the game."
Palmer finished the game with a career-high five hits.
With its 23rd win in ACC play, Miami matched its best single-season conference victory total, equaling its 23-win campaign from 2008.
After six scoreless frames in extras, North Carolina (31-22, 14-14 ACC) took the lead on an RBI single from Parks Jordan off senior righthander Javi Salas (4-3) in the top half of the 16th. Miami managed to pull off the improbable, however, and came through with two runs in the home half of the inning to capture its 26th win in its last 28 games.
The Hurricanes found themselves in a deficit on three different occasions Friday afternoon, but showed resiliency in fighting back each time. Miami was down 3-0, 4-3 and 5-4 before walking off in the 16th in a game that took over five hours to play.
The hosts rallied from a three-run deficit after the first inning to tie the game by the second, but fell behind in the fourth and did not level until the late innings. The Hurricanes received three clean innings of relief from sophomore Thomas Woodrey, two more from freshman Bryan Garcia and five innings from Salas, who threw 72 pitches in relief.
Trailing by one run in the eighth inning, a two-out RBI double from senior Alex Hernandez off North Carolina’s shutdown reliever Reilly Hovis knotted the game 4-4.
The Tar Heels plated three runs off Miami junior lefthander Chris Diaz in the first on an RBI double from Skye Bolt and a two-RBI single from Wood Myers. With two runners on base and just one out, Diaz induced a 6-4-3 double play to get out of the inning with Miami trailing just 3-0.
The Hurricanes responded with three runs off North Carolina ace Trent Thornton in the second to tie the game 3-3. Sophomore Brandon Lopez continued a strong stretch at the plate with a leadoff single, and a walk to Johnny Ruiz put two runners on base. Sophomore David Thompson, making his return to the lineup after missing the past 32 games due to injury, then walked to load the bases.
Freshman Jacob Heyward – making his fourth consecutive start in the outfield – knocked a groundball that the North Carolina middle infield could not corral, resulting in an RBI groundout and an error charged to Myers. A sacrifice fly from reigning ACC Player of the Week Dale Carey and a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch from Zack Collins tied the score 3-3.
An RBI single from Tom Zengel put North Carolina ahead 4-3 in the fourth, and Thornton kept Miami off the scoreboard over the next three innings before giving way to Hovis in the seventh.
Miami struck for the game-tying run in the eighth, when Brandon Lopez got the action started with a one-out single up the middle. After Lopez stole second base, Hernandez came through with a looping RBI double past the outstretched glove of Parks Jordan in leftfield to tie the game 4-4.
The two teams combined for just six hits in extras leading into the 16th inning, when UNC tagged Salas for the go-ahead run. But Palmer’s late-game heroics sent the crowd of 2,568 – many of whom remained in the stands for game two – into a frenzied celebration.
"This is a dream come true," Palmer said. "I never imagined my Senior Day being like this. It doesn’t get much better."
The Hurricanes will wrap up their regular season schedule Saturday with game three against the visiting Tar Heels. First pitch for the finale – set for broadcast on ESPNU – is set for noon.