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North Carolina downs Boston College to advance to ACC Baseball Championship finals

UNC’s Mike Fox praises players Michael Busch and Ike Freeman

UNC baseball coach Mike Fox praises players Michael Busch and Ike Freeman following the Tar Heels win ovr Boston College in the ACC baseball tournament semifinals.
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UNC baseball coach Mike Fox praises players Michael Busch and Ike Freeman following the Tar Heels win ovr Boston College in the ACC baseball tournament semifinals.

Boston College had been one of the hottest teams in the ACC coming into Saturday’s ACC Baseball Championship semifinal against North Carolina.

The Eagles beat No. 8 seed Clemson, then No. 1 seed Louisville earlier this week to advance to this round.

But on another hot, sweltering day, the fifth-seeded Tar Heels managed to cool off the 12th-seeded Eagles 13-5 at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

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North Carolina’s Brandon Martorano (4) greets teammate Danny Serretti (1) after he scored on a single by Ike Freeman in the sixth inning to give the Tar Heels a 10-5 lead against Boston College in the semi-finals of the ACC Baseball Championship on Saturday, May 25 2019 at Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, N.C. Robert Willett rwillett@newsobserver.com

The Tar Heels will advance to the ACC Baseball Championship finals at noon on Sunday. They will face the winner of the game between No. 2 seed Georgia Tech and No. 3 seed N.C. State.

UNC’s win over Boston College also helps its chances at being one of the top 16 seeds to host a regional in the NCAA tournament. Prior to Saturday’s game, UNC was 15th in RPI rankings. The Tar Heels beat both Virginia and Miami before Boston College to get to the finals.

The Tar Heels came from behind, down five runs to defeat Miami in extra innings. They didn’t need that against Boston College.

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North Carolina’s Aaron Sabato (19) scores on a sacrifice fly by Ashton McGee in the third inning to give the Tar Heels’ a 4-1 lead over Boston College in the semi-finals of the ACC Baseball Championship on Saturday, May 25 2019 at Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, N.C. Robert Willett rwillett@newsobserver.com

UNC (41-17) took advantage of Boston College’s poor pitching. Between the Eagles’ seven pitchers, they walked nine batters and gave up 13 hits.

The Tar Heels scored four runs in the first three innings, taking advantage of passed balls, wild pitches and walks. Through five innings, UNC led 7-1.

Boston College soon had an answer. The Eagles cut the Tar Heels’ lead to 7-5 after scoring four runs in the bottom of the sixth. With two runners on base, Boston College had a chance to tie the game or take the lead. But UNC relief pitcher Josh Dotson managed to get BC freshman infielder Cody Morissette to fly out to right field to end the inning.

“We knew they weren’t going to go away, and those kind of innings happen,” UNC coach Mike Fox said. “It’s how you respond to them. It’s important and that’s what we did.”

UNC junior first baseman Michael Busch finished the game 4-for-5 with a walk, a home run and two RBIs. He has two home runs in the last two games.

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North Carolina’s Michael Busch (15) heads to home after a two RBI home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to give the Tar Heels a 13-5 lead over Boston College in the semi-finals of the ACC Baseball Championship on Saturday, May 25 2019 at Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, N.C. Robert Willett rwillett@newsobserver.com

UNC junior infielder Ike Freeman, who had three RBIs in the first two games of the tournament, had two RBIs on Saturday. He finished the game 3-for-4 from the plate and had a walk. He hit an RBI-single to right field in the bottom of the sixth inning to give the Tar Heels a 10-5 lead.

“I feel good in the box right now,” Freeman said. “I feel comfortable. I found my swing and it feels good.”

Boston College hung around, though. The Eagles loaded the bases in the top of the seventh inning with two outs. But relief pitcher Hansen Butler, who replaced Dotson, recorded the final out of the inning without giving up a run.

UNC freshman outfielder Dylan Harris added an RBI-single, and Busch hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth to extend the Tar Heels’ lead.

“Whoever wins out there tonight, it’s going to be a good battle,” Busch said of N.C. State and Georgia Tech. “So we’re going to be excited.”

Jonathan M. Alexander has been covering the North Carolina Tar Heels since May 2018. He previously covered Duke basketball and recruiting in the ACC. He is an alumnus of N.C. Central University.

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