Not even a two-hour rain delay prior to its game against Houston could stop North Carolina from winning again in the Regional Round of the NCAA baseball tournament.
But it didn't come easy.
No. 1 UNC won its first game of the regional 11-0 over No. 4 N.C. A&T on Friday. On Saturday, it earned a 4-3 victory over No. 3 Houston (37-24) behind good pitching and good defense. Houston, which had beaten No. 2 Purdue on Friday 9-1, pitched well too. But UNC's pitching was better.
"Our guys were ready," UNC coach Mike Fox said. "Our guys were ready tonight even with the delay."
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Right-handed pitcher Gianluca Dalatri threw five innings of one-run baseball. And the bullpen took care of the rest.
Now UNC (40-18) is only one win away from advancing to the Super Regional Round. UNC will play the winner of Houston and Purdue (38-20) at 6 p.m. on Sunday.
N.C. A&T lost again on Saturday to Purdue 14-4 and were eliminated from the tournament.
If UNC does win on Sunday, it will host the Super Regional Round. If it doesn't, it will have to play on Monday for another shot at advancing.
UNC's offense wasn't as good as it was Friday, but the runs it produced were enough.
Senior second baseman Zack Gahagan hit a two-run home run in the top of the second inning to give UNC its first lead 2-0. He battled off nine pitches. And on the 10th pitch, he hit a line drive over the left field wall.
"He left one inside at my sweet spot and I just tried to put a good swing on it," Gahagan said.
UNC added a third run in the third inning, after catcher Cody Roberts bunted a safety squeeze to score Kyle Datres from third base.
Dalatri (2-2, 2.35 ERA), who was credited with the win, had another solid pitching performance. He pitched five innings, struck out three batters, gave up four hits and only one earned run. The only run he gave up was a solo home run from Houston's Tyler Bielamowicz in the bottom of the fifth inning.
When Dalatri was pulled from the game before the sixth inning, UNC led 3-1.
It was only his third start since returning from elbow soreness that sidelined him for 12 weeks in February.
UNC got into a some trouble in the seventh inning. Houston's Connor Hollis hit a double off UNC relief pitcher Brett Daniels to start the inning, putting him in scoring position. Daniels then walked a batter.
Houston had two on base with zero outs.
Fox pulled Daniels and put in relief pitcher Josh Hiatt. Houston scored a run on a passed ball, and almost scored another on a sacrifice fly to right field. Houston's Cooper Coldiron tried to tag up at third and score, but UNC right fielder Josh Ladowski threw him out at home plate from mid right field.
The Tar Heels celebrated. As Ladowski ran off the field, he was greeted by Hiatt, who he chest bumped so hard, Hiatt took a couple of steps back.
"That was an unbelievable play," Hiatt said. "Just catching the ball and throwing a strike right there. That was one of the best defensive plays I've ever seen."
UNC added one more run in the top of the eighth inning, which came in handy because Houston scored on a home run in the bottom of the ninth.
But that was all, as Hiatt sat the next two batters.