College Sports

Just super: Davidson baseball doubles down on upset of UNC to make even more history

Davidson's Will Robertson (41) jumps onto teammates after the Wildcats defeated North Carolina 2-1 in Sunday’s game against Chapel Hill Regional host North Carolina. Davidson, in its first-ever NCAA baseball tournament, will advance to the super regional.
Davidson's Will Robertson (41) jumps onto teammates after the Wildcats defeated North Carolina 2-1 in Sunday’s game against Chapel Hill Regional host North Carolina. Davidson, in its first-ever NCAA baseball tournament, will advance to the super regional. AP

It took 115 years for Davidson baseball to reach this stage. It took just three days to surpass it.

After winning two games in their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance, the Wildcats (35-24) took down No. 2 national seed North Carolina for the second time in three days to claim the Chapel Hill Regional – earning a spot in the super regional round for the first time in school history.

Sunday’s 2-1 win in Chapel Hill was another step in an unlikely road for Davidson, which won its first-ever conference title just to secure an appearance in the NCAA Tournament. From there, the Atlantic 10 champions overwhelmed host UNC on Friday before edging No. 2 seed Florida Gulf Coast on Saturday to set up a rematch with the Tar Heels (49-14).

It was four innings of scoreless ball to start Sunday’s game after a 90-minute rain delay. But Davidson unleashed the floodgates in the fifth inning, when two singles chased UNC starter Taylor Sugg from the mound after 4 1/3 innings. That set up Will Robertson – the Wildcats’ single-season leader in home runs – to slash a two-run single off North Carolina closer Josh Hiatt to put his team in the driver’s seat.

UNC freshman Michael Busch answered with a solo shot to the trees outside Boshamer Stadium. But it wasn’t enough to deter Davidson, which held off the Tar Heels’ desperate comeback through the final four frames to escape Chapel Hill unscathed.

The Wildcats will have a few days off before seeing which super regional site will host the next stop in their improbable journey.

Three who mattered

Josh Hudson: After allowing two hits in the first two innings, the righty settled in and mostly limited the damage from UNC’s high-octane attack – giving up one run on six hits through seven innings of work.

Will Robertson: As he has so many times this season, Robertson provided the much-needed spark for Davidson, plating his team’s only two runs in the fifth inning.

Durin O’Linger: As if 330 postseason pitches wasn’t enough, Davidson’s ace followed up Friday’s 94-pitch outing with 34 pitches in relief Sunday to secure a trip to the super regionals.

Observations

▪  Sunday’s win was Davidson’s 10th in its past 11 games, with the Wildcats’ only loss coming to top-seeded Virginia Commonwealth in the conference tournament.

▪  O’Linger coaxed a 1-2-3 eighth inning and held on in the ninth inning, thwarting any late-game heroics from the host Tar Heels.

▪  It looked like a tied game after a deep single from Zack Gahagan nearly scored Brandon Riley. But the throw from right field barely reached catcher Jake Sidwell, who tagged a diving Gahagan to save Davidson’s night.

▪  Before its fifth-inning spurt, Davidson stranded three runners and lost another to a base-running flub in the fourth inning. Fortunately for the Wildcats, two runs was all they needed.

▪  Hiatt and the UNC crowd erupted when the closer struck out Davidson’s Alec Acosta to escape the seventh inning. But the celebration was in vain, as the Tar Heels couldn’t break through at the plate.

Worth mentioning

▪  Sunday’s win gave Davidson the tiebreaker in the season series over the Tar Heels, who now hold a 91-24 advantage in the all-time series.

▪  Hudson had allowed just two combined hits in his previous two outings – including zero hits and eight walks in a 7-6 loss at UNC on May 9. He finished Sunday with six hits and two walks.

▪  Sugg entered Sunday’s game allowing just four runs in 16 appearances for UNC. His two runs allowed brought his ERA from 1.54 to 1.98 in his third start of the year.

They said it

“I had a lot of adrenaline going, so I didn’t really feel anything.” – Durin O’Linger after throwing 34 pitches in relief.

“We’ve faced guys a lot harder than this all year ... I guess they just kept us off our timing.” – UNC’s Brian Miller on the Wildcat pitchers.

“Everyone loves an underdog.” – Will Robertson on Davidson’s improbable run.

“That’s going to be talked about forever.” – Davidson coach Dick Cooke on the dramatic end of Sunday’s win.

CHAPEL HILL REGIONAL

At Boshamer Stadium

Friday

Florida Gulf Coast 10, Michigan 6

Davidson 8, North Carolina 4

Saturday

North Carolina 8, Michigan 1

Davidson 2, Florida Gulf Coast 1

Sunday

North Carolina 10, Florida Gulf Coast 1

Davidson 2, North Carolina 1

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