CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - No. 5 North Carolina fought its way back from a five-run deficit in the bottom of the eighth to send Friday night's series opener against Wake Forest into extra innings but was unable to come out on top as the Demon Deacons plated the game winner in the 12th. Carolina falls to 20-6 overall and 7-3 in the ACC, while Wake Forest improves to 19-9 and 5-5 in the ACC. Game two of the three-game series is set for 2 p.m. Saturday.
Trailing by five runs going to the bottom of the eighth the Carolina bats came to life as the Tar Heels evened things up at 6-6.
Michael Russell led things off with a single through the left side and moved to second with his seventh stolen base of the year. After a fly out, Jacob Stallings drew a walk and Cody Stubbs was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Mike Zolk.
Zolk lined a ball to center field that scored Russell from third and made the score 6-2 in favor of the Demon Deacons.
Pinch hitter Tom Zengel went the other way with a pitch and slapped a single to left field scoring Stallings from second base and making the score 6-3. Brian Holberton drew a four-pitch walk bringing Parks Jordan to the plate with two down in the inning and the bases loaded.
Jordan just missed the first offering from Wake Forest closer Michael Dimock but connected on the second pitch and dropped a double just inside the right field line. Holberton raced around from first and slid headfirst into home plate to cap off the bases-clearing double and tie the game at 6-6.
The teams traded scoreless frames over the next three innings as both closers, Michael Morin for the Tar Heels and Michael Dimock for the Demon Deacons, were matching each other pitch-for-pitch.
The Demon Deacons broke through in the 12th when Carlos Lopez opened the inning with a double to dead center and moved to third on a ground out before Mark Rhine connected on a sacrifice fly to put Wake Forest up, 7-6.
The Tar Heels threatened in the 12th when Brian Holberton and Parks Jordan singled to put runners on the corners with one out. Chaz Frank would go down swinging for the second out of the inning before Michael Russell grounded out to second to end the contest.
Carolina took an early 1-0 lead on a Michael Russell sacrifice fly in the third before the Demon Deacons battled back to even the score in the fifth with a two-out rally.
Starter Kent Emanuel entered the seventh above 100 pitches on the night after racking up nine strikeouts through the first six innings but was unable to get through the frame.
Wake Forest pushed three runs across in the seventh with just two balls leaving the infield, including three straight slow choppers against right-hander Chris McCue.
The Tar Heels were forced to use four different pitchers in the eighth as Wake Forest added to its lead with two more runs to take a 6-1 lead before Carolina answered in the bottom half.
Closer Michael Morin threw four innings of relief out of the pen for the Tar Heels as he kept the Demon Deacons off the board until the 12th inning. Morin allowed the one run on two hits, while striking out four suffering his first loss of the year.
Parks Jordan and Chaz Frank each tallied three hits on the night, while Jordan also drove in three runs for the Tar Heels.
Carolina will look to bounce back Saturday as right-hander Chris Munnelly will take the mound against Wake Forest right-hander Justin Van Grouw with first pitch set for 2 p.m.