CHAPEL HILL --- Luis Paula struck out nine batters over six innings and No. 13 North Carolina closed its 13-game homestand with a 7-1 win over Gardner-Webb Wednesday afternoon at Boshamer Stadium. Alex Raburn hit his first career home run for the Tar Heels, who return to Atlantic Coast Conference play this weekend with a three-game series at Maryland.
After falling behind in the first on Tuesday against George Mason, Carolina (12-4) jumped on Gardner-Webb early in Wednesday's contest. Walks by Wood Myers and Landon Lassiter and a single by Skye Bolt loaded the bases for Korey Dunbar, who smashed a double to the gap in left center to clear the bases and give UNC a 3-0 lead. One batter later, Parks Jordan singled up the middle to score Dunbar, and the Tar Heels never looked back.
Paula's only hiccup came in the second, when the junior righty faced a bases loaded-no out situation after a walk, a single and an error. After a strikeout for the first out of the inning, Ryan Hodge singled to left to score a run, but Jordan made an accurate throw to Lassiter, who relayed to Dunbar to cut down Sam Fulginiti at home. Paula then got Blair Huggins to pop out for the third out, and he cruised from there. The McLeansville, N.C., native allowed just three baserunners over the next four innings en route to his first career win.
Raburn's offense highlighted the middle innings as the sophomore from Durham ripped his first career home run out to left in the fifth before driving in Carolina's last run of the day with a single off the pitcher in the sixth. Tate Parrish, Trevor Kelley, Henry Sisson and A.J. Bogucki combined to allow just one hit over the final three innings to preserve the 7-1 lead. Sisson, a sophomore transfer from Davidson, made his first career appearance as a Tar Heel and struck out the only batter he faced.
Gardner-Webb (6-10) was led by Ryan Hodge's two-hit day, while starter Hunter Smith allowed four runs in 2.0 innings to take the loss on the mound.
Carolina will now hit the road for the first time since the first weekend of the season as the Tar Heels face Maryland in a three-game ACC series Friday through Sunday. Friday's game one is set to begin at 6:30 p.m. and live audio will be available at GoHeels.com.