CLEMSON -- Wilson Boyd took three steps off third base in the ninth inning, the potential tying run in the rubber game of Clemson's weekend baseball series with the University of North Carolina.
One out, bases loaded and Chris Epps at the plate; three balls and one strike.
Clemson had rallied Saturday for a two-run lead when the second game was interrupted by rain, then put the finishing touches on a 10-6 win Sunday.
Coach Jack Leggett thought they were on the doorstep again.
Epps took a pitch low and away he thought was ball four. Home plate umpire Mark Chapman hesitated before he signaled strike and freshman Richie Shaffer on first base thought Epps had walked. Catcher Jacob Stallings threw to first baseman Jesse Wierzbicki, who tagged Shaffer for the second out. Epps eventually struck out on a pitch up and out of the zone and the Tar Heels won, 4-3.
"It's probably the craziest thing I've seen happen," Boyd said. "I thought it was a ball, the umpire kind of made a late call and by that time Richie was off."
As it was, Clemson wasted a solid performance by freshman right-hander Dominic Leone in his first weekend start. Leone scattered seven total hits, struck out three and walked one.
"He pitched as well as I could expect out of him," Leggett said.
Leone battled a case of nerves early but settled down after the second inning.
In the ninth, Leggett went to Will Lamb, whom Leone displaced in the weekend rotation. Lamb easily retired the first two batters he faced but gave up a single and double for the go-ahead run.
Boyd said it was a "disheartening" finish.
"Unfortunately we found a way to not make it happen," he said, "Tough lesson to learn."
North Carolina (25-17 overall, 8-13 ACC) is still a game out of the eighth and final spot in the conference tournament.
It's final exams week for Clemson (25-16, 11-10). The Tigers' next play Florida Gulf Coast of Fort Myers in a four-game series starting Saturday.