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UNC 1, Davidson 2: Tar Heels eliminated from NCAA Tournament

A close play in the ninth could have made the difference

UNC Baseball

The UNC baseball season ended with a whimper, not with a bang. After defeating Florida Gulf Coast College this afternoon, North Carolina had to get back on the field and face Davidson for the second time this weekend. Davidson managed to get the better of the Tar Heels for a second time in the Chapel Hill Regional, eliminating UNC from the NCAA Tournament.

For their part, Tar Heels pitching got the job done with Taylor Sugg striking out four and allowing two runs on five hits and a walk in 4.1 innings. Despite Sugg’s effort, Davidson got to him in the fifth when Brett Centracchio and Max Bazin reached on back-to-back singles.

Mike Fox decided to go with Josh Hiatt in relief, who ended up walking Cam Johnson. With the bases loaded, Will Robertson hit a hard ground ball to third base, a ball Kyle Datres couldn’t handle and two runs scored. For what it’s worth, Hiatt ended up striking out four, while allowing three hits and two walks in 4.2 innings the rest of the way.

The UNC offense couldn’t get much going off Davidson starter Josh Hudson, who struck out six in seven innings of work. All they could manage tonight was a solo shot off the bat off Michael Busch in the bottom of the fifth inning.

The only other challenge Carolina brought was in the ninth when they nearly broke through against Durin O’Linger. The rally started with a one-out single by right fielder Brandon Riley. This was followed by left fielder Tyler Lynn knocking a ground ball off the pitcher’s foot, allowing both runners to be safe.

Second baseman Zack Gahagan singled to right field and the team sent Riley from second to home. Hoping to tie the game right there, Riley was dead to rights at the plate before managing to evade the tag. Unfortunately, Riley also missed the plate, and when he tried to reach back, he was tagged out. For those wondering, it was not a very good send.

The last play of the game couldn’t even be devoid of controversy when catcher Cody Roberts hit a ground ball that forced the pitcher to cover first. It was a race to the bag, which O’Linger won to end the game, even though many people believe he completely missed the base. It was hard to say one way or another because the broadcast never showed a good replay of the play. Since video review doesn’t kick in until Omaha, the Tar Heels had no argument and the no. 2 ranked team was eliminated from the tournament.