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UNC Baseball: Diamond Heels squeak by UCLA in their first Lubbock Regional game

Carolina survived some defensive mishaps to beat the Bruins, setting up last night’s match-up against host Texas Tech

NCAA BASEBALL: MAY 31 Div 1 Championship Chapel Hill Regional - North Carolina v UNC Wilmington Photo by William Howard/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Editor's note: last night's game against Texas Tech ended too late for a recap. We'll have a full recap up soon.

Austin Love, the reigning ACC Pitcher of the Week, took to the mound as Carolina began its march to Omaha, taking on UCLA in the Lubbock Regional. After giving up a run on two hits in the first inning, Love settled down and began dealing. The Bruins were three-up, three-down in the next four innings, with six strikeouts.

First baseman Brett Centracchio was the main man on offense, doubling twice, singling, and scoring twice. Will Stewart, back from a hamstring injury, got an RBI, and slapped two singles into the outfield.

Love was let down by the defense in the bottom of the sixth, up 3-1. Centracchio let a grounder by the first base bag get by him that gifted the Bruins a double. Frick let a strike get past him and Kevin Kendall made it to third. A three-pitch strikeout was followed by a sacrifice fly. Two outs on four pitches, but UCLA cut the deficit to one.

The Diamond Heels bounced back immediately in the top of the seventh. With two outs, Angel Zarate drew a walk, and Danny Serretti homered deep to centerfield, extending UNC’s lead to 5-2.

By the bottom of the seventh, Austin Love finally started showing signs of fatigue, and some UCLA hits that were close to getting fielded stacked the bases with Bruins. A single through the middle just missed Serretti’s diving glove, and UCLA plated Mikey Perez, and ended Love’s night. Caden O’Brien closed out the inning, striking out Pat Caulfield on a full count with two men on.

O’Brien got in trouble in the eighth inning, giving up two hits (and a sharp pop-out) to rightfield. Nik Pry came on for O’Brien, but gave up a run on a wild pitch before striking out Mikey Perez. Shawn Rapp came on with two outs and a man on third to try and close out the inning. One walk and a weak hit straight into the dirt for the force-out at first, and the Heels were out of a pretty wicked jam.

Closer Gage Gillian struck out the first batter he faced on four strikes (one foul). Angel Zarate made a sliding catch near left field foul line to get the second out. Gillian walked Caulfield on eight pitches to bring on UCLA’s most dangerous hitter Matt McLain with a chance to win it. Gillian struck him out with a 90 mph fastball, sending the Tar Heels to the winner’s bracket today against Texas Tech.

Carolina and the host Red Raiders will play tonight at 9pm EST on ESPN2. As a reminder, the regional is double elimination, so a loss against Texas Tech does not eliminate UNC.