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Iowa defeats UNC Baseball to end their season

With the loss, the 2022-23 college sports year is complete for Tar Heel Athletics.

2022 NCAA Division I Men’s Baseball Championship Photo by C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

The lesson in baseball is pretty simple-when you put runners on base, you really need to get them home to win. The North Carolina Tar Heels baseball team, unfortunately, never learned that lesson through three games in Terre Haute, Indiana, and it ultimately is what doomed their season.

The Iowa Hawkeyes defeated the Tar Heels 6-5 in 13 innings to officially eliminate UNC from the NCAA Baseball Championship. It was a spectacular game, rife with good pitching performances from both sides. Iowa starter Ty Lagenberg went seven full innings and seemed to get better as the game went on. Carolina got a great performance from Cameron Padgett, only his fifth start of the season that saw him get one out in the fifth before Scott Forbes turned it over to the bullpen. Both starters would get tagged with runs their bullpen gave up.

The game started in a similar fashion for the Tar Heels as every other game-squandering prime opportunities to score with no outs. As the home team, Carolina managed to load the bases with only one out-including a hit right off of Lagenberg that clearly affected him for the next few pitches. Just like most other innings, though, the Tar Heels would completely squander that chance-first with a strikeout by Hunter Stokely and then a meek fly out by Patrick Alvarez.

However, in the second Carolina actually seemed to have learned from Friday, first holding the Hawkeyes to no runs and then actually scoring two runs thanks to a homer by Casey Cook. The leadoff hitter only had the one hit on the day, but it it gave the Tar Heels the opportunity to play from ahead early for the first time in the regional. The Hawkeyes would manufacture a run in the top of the third, but then the two teams battled back and forth with scoreless innings until the fifth.

Padgett saw the first two hitters get on and then struck out the next batter. With the double play still out there, coach Scott Forbes opted to go to the bullpen that was barely needed on Saturday. As this had already matched Padgett’s longest start of the season, the move made sense. Unfortunately, Brennen Dorighi was able to connect on a breaking ball that hung over the play and sail a three run home over the wall. Iowa was up 4-2, and then grabbed another run in the 7th to get to 5-2.

Anyone who had seen Iowa this regional, though, knew their bullpen had been shaky. They let the Tar Heels get back into it on Friday night and surrendered a lead to host Indiana State on Saturday. Sure enough, when Langenberg was lifted in the eighth after allowing two runners to get on, the Tar Heels were able to strike. At first, it looked as if it was going to be another massive squander as the first two Tar Heels struck out, but Dylan King, in his second at bat, ripped a double down right field to score two and get the Tar Heels within a run.

In the bottom of the ninth, surefire high draft pick Mac Horvath tattooed a pitch over the wall to temporarily save Carolina’s season, tying it at five. After starting 0-7, Horvath had the important homer on Saturday, and went 3-5 on Sunday. He likely ends his Carolina career trying to put the team on his back.

The teams stayed scoreless for the next three innings, but in the top of the 13th, Dalton Pence gave up a triple that was just out of the reach of a diving Horvath. Iowa was able to quickly get the Tar Heels to go down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the frame, sending the Tar Heels back to Chapel Hill.

With the loss, the Tar Heels will look back on what might have been in the 2023 season that started so well but went south quickly. They’ll wonder what would have been had Vance Honeycutt not been hurt, and if that extra bat would have been enough for them to plan to advance to the Super Regionals. Carolina lost both of their regional games by one run, and with all of the opportunities wasted it’s hard to see how Honeycutt being in the lineup wouldn’t have helped.

The much-maligned bullpen managed to do mostly well, but still gave up the big play at the worst time.

The Tar Heels now will scatter across the country. Some to prepare to hear their names called in the MLB draft, and some to various college leagues across the country that have already started playing-or will soon. As we have done the last few years, we’ll keep track of their summer assignments and how they are doing for you.

And with that the 2022-23 Tar Heel sports calendar is complete. Players will soon be coming back to campus for summer activities, but there’ll be no more on field competition until late August. we wait.