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North Carolina 4, Davidson 8: Tar Heels baseball upset in the first round

What a disappointing game for the Tar Heels

Photo by Evan Davis

The first game the Tar Heels played in the NCAA Tournament did not go the way they were hoping. At all. Heading into the Chapel Hill Regional, no one expected that North Carolina, the no. 2 seed, would lose to Davidson, yet here we are. A shaky start from J.B. Bukauskas and a weak offensive showing now leave the Tar Heels heading to the Elimination Game tomorrow afternoon.

This year’s ACC Pitcher of the Year showed very little of the pitcher who is destined to be a top MLB Draft pick in a few weeks. Bukauskas only lasted 3.2 innings, where he managed to throw 88 pitches. He struck out five batters but also allowed six runs on six hits and four walks to doom North Carolina in what became his first actual loss of the season.

From the beginning, Davidson was all over UNC’s ace by swinging early in the count, going after first pitch fastballs, and generally staying aggressive. In the top of the second inning, Justin Lebek was hit by a pitch and Jake Sidwell singled to right field. Brett Centracchio then doubled off the wall to score the first run of the game. Cam Johnson followed with another hit that scored two and made it 3-0.

Davidson struck again in the third when Alec Acosta doubled down the left field line. Brian Fortier walked and Acosta advanced on a wild pitch. With a double play ball hit to him, Zack Gahagan threw the ball into the dirt as Warmoth covered second base and everyone was safe. Another run scored on the error.

The carousel continued in the fourth when Davidson struck again with two outs in the inning. Will Robertson singled, Acosta walked, and the runners advanced on a wild pitch. Bukauskas walked Fortier and then Eric Jones to force in a run, which got him removed from the game. Rodney Hutchison entered the game in relief and promptly balked in a run to make it 6-0. It was a pretty questionable call because apparently you aren’t allowed to breath on the mound.

In the top of the fifth, Hutchison surrendered two runs of his own on three hits. Sidwell singled and Max Bazin bunted for a hit. Johnson then drove in a run with a hit of his own and Robertson brought in another on a sac fly. 8-0 is as one-sided as it got. Cole Aker and Bo Weiss pitched 2.2 innings of relief, keeping Davidson off the board. Austin Bergner came in throwing heat to finish out the last 1.2 innings, striking out four batters.

The Tar Heels finally came alive in the sixth inning when Kyle Datres was hit by a pitch. Brandon Riley hit safely, followed by a single up the middle from Gahagan to get North Carolina on the board. UNC’s offensive outburst really took place in the seventh. Brian Miller singled and Logan Warmoth came alive with a home run to make it an 8-3 game. Brandon Riley followed that up with a solo shot to give Carolina a third run.

UNC’s offense didn’t really put up much of a fight against Durin O’Linger until the very end. He allowed three runs on nine hits and two walks while striking out only three in six innings of work. In comparison to Bukauskas, O’Linger threw 94 pitches but managed to get through two more innings.

In the end, right fielder Brandon Riley finished a triple shy of the cycle, collecting a single, double, and home run. Center fielder Brian Miller had three hits on the night and third baseman Kyle Datres contributed a bunt base hit in the third inning. Zack Gahagan’s RBI single was a big moment for UNC because it made everyone feel like they could get back into this game.

Shortstop Logan Warmoth was quiet for most of the night until he woke up with a two-run home run late in the game. Catcher Cody Roberts contributed with a hit and two walks, and first baseman Michael Busch walked as well. Despite the team’s inability to get anything going, Ashton McGee and Tyler Lynn proved to be the only Tar Heels who didn’t contribute in some way.

While Davidson goes on to face Florida Gulf Coast, North Carolina will have to fight for their survival against Michigan at 1 PM. Since this is double elimination, you keep playing until you lose two games. This means someone is going home tomorrow, but can the Tar Heels rebound and hang on?