DURHAM, N.C. – North Carolina missed a prime opportunity to wrap up a NCAA Tournament invite by letting a four-run lead slip away in Wednesday’s 7-4 loss to top-seeded Louisville in the ACC Tournament.
While UNC ran Louisville starter Sean Leland (4 ER, 5 BB, HBP) off the mound after just six outs in building a 4-0 lead through three innings, there was a lingering feeling at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park that the boys in blue left too many runs on the diamond.
“I would have liked to have seen how the game would have played out if we’d been able to scratch a run or two more there in the first couple of innings, but we didn’t get it done,” UNC head coach Mike Fox told reporters after the game.
After Tyler Ramirez led off the game with a homerun to right field, the Tar Heels loaded the bases with no outs and failed to score any more runs. In the second inning, UNC put two on with one out and was unable to capitalize.
Freshman reliever Lincoln Henzman silenced UNC’s bats after the crooked number in the third, pitching six scoreless innings and allowing just three hits. Zack Burdi picked up the save for Louisville.
The Cardinals worked their way back into the game starting in the fourth inning against UNC starter Benton Moss (5.1 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 7 K). ACC Freshman of the Year Brendan Kay hit a 2-2 pitch over the right field wall to plate two runs and open Louisville’s scoring.
“I should have thrown one that bounced 46 feet [away] so he couldn’t do what he did,” Moss said. “I was probably a little amped up, tried to throw too good of a pitch and it ended up being not as good of a pitch. I had a little bit of doubt before I threw that pitch, honestly. I wish I could have thrown a different one, but that’s totally on me. I should have just made a better pitch. I think he was sitting on it. He got all of it.”
Sutton Whiting’s RBI double in the fifth cut UNC’s lead to 4-3. McKay scored again in the sixth on an error by shortstop Logan Warmoth to tie the game. Whiting and Nick Solak added RBI singles to build a 7-4 lead through six.
UNC was unable to threaten late as it fell to 0-17 on the season when trailing after six innings.
The Tar Heels faltered in their attempt to move off the NCAA bubble with what would have been a fourth win against the RPI Top-25. UNC dropped to 33-23 (13-16 ACC) and 9-14 against the RPI Top-50.
UNC’s RPI fell to No. 27 after the loss.
On Tuesday, Baseball America projected UNC as one of the last four teams into the NCAA Tournament.
UNC entered last season’s ACC Tournament in a similar predicament. The Tar Heels topped N.C. State in the play-in game before rallying to beat Maryland – a top-25 RPI team – in pool play.
Those wins boosted UNC’s record to 34-25 (15-15 ACC) and its RPI to No. 41, helping Fox’s program gain entry into the NCAA Tournament as one of the final four teams selected.
UNC is seeking its 14th-consecutive NCAA appearance and 16th in 17 seasons under Fox.
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