It was bound to happen. In baseball, it almost always does.
Errors, a lack of timely hits, and struggling bullpen all combined to spell doom for the Tar Heels on Wednesday in Omaha, as the North Carolina baseball team feel behind early and got blown out late in a 12-2 loss to the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
The loss in Wednesday's game, forced to start on Wednesday morning from Tuesday night after thunder and lightning delays in Omaha the night before, moves UNC to the loser's bracket to take on Oregon State on Wednesday. If the Tar Heels win that game, they must defeat Mississippi State twice, once on Friday and once on Saturday, for a total of four games in five days to advance to the College World Series final.
UNC started off well, with starter Austin Bergner going 1-2-3 with two looking-strikeouts in the top of the first, and Kyle Datres leading things off in the bottom half with a leadoff double, coming around to score on a sac-fly two pitches later to give UNC a 1-0 lead.
But in the top of the second, the first inclination this would not be the Tar Heels day flared up. A bloop single and two grounders off the gloves on UNC infielders loaded the bases for MSU with one out. Bergner struckout the next batter, and was a strike away from getting out of the jam, but Jordan Westburg took a hanging curveball out over the left field fence to give the Bulldogs a 4-1 lead.
Both pitchers settled in at that point, Bergner in particular, setting down 16-in-a-row during his best stretch of the game. UNC left a total of seven runners on base during the game, including two chances with the tying run at the plate in the middle innings.
UNC would scratch one across on a wild pitch in the bottom of the seventh, but proceed to implode in the top half of the eighth, giving up eight runs on six hits and two errors and using four pitchers to get through the inning. By the final out of the frame, the score was 12-2, which would hold through two final scoreless frames for the Tar Heels.
Ashton McGee led all Tar Heel hitters with two hits in two at-bats (one walk) and scored one run. Bergner finished with eight strikeouts and only three earned runs, while taking the loss.