But escaping the first inning proved to be a greater hurdle for Hunter Williams.
UNC’s starting pitcher struggled, falling behind in the count against four of the first five batters he faced. And with runners on first and third base with two outs, he surrendered a two-run triple.
Coastal Carolina scored two more runs to take a commanding 4-0 lead into the bottom of the first inning.
The Tar Heels couldn’t provide an answer then, but they received a chance to negate the Chanticleers’ offensive outburst an inning later.
UNC put runners on second and third base with no outs but mustered only one run and ended the inning with a strikeout and shallow fly out.
“We had an opportunity right there with (runners on) first and third to bust one and get back in the game 4-2 or maybe even 4-3,” Fox said. “And we didn’t do it. That comes back to get you against a good team.”
Coastal Carolina took advantage an inning later, scoring two more runs against Williams to seize a 6-1 lead and knock UNC’s starter out of the game after only 2 1/3 innings.
North Carolina’s bullpen held the Chanticleers’ bats in check for the rest of the game, allowing no runs and only two more hits to keep the Tar Heels within striking distance.
But the damage was done.
“We’re always going to give it our all, but the toughest part is going down early,” said first-year reliever Rodney Hutchison. “We’ve got to stay away from that in the future.”
The Tar Heels (25-12) have now dropped four of their past six games. And with four series against conference opponents still on the horizon, the loss showed UNC the dangers of playing from behind.
“(Falling behind) is odd (for us), but we’ve got to learn how to play from behind,” said sophomore third baseman Zack Gahagan. “And in the ACC, you’ve got great teams and anybody can win. We’ve just got to learn to have good at-bats and come from behind.”