The game quickly turned into an upset alert as the Midshipmen led, 8-7, at halftime. The second-half score remained tight, but it became clear the Midshipmen were outworking the defending champs. They won key draw controls and key controlled ground balls as a throng of alumni in Fetzer Field’s bleachers became the loudest group at the game.
A 16-14 Navy win blocked UNC, the tournament’s No. 2 overall seed, from reaching its seventh semifinal in nine years. North Carolina’s players walked off the field dismally as Navy’s fans stormed the field and joined the team in its fight song.
“You can have belief, do everything in your power and take care of all your details and sometimes it doesn't work out the way you want it to,” Levy said after the loss. “And that's life.”
The Tar Heels didn’t play an awful game — the defeat was more confusing than anything else. It was supposed to be a tune-up for the Final Four, but Fetzer Field’s final game ended up being the site of an absolute stunner.
For North Carolina’s baseball team, it was a double dose of hurt. These Tar Heels started off in a very similar situation as their lacrosse counterparts — a No. 2 overall seed hosting a tournament home game against a red-hot underdog.
The Davidson Wildcats made headlines as they entered Chapel Hill, as any team making the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 115 years would. But UNC had its own rallying cry. One of college baseball’s best programs through the 2000s had missed the cut two years in a row. Now, playoff baseball was back at Boshamer Stadium.
In front of a huge crowd on Friday, June 2, the 47-12 Tar Heels got an absolute dud of a performance from pitcher J.B. Bukauskas, who was later picked 15th in this year’s MLB Draft.
Bukauskas, the 2017 ACC Pitcher of the Year, lasted just 3.2 innings. He gave up a season-high six earned runs and was a huge reason North Carolina found itself in an 8-0 hole in the fifth inning. The Tar Heels mustered a small comeback and ended up losing, 8-4.
Facing elimination, UNC pulled out two more regional wins to set up a rematch with the Wildcats two days later. But playing the same team yielded the same result. Davidson won, 2-1, and, just like that, an incredible regular season went down the drain.
“You don’t expect it to end like this,” senior Adam Pate said afterward.
Seeing Bukauskas and teammates Logan Warmoth and Brian Miller get drafted among the top 36 only rubbed more salt in the wound. The talent was there. The depth was there. But getting out of the regional round wasn’t.
With frustrating postseason losses leaving bad tastes in their mouths, both the baseball and women’s lacrosse programs will have something to play for next spring. And considering what the basketball team used as its motivation on the way to a 2017 national championship, that may not be the worst strategy.