In the top of the first inning, Oregon State jumped out to a 2-0 lead, taking Cooper Criswell deep on two home runs to deep left center field. In the third, the team scored another, but North Carolina quickly knotted it all up after working a couple of hits and an error to its advantage on the base path to erase all the damage of the start.
Suddenly it was a brand new ballgame, not only with a chance for the Tar Heels to get back into it, but also to take a lead. And they did in the bottom of the fifth inning on a single from short stop Ike Freeman, who had two hits on the day.
The team then didn't soon look to give up that run lead. The following inning, third baseman Kyle Datres willed a ball fair, clanking a deep fly off the foul pole for a two-run homer for a 6-3 lead. With three innings to go, Mike Fox’s team was in command.
On defense, first-year Caden O’Brien had been dealing from the mound, striking out five batters and giving up just one hit. He was setting up that edge from the bullpen the team had in its best performances of the season, the kind of play that allowed the team to beat its opponent the last time.
But the rain began to fall consistently by that point and the drops slowly washed away that advantage. Then came two singles, a passed ball, a wild pitch, a double and a walk with the bases loaded. The double brought home three and the cushion was gone.
The walk from Brett Daniels, which came on a full count, ultimately gave up the lead for good. The Beavers led 7-6 at that point and had the rest of the game in hand.
It all fell apart from there.
North Carolina needed the game to stay within a run for a chance in one of its two final chances from the dish. What it worked out was a short inning at the plate in the bottom of the eighth and a four-run top of the ninth inning effort on defense that put it all out of reach.
Cody Roberts tried to ignite a rally in the bottom of the ninth with a ground rule double, but it was much too late by then for heroics. The Tar Heels had overstayed their welcome in Nebraska and it was time to bring the season to a close.
North Carolina accomplished a lot this season. The team turned a sluggish start into a historic run, redeemed itself in the Regional, plowed through the Super Regional and set itself up well for a deep run in Omaha by winning game one.
The Tar Heels brought home ACC Coach of the Year, four all-conference honors, a national seed in the NCAA tournament, six series sweeps and 44 wins on the season on the way to a shot in the College World Series.
But a National Championship to cap off the year? Not this time.
That's a reality the team will have to come to grips with after the successful season it had.
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