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The Daily Tar Heel

Music stops momentarily as UNC baseball drops first game

UNC Baseball faced St. John's on Wednesday afternoon.
UNC Baseball faced St. John's on Wednesday afternoon.

Head coach Mike Fox has been here before. This is his 19th season at UNC (8-1) and his 19th time going through the experience of losing the first game of the season. He can appreciate the quiet because he sees the bigger picture.

“It’s one of the few times when I walk in there where there’s not music playing,” Fox said. “That’s a plus, if there is a plus to losing.”

The players understand it’s just one game, too. You can’t go undefeated in baseball, right? But still, there’s something about that first loss that sticks with you.

“I don’t think there is much to be said,” junior shortstop Logan Warmoth said. “It’s not like we played bad. There’s not much to be said; it’s baseball, like I said. We are not going to win every game, so we’ve just got to move on, play in two days.”

Before North Carolina looks ahead to a weekend series against Long Beach State, what could have been Wednesday night will linger on.

Maybe UNC could have gotten more than two runs across the board against St. John’s (8-0) starting pitcher Jeff Belge. North Carolina’s leadoff man, Brian Miller, scored in the top of the first. An inning later, Cody Roberts crossed home on a Josh Ladowski RBI single.

But then Belge was out, replaced by Sean Mooney. After scoring two more on him to take a 4-2 lead after the third inning, the offense sputtered. North Carolina had just two baserunners the rest of the game.

Rodney Hutchinson Jr. and Austin Bergner will want some pitches back, too. On a 2-1 count in the seventh inning, Hutchinson fired and Jesse Berardi hit a two-run home run to tie the game.

An inning later, Bergner allowed a solo shot that gave St. John’s a 5-4 lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

Miller was North Carolina’s last chance at making a comeback in the bottom of the ninth, but he dribbled a 1-2 offering back to the pitcher. The St. John’s players leapt off their bench and toward the postgame high-five line as if they’d won a conference championship.

The loss is just one hiccup in a long college baseball season. North Carolina can still take solace in how well they’ve played early on this season.

“We’re 8-1 in nine games; that’s a good start,” Ladowski said.

But it’s Fox’s job to break the initial silence in the clubhouse. After 19 seasons, he knows exactly how to reach a young baseball team processing the first loss of the season.

“(I) always try to walk in there and say something positive right out of the game,” Fox said. “That tends to maybe lower everyone’s blood pressure or their anxiety as to what I’m going to say, because I’ve got a lot of guys in that locker room who’ve never heard me say anything after a loss.”

Fox’s positivity will help comfort the team. Someone will press play and the music of the season can start again.

@bauman_john

sports@dailytarheel.com

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