After dropping the final game of its series against N.C. State, the No. 3 North Carolina baseball team fell to Liberty, 5-2, on Tuesday at Boshamer Stadium.
Neither team could get anything going to start the game. Pitchers for both teams posed quite the challenge and kept the game scoreless until the fourth inning. Liberty (21-14) left runners on base in scoring position in each of the first four innings, while UNC (29-8) stranded runners at third base in the second and third innings.
The ball finally got rolling in the bottom of the fourth. Senior Tyler Lynn stepped up to hit for the Tar Heels and launched one into right field for the first run of the game. His home run shifted the tone of the game.
Not to be outdone, Liberty sophomore D.J. Artis struck back with a homer of his own to right field in the top of the fifth to tie the game. UNC first-year Ashton McGee countered in the bottom of the fifth, again to right field, to put the Tar Heels back on top.
But North Carolina let the momentum slip away in the top of the eighth. With the bases loaded, Liberty’s Trey McDyre doubled to left center, clearing the bases and giving the Flames a 4-2 lead. Senior Jake Barbee then stepped up to bat and tripled to center field, plating McDyre and pushing the lead to three runs.
UNC went scoreless once again in the final four innings and dropped its second game in a row.
Who stood out?
McGee returned to form against the Flames, delivering his fifth home run of the season. The first-year also drew three walks and was key to the Tar Heels’ momentum shift in the fifth inning. He was the bright spot in a poor batting display by the Tar Heels.
When was it decided?
A big showing by the Flames in the top of the eighth inning proved too much for UNC to overcome. Junior pitcher Brett Daniels entered in relief of sophomore Rodney Hutchinson Jr. after the McDyre double, but he did little to ameliorate the situation. Barbee immediately hit a triple and sealed the deal for the Flames.
Why does it matter?
After an 11-game winning streak, the Tar Heels have now dropped two in a row. Liberty — coached by two former members of the UNC coaching staff, including head coach Scott Jackson — put it all on the line and it paid off. The Tar Heels showed an inability to bounce back after a physically and mentally exhausting loss to N.C. State this past weekend. UNC needs to rediscover its rhythm entering a big ACC matchup against Pittsburgh.
Where do they play next?
North Carolina travels to Pittsburgh to face the Panthers on Friday at 6 p.m.
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