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The Daily Tar Heel

Nightmarish first inning ends UNC’s season in Super Regional against Auburn

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UNC baseball head coach Mike Fox argues with the umpire after a call during the first round of the regional championships on Friday May 31, 2019. UNC beat UNCW 7-6.

A disastrous start against Auburn (38-26, 14-16 SEC) in Game 3 of the Chapel Hill Super Regional led to a season-ending 14-7 loss for the North Carolina baseball team (46-19, 17-13 ACC) on Monday. 

The Tar Heels gave up 13 runs in the top of the first, making for the second-highest scoring inning in NCAA tournament history.

What happened?

UNC’s nightmare first inning began with sophomore pitcher Joey Lancellotti walking the first four batters he saw, giving the Tigers the easiest run of the weekend before the game’s first out was recorded.

Lancellotti quickly came off the mound for first-year Connor Ollio, who wasn’t able to make things much better. Ollio allowed four runs thanks to a pair of singles and a bunt, giving Auburn a 5-0 lead. 

Ollio was in turn pulled for redshirt senior Hansen Butler, who gave up a three-run shot to right field to the first batter he faced. A pair of singles and a fielding error by second baseman Ashton McGee meant another three runs with Butler on the mound. Butler was replaced by first-year Will Sandy, who came on with two outs facing an 11-0 deficit. 

Before the third out was delivered, bringing the hour-long half-inning to an end, the Tigers found two more runs with a single from Matt Scheffler. By the time an Auburn baserunner was tagged for the third out, the Tar Heels had dug themselves a 13-0 hole.

In the fourth inning, McGee cut into Auburn’s lead with a three-run shot to right field, but it proved not to be enough for a full-fledged comeback. 

After another RBI single from Auburn, UNC managed four more runs – a pair of homers from Aaron Sabato and an RBI groundout from Jackson Hesterlee – but it was too little, too late. UNC’s season came to an end with a 14-7 drubbing.

Who stood out?

After delivering the third out of the first inning, Sandy remained on the mound for the Tar Heels until the seventh. He finished with seven hits, but no earned runs in 5.2 innings. 

McGee finished with three RBIs on 2-3 at the plate, while Sabato's two home runs earned him three RBIs as well.

When was it decided?

The early explosion from Auburn ensured one of two possibilities: a historic comeback from North Carolina, or an embarrassing Game 3 loss. On Monday, it was the latter.

Though McGee’s home run in the fourth put some wind back in the sails of Tar Heel fans, the sizable Auburn lead proved too much to overcome.

Why does it matter?

After UNC's Sunday shutout win forced a decisive Game 3, Monday's loss eliminated the Tar Heels from postseason play, denying them a second straight bid to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.

UNC’s inability to come up with a final out in the first inning proved critical. Nine of Auburn’s runs to start the game came with two outs.


@DTHSports |

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