Game 2 of the Chapel Hill Super Regional on Sunday started off much like Game 1 did.
The North Carolina baseball team jumped out again to an early lead against Auburn, bolstered by the 1-2 combo of junior Michael Busch and first-year Aaron Sabato. The Tar Heels again limited the Tigers in the game's early stages, thanks mostly to a stellar performance on the mound from a junior right-handed pitcher.
The ending of Game 2 was different, though. This time, there would be no late collapse, and the early UNC runs would prove enough. This time, with their backs against the wall, the Tar Heels held on for a 2-0 win, doing just enough at the plate and on the mound to even the series and force a decisive Game 3 on Monday.
The only two runs of the day came in the first frame, when the bat of Busch and the eye of Sabato put them both on base. When they advanced to third and second, respectively, on a balk, it was junior Ike Freeman who brought them home with a single to left center.
"Those were huge," Freeman said. "We definitely needed that. But we talk all the time, we don't rely on the offense. Pitching and defense wins game. We put pressure on them – we also left a lot of guys on base – but our pitchers picked us up."
After using six pitchers on Saturday, head coach Mike Fox only needed two on Sunday – starting with Austin Bergner, the aforementioned junior righty, who gave up four hits in 4.1 innings while walking four.
"He was able to make the pitches that he needed to," Fox said. "It probably wasn't quite his best, as sharp as he was his last outing (against Tennessee last weekend), but he did enough."
Bergner split the pitching burden with Austin Love, who personified the difference between Game 1 and Game 2 for UNC. In 4.2 innings, the redshirt first-year allowed just two hits and no walks, shutting out the Tigers while throwing six strikeouts.
"I felt like Austin was going to be good today," Fox said. "I didn't know he was going to be that good."