In their next chance at the plate, the Tar Heels stretched the lead back to two when Freeman’s single batted in Sabato, giving the team its first run since the game’s opening inning.
In the bottom of the seventh Sabato tacked on an RBI single, his third hit of the day, to bring the Tar Heel lead back to three.
A disastrous last two innings sank the Tar Heels, however. The Tigers benefitted from a wild pitch and a pair of RBI doubles to score five runs in the eighth, forcing North Carolina to use three different pitchers in the frame. By the time the third out was secured, Auburn had grabbed momentum and a 7-5 lead.
After tagging up from third on a fly ball in the ninth, the Tigers put the nail in the coffin with a two-out, three-run shot from Edouard Julien over the right field wall, giving them an 11-5 lead.
Down to their last three outs and facing a six-run deficit, the Tar Heels managed a pair of runs, but were unable to complete the comeback, falling into a 1-0 hole in the Super Regional round.
Who stood out?
Baum impressed on the mound for most of the day, fresh off of being selected 66th overall by the Oakland Athletics in the MLB Draft on Monday. In 6.1 innings, Baum allowed four hits and two earned runs, registering seven strikeouts on 104 pitches.
Sabato, the reigning ACC Freshman of the Year, was a bright spot at the plate, going 3-5 at the plate with a pair of RBIs. McGee added two singles, one of which batted in two Tar Heels, to help give North Carolina separation early.
When was it decided?
The eighth inning rally from Auburn seemed to take the wind out of the Tar Heels' sails, and the four-run ninth inning all but ended North Carolina's hopes. After managing just two runs after the first inning on Saturday, UNC will need to regroup quickly to earn a second straight trip to the College World Series.
Why does it matter?
With the loss, the Tar Heels are now staring down a 1-0 deficit in the best-of-three series against the Tigers, with the winner advancing to Omaha.
Though none aside from Baum stayed for long, North Carolina was forced to put six different pitchers on the mound on Saturday, several of which contributed to the six-run explosion from Auburn in the last two innings.
When do they play next?
Game 2 of the Super Regional will begin Sunday at 11:30 a.m. in Chapel Hill, when the Tar Heels will look to avoid a season-ending loss.
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