After losing their second game of the Lubbock Regional Saturday night to Texas Tech, the UNC baseball team (28-27, 18-18 ACC) dropped their elimination game Sunday afternoon against the UCLA Bruins (37-19, 18-12 Pac-12), 12-2.
After their emphatic rebound against Army on Saturday, the Bruins were able to keep things rolling again Sunday afternoon against the Tar Heels, scoring five runs in the top of the first to grab an early 5-0 lead. In the top of the third, UCLA struck again, extending their lead to six off of a solo home run to left field from first-year JonJon Vaughns.
The homer by Vaughns was the only one of the day for the Bruins, but they were far from done at the plate — scoring four more runs in the fourth off of an RBI fly out and three RBI singles to give UCLA a whopping 10-0 lead. In the bottom half of the inning, the Tar Heels were able to grab their first and only runs of the day — scoring two runs off of two RBI singles from first-years Will Stewart and Tomas Frick to cut the UCLA lead to eight.
The Bruin lead remained steady at eight until the top of the seventh when UCLA was able to grab two more runs off of an RBI double from junior Matt McLain to extend the lead to 12-2. After giving up the two early runs, Senior Zach Pettway settled back down and cruised through the Tar Heel lineup in the later innings, pitching a complete game and guiding the Bruins to a big ten run victory to keep them alive in the NCAA Tournament.
Who stood out?
At the plate, first-years Stewart and Frick were able to drive in the only Tar Heel runs of the day off of two RBI singles. Sophomore Caleb Roberts was also able to register the only multi-hit performance of the day for the Tar Heels, with a single and a double.
Pitching struggled overall for the Tar Heels Sunday, but they were able to get scoreless outings from sophomore Nik Pry, first-year Caleb Cozart, redshirt first-year Max Alba, and junior Michael Oh — who combined for 6.1 innings of work.
UCLA was led by a complete team effort at the plate, with five batters registering two or more RBI’s. On the mound, the Bruins were led by Pettway’s complete game in which he struck out nine Tar Heel batters on one walk and two earned runs.
When was it decided?
UCLA grabbed a big lead early Sunday afternoon on a day where the Tar Heel bats were cold. The Bruins capitalized on the opportunity to stay alive, gaining an eight run advantage after four frames that ended up being insurmountable for the Tar Heels.
Why does it matter?
The loss against the Bruins Sunday afternoon marks the end of the 2021 season for the Tar Heels, who were eliminated from the NCAA Tournament after winning their first game of the Lubbock Regional.
When do they play next?
Fans will have to wait until next February to catch the Tar Heels back in action. The Tar Heels are due to return a lot from a young team, who will look to build off of their 2021 NCAA Tournament appearance under first-year skipper Scott Forbes.