LSU Bar-B-Cued by North Carolina, 4-2
LSU’s visit to Omaha was a lot shorter than anyone predicted.
After scoring just one run in their 2-1 loss to UCLA on Sunday, the Tigers managed just two against North Carolina today, falling to the Tar Heels, 4-2.
UNC, the #1 national seed, advances to play the loser of Tuesday night’s game between UCLA and North Carolina State. #4 seed LSU finishes its season 57-11.
In this game, LSU had its chances, but just couldn’t get the big hit when they needed it. The Tigers stranded 13 base runners.
The Tigers spotted UNC an early lead as Brian Holberton hit a two run homer off LSU starter Cody Glenn (7-3). Glenn got two out in the first inning before a single by Colin Morgan set the stage for Holberton’s 12th homer of the year. The Heels made it 3-0 in the third inning when Landon Lassiter doubled and scored on Moran’s single, which ended the day for Glenn.
Missed opportunities plagued the Tigers throughout the day. LSU got a pair of walks off UNC starter Trent Thornton (12-1), but Raph Rhymes flied out to strand the runners. Rhymes stranded nine runners in the game.
Rhymes failed to come through again in the fourth after Andrew Stevenson singled and Mark Laird singled with one out. After Alex Bregman hit into a force play, Mason Katz walked and Rhymes popped to second to end that threat.
LSU finally got to Thornton in the fifth when Sean McMullen singled with one out and Mark Laird singled him to second. Freshman Alex Bregman, who went hitless in the series, struck out, but Katz delivered McMullen with a single to left to get the Tigers on the board. But Rhymes stranded two more base runners by flying out to right field.
Brent Bonvillain relieved Glenn in the third and kept the Tigers in the game,. But North Carolina got an insurance run in the seventh when Moran led off with a single and was sacrificed to second by Holberton. Reliever Chris Cotton got the second out, but Skye Bolt singled home Moran to extend UNC’s lead to three.
The seventh and eighth innings may have been the most frustrating two innings of the season for LSU. McMullen led off with a double and was singled to left by Laird, bringing up Bregman. But the freshman hit a hard grounder to short, which started a 6-4-3 double play. McMullen scored but the Tigers’ chance for a big inning was thwarted. Katz singled to bring the tying run to the plate, but again it was Rhymes making the third out of the inning with a fly ball to center.
LSU found more frustration in the eighth inning when Christian Ibarra led off with a walk. That ended Thornton’s day and brought in Chris McCue. Ty Ross lined out to second, but JaCoby Jones singled to put the tying run at first. Tyler Moore, batting for Stevenson flied out, but McMullen was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Laird, who was one of the few offensive highlights for the Tigers in their appearance, then stranded all three runners with a fly ball to left.
That was really the Tigers’ last gasp.
LSU had one last hope in the ninth when Katz walked with one out. But that hope was lost when Rhymes flied out and Ibarra struck out to end things as McCue picked up his second save of the season.
The Tigers’ eleven hits were more than twice as many as they had in their first game loss to UCLA. But the inability of Rhymes and Bregman to make an offensive contribution plagued LSU throughout their short lived trip to Omaha.