CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Saturday’s 2-0 loss at the Miami Hurricanes continued this weekend’s missed opportunities for the North Carolina baseball team.
It also sealed the Tar Heels’ fate for next week’s ACC tournament in Greensboro. UNC settled for the No. 7 seed and will open the tournament Tuesday against N.C. State at 11 a.m.
North Carolina left fielder Parks Jordan, the reigning ACC player of the week, said he believes the Tar Heels (32-23, 15-15) have to win at least one game in Greensboro to earn an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament.
“We’d like to win more,” Jordan said, “but we don’t want to put any added pressure on ourselves.”
Jordan knows how hard it is to win an ACC game, proven this weekend when the Tar Heels were not far away from a sweep of the seventh-ranked Hurricanes (40-15, 24-6), who had the league’s best record in the regular season.
North Carolina lost the opener, 6-5, in 16 innings after blowing a one-run lead in the eighth and another one-run edge in the final frame. The Tar Heels then routed the Hurricanes 11-2 in the second game of Friday’s doubleheader, which didn’t end until after midnight.
After just a few hours of sleep, the teams were on the field for a noon start. UNC freshman Zac Gallen (5-4) pitched well in defeat, allowing seven hits, no walks and two runs while striking out six in 6 1/3 innings.
“Zac’s been our best (pitcher) the past three or four starts,” North Carolina coach Mike Fox said. “It’s tough because we knew if we had won today, we would have finished fourth in the league, and that would have really helped us (reach the NCAA tournament).”
In the first inning, Gallen allowed a one-out triple on a ball that right fielder Tyler Ramirez dove for and nearly caught. Gallen then got what appeared to be a key strikeout before allowing a two-out RBI single by David Thompson.
The only other run came in the fourth, when Thompson singled and ultimately advanced to third before scoring on a sacrifice fly. UNC center fielder Skye Bolt made a great throw home and catcher Korey Dunbar caught it in plenty of time, but Thompson’s slide hit his glove and jarred the ball loose.
Offensively, North Carolina had opportunities, including a bases-loaded, one-out chance in the fifth that ended with swinging strikeouts by Jordan and Landon Lassiter.
In the sixth, Bolt led off with a double, but he was thrown out at third when he tried to advance on a fly out. Hurricanes right fielder Willie Abreu made a perfect throw to get him.
A high pitch count forced Hurricanes starter Bryan Radziewski to depart after six innings, and the Tar Heels were poised to attack when Ramirez led off the seventh with a walk against reliever Cooper Hammond.
But Ramirez was caught trying to steal second. UNC got just one base-runner after that on another walk, and Hurricanes closer Bryan Garcia was perfect in getting the final four outs for his 15th save. North Carolina has now lost eight of its past nine games at Miami.
“That’s life in the ACC,” Fox said. “We competed hard. Miami has a terrific team. I’m proud of our guys for coming back after losing that 16-inning game.
“We knew today would be tough to score runs with Radziewski out there and the wind blowing in.
“It’s a fine line between winning and losing, but I like our pitching. We’re just not doing enough offensively to give us a chance.”