By R.L. Bynum
It was a frustrating night in west Texas for North Carolina. And you don’t need one review, or even two, to confirm that.
There were frustrations with the strike zone and a crazy sixth inning that had the potential to be big for the Tar Heels, who trailed by a run at the time. But after going through a twilight zone of sorts, the inning produced no runs and plenty of head-scratching.
It all went awry for the Tar Heels after that, adding up to a 7–2 Texas Tech victory Saturday night in the Lubbock Regional.
That sent Carolina (28–26) into an elimination game at 3 p.m. Sunday against UCLA (36–19) on ESPNU. Should the Tar Heels beat the Bruins for a second time in three days, UNC would have to beat the Red Raiders (38–15) at 7 p.m. Sunday and at 5 p.m. Monday to advance.
With UNC’s pitching depleted, it’s going to be a challenge for the Tar Heels. UNC coach Scott Forbes said that Connor Ollio will likely get the start, with Shawn Rapp available. Rapp struck out seven against one walk and allowed two hits and two runs against Texas Tech.
After Caleb Roberts led off that sixth inning with a walk, Mac Horvath hit a deep drive to left field that hit the yellow line at the top of the wall, coming inches away from being a two-run homer.
“When Mac hit that ball, if that ball gets out of there, gets over and it’s a home run, that might change the game and give us more momentum, but it didn’t,” Forbes said.
Perhaps initially thinking the ball would go over the wall, Roberts was slow to get to second base trying to stretch a single into a double and was called out despite a crafty bit of tag-avoidance. Meanwhile, Roberts probably should have scored but ended up at third base.
“The ball came off so hard and went directly to the left fielder so I was down, you know, the line, deciding what to do with Caleb,” said Forbes, the third-base coach. “And he just wasn’t far enough, you know, in my mind to score. I thought maybe we might have a second and third and we might have first and third. And that’s just a read by by Mac you know our, our base runners have to run with their heads up and he got a little bit excited.”
One replay review ruled that it was, in fact, not a home run and Horvath appeared to have been called safe after the review but apparently was ruled out. UNC coach Scott Forbes asked for a review of the play at second base and the ruling that Horvath was out was confirmed.
“I thought maybe he avoided that tag, so it was worth [the challenge],” Forbes said. “I just decided hey, you know, why not? Maybe Mac swam-moved that tag.”
The below image shows the NCAA explanation of what transpired in the sixth inning.
Roberts was left stranded at third base after Ryan Sublette relieved starter Patrick Monteverde and struck out Brett Centracchio and Justice Thompson.
Kurt Wilson then stretched the Red Raiders’ lead to 4–2 on a solo home run off the right-field fair pole.
Texas pulled away in the eighth with a bases-loaded, two-out walk and Wilson’s two-run single.
Texas Tech had a 2–1 lead after one inning as the Red Raiders got a 2-run home run from Jace Jung and UNC scored when Angel Zarate led off with a single and scored on Horvath fielder’s choice ground ball.
Zarate tied it in the third when he singled and scored on Serretti’s one-out RBI double lined down the left-field line.
After three of the first four Red Raiders got hits in the first inning, they didn’t get another hit until the fifth inning to end a stretch of nine consecutive retired batters.
Gage Gillian, who saved Friday’s win over UCLA, gave up two runs in two innings before Rapp struck out seven in 4⅔ innings, giving up two hits and two runs.
Rapp walked Dru Baker with two outs in the fifth and Braxton Fulford followed with an RBI double to give Texas Tech a 3–2 edge.
Texas Tech 7, North Carolina 2
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Lubbock Regional scores, schedule
Game 1 — No. 1 regional seed Texas Tech 6, No. 4 Army 3
Game 2 — No. 3 North Carolina 5, No. 2 UCLA 4
Game 3 — Elimination game: UCLA 13, Army 6; Army eliminated
Game 4 — Winners bracket: Texas Tech 7, UNC 2
Game 5 — Elimination game: UCLA (36–19) vs UNC (28–26), 3 p.m., ESPNU
Game 6 — Texas Tech (38–15) vs. UCLA-UNC winner, 7 p.m.
Game 7 (if necessary) — Game 6 rematch if Texas Tech loses Game 6, 5 p.m.
Photo by Elise Bressler/Texas Tech Athletics