Dirtbags Earn Exciting Comeback Win at No. 7 North Carolina
LBSU handed North Carolina its second straight loss thanks to a three-run ninth inning.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Friday’s series opener between Long Beach State (5-4) and No. 7 North Carolina (8-2) predictably started out as a pitcher’s duel between Darren McCaughan and J.B Bukauskas. The Tar Heels got two early runs to take a 2-0 lead, but the Dirtbags shut them down the rest of the day and scored five times in the final four innings to win, 5-2, at Boshamer Stadium in Chapel Hill.
McCaughan allowed leadoff triples in the first and second innings, which led to North Carolina runs, but he settled in from there to not allow another UNC run. The junior allowed five hits and a walk in 7.0 innings of work with four strikeouts. Josh Advocate tossed two perfect innings in relief with a pair of strikeouts to earn the win in relief. Both pitchers established a nice rhythm to quiet the Tar Heels’ bats, and North Carolina had just three men reach base safely after the third inning.
Sophomore Jarren Duran was a pest at the top of the lineup, scoring twice with a pair of stolen bases on the afternoon, including a steal of home plate to tie the game in the eighth inning. Ramsey Romano had two hits, including a double, and recorded both of LBSU’s RBIs on the day.
Going against Bukauskas (7.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R (1 ER), BB, 9 K), the Dirtbags offense was resourceful in scratching across runs in the sixth and eighth innings, and it was Duran starting both rallies. The speedy leadoff man bunted to Bukauskas who fumbled the ball, allowing Duran to reach first base to start the sixth. Duran stole second on the next pitch and the throw went into center field for UNC’s second error on as many pitches. That’s particularly noteworthy since North Carolina had committed just two errors all season entering Friday’s game, ranking No. 1 in the country in fielding percentage (.994). Romano delivered an RBI groundout on an 0-2 pitch to bring in Duran and make it 2-1.
Two innings late, Duran beat out an infield single to shortstop to start an eighth-inning rally. Later in the frame, there were runners at the corners with two outs, and that’s when things got interesting. Brock Lundquist broke for second base, but didn’t draw a throw from UNC catcher Cody Roberts, who fired down to third. That brought Duran toward the plate, where he was able to elude Robert’s tag after the return throw, diving in head-first for the tying run.
The Dirtbags then broke things open in the ninth, scoring three runs without the ball leaving the infield. Daniel Jackson was hit by a pitch and then sacrificed to second base by Garrett Nelson. David Banuelos walked, then Brooks Stotler hit a sharp infield single to third to load the bases with one out. After an unlucky lineout from Duran, Romano came up with two outs and came through. The junior slapped a grounder off the glove of first baseman Michael Busch, and raced down the line with a head first dive to beat out a single. The throw from second baseman Zack Gahagan was wide of the mark, allowing another run to score on the play. LBSU added a third run on a wild pitch to take a 5-2 win in thrilling fashion.
LBSU will look to win the series tomorrow when RHP John Sheaks (0-1, 6.30 ERA) goes against RHP Luca Dalatri (2-0, 3.60 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT.
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