UNC digs hole too deep to escape in NCAA opening loss to Davidson

The stunning upset sends the top-seeded Tar Heels into the losers bracket of the double-elimination regional, where it will attempt to extend its season Saturday against Michigan at 1 p.m.

CHAPEL HILL — The North Carolina baseball team rallied from a three-run deficit in the ninth inning to beat Davidson during the regular season. Friday night in an opening round NCAA tournament rematch, the Tar Heels dug an even deeper hole for themselves. And this time they couldn’t climb out of it. The fourth-seeded Wildcats roughed up UNC ace J.B. Bukauskas for six runs over the first 3⅔ innings and never backed down, sending the second-ranked Tar Heels to an 8-4 loss at Boshamer Stadium. The stunning upset sends coach Mike Fox’s top-seeded team into the loser’s bracket of the double-elimination regional, where it will attempt to extend its season Saturday against Michigan at 1 p.m. “They just went in there right out of the gate and they certainly weren’t intimidated,” Fox said of the Atlantic 10 Conference champions. “We didn’t expect them to be intimidated. They played well and all the way through the lineup. It wasn’t just one or two guys. I mean they, all the way through the lineup, wasn’t just one guy that hurt us.” Davidson, which banged out 11 hits in its 10-inning 7-6 loss at UNC on May 9, picked right up where it left off in its first-ever NCAA tournament game. It jumped on Bukauskas for three runs in the second on an RBI double by DH Brett Centracchio and a two-run single by leadoff man Cam Johnson. The Wildcats (33-24) increased their lead to 3-0 in the third, then added two more in the fourth when the ACC Pitcher of the Year lost his control in an inning that included three walks, a wild pitch and a run-scoring balk by reliever Rodney Hutchison. Bukauskas came into the game with an unblemished 9-0 record, but was tagged with the loss in his team’s most important game of the season to date. “You’ve got to give them credit,” Fox said. “I mean they went in there right out of the get-go. It certainly wasn’t J.B’s best.” While Bukauskas clearly didn’t bring his “A” game, Davidson’s hitters had a little something to do with that. “Knowing that we had success against them earlier in the year gave us a lot of confidence for sure,” said Wildcats’ catcher Jake Sidwell, who had two of his team’s nine hits. Sidwell’s leadoff single in the fifth started another two-run rally that increased Davidson’s advantage to 8-0 before the Tar Heels (47-13) finally began to show signs of life. They scored once in the sixth on a two-out single by Zack Gahagan, but failed to do further damage by leaving the bases loaded. They cut the deficit further an inning later when Logan Warmoth followed Brian Miller’s third hit of the game with a homer that made it 8-3. That spelled the end of the night for Davidson starter Durin O’Linger. Although Brandon Riley also homered off reliever Allen Barry later in the inning to make it a four-run game, UNC went down quietly the rest of the way. The unexpected result forces them into a win-or-go home situation against Michigan with freshman Gianluca Dilatri on the mound. The third-seeded Wolverines squandered an early lead in suffering a 10-6 loss to Florida Gulf Coast in Friday’s opening game. “You get two losses,” UNC”s Miller said of the tournament’s double-elimination format. “We still feel that we’re the best team in this regional. We’ve played well all year. We just didn’t have it tonight. So hats off to them, but we’re definitely not out. “We’re going to come back tomorrow ready to play, and that’s the good thing. So, yeah it’s an uphill battle, but you get two losses and we’ve played well all year. So we’re 100 percent confident we can come back and win it.”