CHAPEL HILL (June 1, 2018) – One of the good things about the opening game of an NCAA baseball tournament regional is there is a tomorrow if you’re not victorious.
North Carolina, the No. 6 overall seed in the 2018 NCAA Baseball Championship Tournament, and the top seed in the Chapel Hill regional lived up to their billing Friday afternoon.
The Tar Heels defeated North Carolina A&T, the No. 4 seed out of the Chapel Hill regional, 11-0 in the opening game of the regional at UNC’s Boshamer Stadium. N.C. A&T (32-24), who came into the game with 102 runs scored over their last eight games in which they went an impressive 7-1, were hampered by seven walks, four errors and three wild pitches versus the Heels (39-18).
“They’re just as frustrated as I am,” said N.C. A&T coach Ben Hall about his Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship squad. “It wasn’t a good postgame huddle (speech) because that’s not the team I’ve seen over the last couple of weeks. They’re leaving the park frustrated so we need to come out and do something better tomorrow. There is nothing really left to say but get some rest, hydrate and play better tomorrow.”
N.C. A&T will play No. 2 Purdue in a 1 p.m., elimination game Saturday at Boshamer Stadium. The Aggies hope to have their offensive rhythm back after being held to five hits. Senior Greg White had two of those hits, going 2-for-4 for the afternoon.
Right-hand starter Cooper Criswell was the main antagonist for the Aggies from the mound. Criswell (5-2) surrendered only three hits over six innings tossed and struck out six to get the win.
“The main thing is he kept us off balance,” said White about Criswell. “We were not fastball adjusting like we normally do. We have to be better and seeing fastball and reacting to curve balls. We will be back tomorrow and do better for sure. We’ve come too far to play like that.”
White did have one of the best catches anyone will see throughout the 2018 NCAA tournament. From his left field position in the eighth inning, White had to quickly react to a screaming line drive off the bat of UNC’s Brandon Riley. As White continued to sprint toward the left-field wall while looking over his shoulder to attempt to make the catch, Riley’s slicing line drive looked to be sailing over his head.
Before the ball could reach the wall, however, White leaped in the air, snagged the ball out of the sky and landed on the warning track with a head-first slide. On the ESPN3 web stream, he was immediately dubbed a SportsCenter Top-10 Play Nominee.
“It was either keep running and try to lay out or just let him have the hit. I decided to protect the bag,” said White.
It was an incredible effort considering the Aggies were down by 11 runs at the point in the game. UNC did most of their damage with two outs on Friday. They got a two-out, two-run RBI double from Michael Busch in the third inning to give the Heels a 2-0 lead. In the UNC fourth, the Heels scored five runs with two outs including a three-run homer off Busch’s bat to give the Heels a 7-0 advantage.
Junior RHP Tim Luth (6-3) took the loss for N.C. A&T.
“They jumped on our mistakes and made us pay for them,” said Hall. “None of that takes away from what we have to do tomorrow. We have to regroup tonight and get up tomorrow ready to play.”