Bruins Drop 5-4 Heartbreaker to UNC in Regional Opener
LUBBOCK, Texas – No. 21-ranked UCLA was edged 5-4 by North Carolina on Friday night in the Lubbock Regional opener for both teams at Rip Griffin Park.
The second-seeded Bruins opened the scoring with a single run in the first, but saw three-seed UNC build leads of 3-1 and 5-2 over the middle innings. UCLA ultimately plated runs in three of the final four innings of the game and had the tying run on third with one out in the eighth, but the Tar Heels survived to move to the winner's bracket.
Both teams threatened their turn at-bat in each of the final three innings of the game, and that combined with a number of pitching changes, pinch hitters, and high-leverage situations created plenty of drama in the late innings.
Redshirt junior left fielder Kevin Kendall led the way offensively for UCLA, going 3-5 and figuring into the scoring of UCLA's first three runs. Junior shortstop Matt McLain added two hits and two RBIs.
That duo combined to open the scoring in the bottom of the first, with Kendall lining an 0-2 pitch into center for a leadoff single before coming around an RBI double into the left field corner from McLain.
North Carolina went on to parlay a leadoff double from Brett Centracchio into a game-tying run the very next half inning. The Tar Heels went ahead for good in the fourth, cashing in two runs on a base hit from Will Stewart.
UCLA began its charge back in the sixth, with the two teams trading blows down the stretch.
The Bruins first got a run in the sixth – Kendall and McLain teamed up again, with the former doubling then later scoring on a sac fly from the latter – but UNC responded with a two-run home run from Danny Serreti that made it a three-run game, the largest lead for either team at any point of the game.
UCLA was undeterred though, getting back within two on a Kendall RBI single in the seventh. The Bruins would then have their best chance to make a stand in the eighth, as Kyle Cuellar lined a double down the right field line to put the game-tying runs in scoring position with just one away.
From there, UNC reliever Nik Pry yielded a run on a wild pitch but got a swinging K for the second out. Lefty Shawn Rapp then induced a squibber in front of the plate that was successfully fielded by catcher Tomas Frick.
Senior outfielder Pat Caulfield bounced back from an 0-2 count to work a two-out walk in the bottom of the ninth, but he was the only baserunner UCLA could get aboard in the frame.
Tar Heels starter Austin Love picked up his 10th win of the year after allowed three earned and striking out nine over 6 2/3 innings. UCLA starter Jesse Bergin was solid over 5 1/3 innings, giving up just two earned runs (three total) and striking out three.
Centracchio (3-4) was UNC's top hitter on Friday, and was one of four Tar Heels to finish with multiple hits.
UCLA next faces (4) Army West Point in an elimination game on Saturday afternoon at 12:00 p.m. PT. The game can be streamed on ESPN.com/watch.