During the last three years, North Carolina has endured a number of heartbreaks at Rosenblatt Stadium, but Sunday, the fourth-ranked Tar Heels did something they have not accomplished since 1989.
Stranding 11 runners on base and committing three errors, the Tar Heels fell 5-2 in 10 innings to No. 5 Arizona State (50-12) in the opening round of pool play at the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. It was the first time in 20 years that North Carolina (47-17) has lost its opening game of the tournament.
The Heels struck out 13 times against Arizona State's southpaw duo, starter Josh Spence, and Mitchell Lambson, who picked up the win in relief.
The Heels, one loss away from seeing their season end, play Southern Mississippi on Tuesday at 2 p.m. in an elimination game. The Golden Eagles suffered a 7-6 loss to top-ranked Texas on Sunday.
With the wind blowing in for much of the game Sunday, runs were a premium, as North Carolina's ace Alex White and Spence matched one another pitch for pitch. However, neither would figure into the decision.
White, drafted 15th overall by the Cleveland Indians, went nine innings, scattering seven hits and allowed a run. He also matched his career-high with 12 strikeouts.
Spence, who was drafted in the third round by the Los Angeles Angels, got the starting nod against the Heels over righthander Mike Leake, and struck out eight over seven innings of work.
He also scattered eight hits and managed to pitch his way out of jams.
Having allowed consecutive singles up the middle in the first inning, Spence got Ryan Graepel and Levi Michael to ground out to shortstop to end the threat.
In the fourth inning, the Heels loaded the bases with two outs, but Spence got Ben Bunting to strike out.
Not only did the Heels' offense fell them, they also were shaky with the glove. Having committed two errors without suffering any damage, Carolina's luck ran out in a four-run top of the 10th inning.
With a runner on base and one out, the Sun Devils' Jason Kipnis lifted a ball into right field that Carolina's Garrett Gore lost in the sun. With runners on first and second, Carlos Ramirez drove a Brian Moran pitch to center field to break the 1-1 tie.
Kole Calhoun followed with a three-run homer into left field to blow the game open and send the Heels into the loser's bracket.
The Heels were not the only seeded team to suffer a loss in their opener. No. 2 Cal State Fullerton lost 10-6 to Arkansas on Saturday and was fighting for its tournament survival Monday against Virginia.
The Heels, who have lost two straight games at Rosenblatt Stadium, will look to senior Adam Warren to toe the rubber against Southern Miss. Warren, drafted in the fourth round by the New York Yankees, has gone undefeated during the NCAA tournament.
Warren, the Heels' No. 2 pitcher, will try to help Carolina avoid their first two-and-out College World Series appearance in two decades.
In the winner's bracket of pool play, the Devils will send Leake up against Texas at 8 p.m.
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