Tar Heels out of CWS after 5-1 loss to Vanderbilt

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — North Carolina couldn’t move baserunners along, so it’s so long to the College World Series for the Tar Heels.

Carolina’s offensive opportunities didn’t come often in a 5-1 loss to Vanderbilt on Wednesday night. But when they did, the Tar Heels again struggled to convert them.

North Carolina (51-16) left nine runners on base for the second straight game and stranded a total of 34 in its three CWS games. The Tar Heels were just 7 for 39 with runners in scoring position.

“That’s probably what will be written about,” coach Mike Fox said. “We left a lot of people on base out here for three games, but a lot of that has to do with the other team, and we were facing some pretty good arms.”

The Tar Heels couldn’t advance a runner past first base Wednesday after they scored in the key fifth inning.

Vanderbilt starter Taylor Hill, who combined with Corey Williams on a four-hitter, worked out of trouble that inning after Ben Bunting’s bases-loaded RBI groundout left first base open.

Hill intentionally walked All-America Colin Moran with two outs to face Jacob Stallings, who had doubled in his first two at-bats. Stallings fouled off an 0-2 pitch barely outside the left-field line, then swung and missed at a fastball.

“I was just going to give it everything I had,” Hill said. “If he hit it, he hit it. But thank goodness he didn’t.”

Fox said the fifth inning was deflating.

“You’re down four and you have the bases loaded and you’re thinking to yourself one swing of the bat, ball in the gap and we’re right back in the game and we get the momentum in our dugout,” Fox said. “They were in that situation several times while we were out here, and it just didn’t happen for us.”

The Commodores, who are at the CWS for the first time, advance to a Friday game against Southeastern Conference rival Florida. The Gators have beaten them in four of five meetings this season, including 3-1 on Tuesday.

Vandy (54-11) would have to beat Florida on Friday and again Saturday to advance to next week’s best-of-three finals.

The Tar Heels were behind 5-0 in the fifth after Connor Harrell’s three-run homer and Curt Casali’s solo shot.

“We’ve just gotten beaten by a better club, and tonight it’s as simple as that,” Fox said. “Getting down early put us in a tough spot. We had a couple of opportunities, but I thought Hill pitched really well.”

Hill (6-1) outdueled Greg Holt (7-2) in a matchup of Washington Nationals draft picks.

Hill, taken in the sixth round, allowed a run and four hits in seven innings in his first outing since June 5.

“He did a good job of neutralizing their offense and got us deep into the ball game where we could put Corey in,” Vandy coach Tim Corbin said. “Connor’s home run was big and followed up by Curtis. We did enough offensively to get by.”

Holt, who was making his second start of the season, lasted 2 2-3 innings. He gave up five runs and four hits, leaving after Casali’s homer.

Williams came on to start the eighth and has pitched 5 2-3 scoreless innings in three CWS appearances.

North Carolina made it to the CWS for the fifth time in six years after getting knocked out in regionals in 2010.

“You know, we weren’t a very good team last year, and then to turn around like this and have such a great year with 50 wins, it’s a testament to our leadership,” Stallings said. “Obviously, we were happy to get here, but once we were here I think we wish we would have played a little better.”

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