CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (Auburn Athletics) – Auburn and North Carolina will meet Monday in a winner-take-all showdown after the Tar Heels defeated the Tigers, 2-0, Sunday in the second game of the Chapel Hill Super Regional.
“We knew this was going to be a war,” Auburn coach Butch Thompson said. “Thankful to get the first game here and did everything in our power except score runs. You’re not going to win a game if you can’t find a way to score runs.”
North Carolina scored both runs in the top of the first on Ike Freeman’s two-run single.
Auburn starter Baily Horn (4-1, 6.03) suffered the loss after pitching 3.1 innings and allowing two runs while striking out three.
Ryan Watson relieved Horn and pitched 2.2 scoreless innings with a pair of strikeouts. Elliott Anderson worked the final 3.0 innings and blanked the Tar Heels on two hits with three strikeouts.
“The ability to shove the ball in the zone, keep them off balance, that plays a big role,” said Anderson. “Good hitters will get their hits. Our job is to get our defense off the field.”
“We just really couldn’t get anything going offensively, but Horn, Watson and Anderson really navigated around a few walks in the ball game, but they never gave up the big hit and I appreciate them for that,” Thompson said.
Both teams had opportunities but were unable to cash in, leaving a combined 18 runners on base in the first five innings and 23 in the game.
Edouard Julien came within a few feet of hitting a three-run home run for the second straight day, flying out to the warning track in center to end the fifth inning after Ryan Bliss and Conor Davis singled.
“I don’t think Edouard Julien could hit the ball any harder, to the deepest part of this ballpark,” Thompson said.
Davis led off the bottom of the eighth with his second single, but pinch-runner Jarrett Eaton was called for a force play slide violation sliding into second on Will Holland’s fielder’s choice, resulting in a double play.
Steven Williams singled with one out in the ninth, his second hit of the game, to bring the potential tying run to the plate, but UNC’s Austin Love got a strikeout and a grounder for the final two outs.
“We were just one or two hits away today,” Thompson said. “I thought both teams competed like crazy today. I thought it was an unbelievable game.”
Love (8-4) earned the win, pitching 4.2 scoreless innings and striking out six in relief of UNC starter Austin Bergner, who threw 4.1 innings with five strikeouts.
Will Holland also recorded a hit for Auburn.
The Tigers (37-26) and Tar Heels (46-18) will play their decisive third game Monday at noon CT on ESPN2 with the winner advancing to the College World Series.
“I think we were locked in, we just missed a ball or two finding a hole,” Thompson said. “I think we’ve come far enough. We know what’s on the line and I think that our players will give us everything they’ve got tomorrow.”