CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — The Canisius baseball team knew it faced a tough task in its NCAA Tournament debut, and it hung in there against mighty North Carolina.
The Golden Griffins, however, let the tournament’s overall No. 1 seed off the hook too many times when they had chances for big innings, and their dream of an upset slipped through their fingers Friday night at Boshamer Stadium. The Tar Heels scored three times in the first and twice in the eighth inning to survive a scare from the Griffs, 6-3, before 3,305.
“That was a heck of a ball game and I thought we played our hearts out,” Golden Griffins coach Mike McRae said. “We definitely showed up on the biggest stage this program has experienced. One pitch here, one hit there and it may have been a different result.”
The Griffs (43-16) must win today’s game against Florida Atlantic at 1 p.m. to keep their season alive in the double-elimination Chapel Hill regional. UNC (53-9) will face Towson, which beat Florida Atlantic, 7-2, in today’s other contest.
In an entertaining showdown, the teams combined for 24 hits and came up with big plays on defense. The Griffs gunned down a pair of Carolina runners at the plate and the Tar Heel pitchers stranded 14 Canisius runners. The Griffs loaded the bases in the first, second and eighth innings but managed to score only once.
Tar Heels closer Trent Thornton overcame a stressful start to the eighth in which Mike Krische and Ryan Coppinger (2 for 5) singled with one out. Jimmy Luppens then was hit by a pitch on a 1-2 count before Thornton settled down to strike out the next two batters. Thornton struck out the side in order in the ninth to end his six-strikeout performance.
Jose Torralba went 2 for 3 with a run scored and drove in one of Canisius’ runs during a two-run fifth that pulled the Griffs within 4-3 after they had trailed 3-0 and 4-1. Canisius’ Garrett Cortright (Frontier) yielded 13 hits in seven-plus innings and four earned runs.