Auburn fails to capitalize; North Carolina forces Game 3

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Auburn will have to wait until Monday for a shot to punch their tickets to Omaha after the Tigers fell to North Carolina 2-0 in Game 2 of the Super Regional.

It was a strange day for both teams in a game featuring 13 walks, 14 hits and only two runs. Neither team could capitalize on scoring opportunities as both teams stranded 23 runners combined.

“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.”

Left-handed pitcher Bailey Horn (4-1, 6.03 ERA) got the start for Auburn. Just like the first game, North Carolina jumped out to a quick lead with a two-RBI single from Ike Freeman in the first inning. It could have been worse for Auburn, but, with the bases loaded, Horn escaped only allowing two runs.

Right-handed pitcher Austin Bergner (6-1, 4.94 ERA) started the game for North Carolina. Looking to respond, Auburn loaded the bases in the bottom of the first, but they were unable to score as Rankin Woley struck out to end the frame.

Horn’s day ended in the fourth when Ryan Watson (1-1, 5.08 ERA) entered in relief. According to Thompson, Horn felt “under the weather,” but the redshirt sophomore battled for 3.1 innings, allowing two runs on three hits. He walked six batters.

North Carolina threatened with runners at the corners, but Watson came up with a big strikeout in the fifth to keep the game at 2-0. In the bottom of the inning, back-to-back singles from Ryan Bliss and Connor Davis saw North Carolina head to their bullpen for the first time.

Bergner finished the day allowing no runs on four hits in 4.1 innings pitched. Austin Love (8-4, 3.18 ERA) entered the game in relief, and Auburn stranded Bliss and Davis as Love got North Carolina out of the jam. Love silenced Auburn hitters for the remainder of the game and earned the victory.

Elliott Anderson (7-2, 4.22 ERA), who threw two innings in the first game, checked in for Watson in the seventh. Anderson and Watson combined to give Auburn 5.2 innings of work, allowing no runs on five hits. The gritty performance kept Auburn in the ball game, but the Tigers couldn’t break through on the scoreboard. Horn was charged with the loss.

“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.

Game 3 will be played tomorrow at noon on ESPN2 with the winner advancing to Omaha and the College Baseball World Series.