CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — The Canisius baseball team left 14 runners on base, including 10 in scoring position, losing 6-3 to No. 3 North Carolina at Boshamer Stadium in a first-round game at the Chapel Hill Regional on Friday night.
With the loss, the No. 4 seed Golden Griffins will play No. 2 seed Florida Atlantic in an elimination game at 1 p.m. on Saturday. That game, along with every game in the four-team, double-elimination tournament, will be live on ESPN3 with a free, audio broadcast on GoGriffs.com.
“That was a heck of a ballgame and I thought we played our hearts out,” Canisius 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 tonight.”
Canisius (42-16) put together three two-out singles in the top of the first but left the bases loaded when North Carolina starter Benton Moss struck out sophomore Jesse Puscheck to get out of the jam. North Carolina responded with a two-out rally of its own, scoring three runs with two outs in the bottom of the inning. The Griffs loaded the bases for a second consecutive inning, with junior Jimmy Luppens drawing a bases-loaded walk to make it 3-1. Canisius left eight runners on base in the first three innings and couldn’t take advantage of Moss’s control problems early.
No. 1 seed North Carolina (53-8) added another run in the second, but Canisius would throw runners out at the plate to end the second and the third innings and junior Ryan Coppinger had his second assist of the game to end the fourth. Colin Moran hit a liner to right-center, but Coppinger made the running catch and doubled up the runner on first.
The Griffs chased Moss in the fifth when sophomore Connor Panas drew a one-out walk and Puscheck was hit by a pitch. Junior Jose Torralba lined an RBI single to right-center off reliever Chris McCue to make it 4-2 and put runners at the corners. Puscheck then scored on a wild pitch to make it a one-run game. After a walk to junior Ronnie Bernick, the second wild pitch of the inning got two runners into scoring position with two outs. McCue would strike out sophomore Chris McCue to keep the score 4-3.
With one out in the eighth, sophomore Mike Krische singled to center and Coppinger followed with a single to right to put runners at the corners. Coppinger would steal second base to put two runners in scoring position for the Griffs and Luppens was hit by a pitch to load the bases. North Carolina closer Tyler Thornton struck out senior Brooklyn Foster and Panas as the Griffs left the bases loaded for the third time in the game.
“I thought the first two innings really built confidence for us,” Canisius coach Mike McRae said. “Obviously the eighth inning was a huge momentum shift. We don’t usually strike out in that manner in that situation.”
Junior Garrett Cortright (11-4) settled down after the early going as he pitched into the eighth inning. The Hamburg, N.Y. native allowed six runs (four earned) on 13 hits, walked one and struck out four.
“I knew I had to battle for us tonight and to give us a chance to win,” Cortright said. “We just came up a little bit short.”
Coppinger went 2-for-5 with a stolen base while Torralba was 2-for-3 with a walk, run scored and RBI. Luppens and Panas each reached base three times with a hit, walk and hit by pitch.
Notes: Canisius played in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history… Canisius played a school from the Atlantic Coast Conference for the first time since facing Virginia on March 18, 2009… Cortright pitched into the eighth inning for the sixth time in his last seven starts… Canisius left at least 11 runners on base for the third consecutive game... Canisius has 125 HBP on the season, now leading the country in the category.