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College baseball: LSU loses heartbreaker in Chapel Hill Regional championship game

by Russell Hedges

A heartbreaker for LSU fans.

That’s the best way to describe the LSU Tigers’ 4-3 loss in 10 innings to North Carolina in the championship game of the NCAA Tournament’s Chapel Hill Regional Monday night in Chapel Hill, N.C.

LSU, the designated home team, led 3-2 going into the top of the ninth. But UNC’s Gavin Gallaher led off with a double and scored on a one-out single by Colby Wilkerson to tie it.

Former Airline star Hayden Travinski singled with one out in the bottom of the inning. But a flyout and strikeout sent the game into extra innings.

LSU pitcher Gage Jump retired the first two batters in the top of the 10th. But a fielding error on a ball hit to the wall in right field by Johnny Castagnozzi kept the inning alive.

After Gallaher was intentionally walked, Alex Madera’s single gave the Tar Heels the 4-3 lead.

Tommy White and Steven Milam both flied out to start the bottom of the 10th. Jared Jones drew a walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch to keep LSU’s hopes alive. But Josh Pearson flied out to right field, ending the game and LSU’s season.

Defending national champion LSU closed its season 43-23. The Tigers won 21 of their last 29 games. North Carolina (45-14) will face West Virginia in a best-of-3 Super Regional in Chapel Hill. Had LSU won, the Super Regional would’ve been in Baton Rouge.

LSU allowed two runs in the first inning then didn’t give up another until the ninth. Tigers starter   Samuel Dutton gave up three straight singles to start the game, loading the bases. He was replaced by Javen Coleman. After issuing a walk, Coleman limited the damage, getting Alberto Osuna to ground into a double play, which scored the second run, and then inducing a flyout.

Coleman gave way to senior Will Hellmers with one out in the second after issuing a walk and hitting a batter with a pitch.

Hellmers turned in a gutsy performance, allowing just two hits and two walks in 5 2/3 innings.

He was replaced by Nate Ackenhausen after giving up a walk in the top of the eighth with LSU leading 3-2.

Ackenhausen, who had a rough start against Wofford Sunday, proceeded to strike out the next three batters. 

Jump took the mound in the top of the ninth and gave up the tying run. The go-ahead run in the 10th was unearned.

LSU scored single runs in the first, second and third to take the 3-2 lead.

White, who led off the first with a single, scored on a groundout by Pearson with one out.

Jake Brown’s home run with two outs in the second tied the game. Jones’ homer with two outs in the third gave the Tigers the 3-2 lead.

LSU finished with five hits off three North Carolina pitchers. The Tigers drew two walks, both by Jones.

Matthew Matthijs, who came into the game with a 12-4 record, allowed two hits with three strikeouts and no walks in 4 1/3 innings of relief.

Dalton Pence pitched the final 3 2/3 innings for the win. He allowed one hit, struck out four and walked two.

North Carolina had eight hits. Madera went 2-for-4.

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