LSU baseball loses to North Carolina in Chapel Hill regional |  L.S.U.

LSU baseball loses to North Carolina in Chapel Hill regional | L.S.U.

CHAPEL HILL, North Carolina – LSU baseball has lost its margin for error.

The Tigers fell 6-2 to top-seeded North Carolina on Saturday at Boshamer Stadium in the Chapel Hill regional winners bracket. The loss forces No. 2 LSU (41-22) into the losers’ bracket, where it will have to win three games in two days to advance to the super regionals and keep its season alive.

“It’s the first time in four years I haven’t been 2-0,” LSU coach Jay Johnson said. “But the best wins I’ve had in the postseason, even in Omaha last year, came after we were in elimination games.

“And I have full confidence in our team that we can execute in a way that our goal is not just to get out of here now, our goal is to have the best day we’ve ever had together as a team (Sunday).”

LSU had plenty of opportunities to break through and earn a critical victory that would have put it one win away from advancing to the super regionals, but the Tigers went 1 for 6 with runners in scoring position.

“They did a good job off the mound tonight,” Johnson said of the Tar Heels. “It’s a good team. That’s why they’ve won so many games.”

LSU’s offense struggled against UNC left-handed starter Shea Sprague but struggled to hit the big shot to take an early lead. The Tigers put a runner in scoring position in the first and second innings, but connected with a fielder’s choice and a double play to end those threats.

The inning-ending double play in the second was a controversial call after Alex Milazzo was called for interference by a runner while sliding into second base. The referees reviewed the play but upheld it much to Johnson’s dismay.

“The double play really hurt,” Johnson said. “You still have to get a hit with two outs, but it would have put some stress on (Sprague) in the second inning, and we missed an opportunity there.

“On the board, I didn’t think it should have been called interference. But that’s a great play.”

LSU also put two runners on base with no out in the fifth, but Tommy White grounded into a double play to end the inning. The offense created the same scenario but with two outs in the sixth, but Ashton Larson flew out when that threat faded.

The Tigers finally broke through in the seventh when they trailed 3-0. With the bases loaded and one out, Jared Jones and Ethan Frey walked to cut UNC’s lead (44-13) to one. But with a chance to make a big inning, Hayden Travinski grounded into a double play to end the inning.

“(UNC left-hander Dalton Pence) came out of that with flying colors,” Johnson said. “That was probably…if we can capitalize right there, I definitely think the end of the game will be different.”

LSU right-hander Luke Holman earned the start and was excellent for the first four innings. He allowed no runs and struck out seven before getting into trouble in the fifth.

Holman allowed a bunt single and a double that deflected off Jones’ glove at first base to put two runners in scoring position with one out. Tar Heels star leadoff hitter and center fielder Vance Honeycutt made him pay, hitting a three-run home run to give UNC a 3-0 lead.

Holman came out of the fifth and retired the team in order in the sixth, but gave up another home run to Honeycutt, this time a solo shot, which gave UNC a 4-2 lead after seven innings.

“He’s a very good hitter and I just couldn’t get that killer pitch with two strikes,” Holman said of Honeycutt. “He made a couple of good swings on some bad pitches.”

Right-hander Sam Dutton led off the eighth for LSU and allowed a walk and a double to start the inning.

Dutton forced a groundout before intentionally walking a batter and out to right-hander Will Hellmers, who allowed a run-scoring single and a run-scoring groundout that doubled UNC’s lead to four. Right-hander Aiden Moffett recorded the final out of the inning, but the damage had already been done.

“When you’re down, it’s probably not the best move to bring in Herring or Guidry who pitched (Friday),” Johnson said. “And that’s just the reality of the situation. Again, I think having three games left plus having (Holman and left-hander Gage Jump) available, we’re in the best position we could be in two games. “

LSU will face No. 3 Wofford at 11 a.m. Sunday at Boshamer Stadium. The game will be available to stream on ESPN+. If the Tigers defeat the Terriers, they will face North Carolina again at 5 p.m. on Sunday in an attempt to force a deciding game on Monday.