North Carolina’s Vance Honeycutt hits two homers to send LSU to elimination game with Wofford

LSU fell to North Carolina in the winners' side of the Chapel Hill Regional to set up a rematch with Wofford. PHOTO BY: LSU Athletics

LSU and North Carolina hadn’t put up a single run on the board heading into the bottom of the fifth inning, but the Tar Heels’ Vance Honeycutt changed things in a hurry.

Honeycutt blasted a three-run homer in the fifth before hitting another solo shot in the seventh to make the difference in LSU’s 6-2 loss. LSU will now have a rematch with Wofford Sunday at 11 a.m. in an elimination game for a shot at a rematch with North Carolina at 4 p.m.

“We worked too hard to get here to let a little disappointment get in the way of what is in front of us,” LSU head coach Jay Johnson said. “I’ve done it in a regional and done it in Omaha twice, so I feel good about what we have available, I really do.”

The first four innings of the game were a pitchers’ duel as Luke Holman and Shea Sprague sat down any batters they faced. Sprague allowed singles to Tommy White and Josh Pearson in the first inning, but that was just about all the LSU offense could muster.

Holman struck out Honeycutt in the first at-bat of the game for the Tar Heels and didn’t have any trouble with their offense at all until the fifth inning. Heading into the fifth, Holman had allowed just two hits and one walk.

Sprague was pulled in the top of the fifth after walking Alex Milazzo and surrendering a single to Michael Braswell III. Ben Peterson came in the game and forced a double play to head to the bottom of the inning.

The bottom of the fifth was where the Tar Heels did most of the damage in the game. After a flyout, a single and a double put two runners on base with Honeycutt coming up to bat. Honeycutt took the first pitch he saw over the left field wall for a three-RBI homer that gave UNC a 3-0 lead.

Holman allowed another single afterwards and brought the runner around to third after an error on a pickoff attempt and a wild pitch. A strikeout ended the inning afterwards though.

LSU was unable to respond in the sixth despite getting a pair of free bases, but Holman locked in and recorded a pair of strikeouts in the bottom of the inning to head to the seventh with the score still 3-0.

The Tigers finally got some runs on the board in the seventh, but despite cutting into the lead it felt like a missed opportunity. Milazzo singled to start the inning before Jake Brown lined out. Braswell and White hit singles of their own to load the bases.

Jones worked a full count walk to score the first run and Ethan Frey did the same to score another. But with the bases loaded and only one out gone in a one-run game, Hayden Travinski grounded into a double play to end the threat.

After a fly out and his 11th strikeout of the game, Holman surrendered another solo homer to Honeycutt to make it a 4-2 game. Holman was pulled afterwards. He allowed seven hits, four runs and one walk in 6.2 innings pitched. Justin Loer came in to force a pop out and end the inning.

LSU couldn’t manage anything on offense in the eighth and was down to its final three outs still trailing. Sam Dutton came in for the bottom of the inning and allowed a walk and a deep double that bounced off the wall to put two runners in scoring position with no outs gone. Dutton got a ground out and the Tigers intentionally walked Luke Stevenson before Will Hellmers came in to pitch.

Gavin Gallaher came in to bat with the bases loaded, and while he didn’t hit a grand slam like he did the day before he did hit an RBI single to make it 5-2. A groundout brought another runner home for another insurance run.

Aiden Moffett came in to finally end the inning with a strikeout. The Tigers went three up, three down in the top of the ninth to end the game. They finished the game with just seven hits and both of their runs came on walks.

“This is a little more than what we did in Hoover, but it’s the format. We knew that going in,” Johnson said. “Thats why we threw Gage yesterday and Luke today, so that we didn’t have to do that. It’s my first time in four years I haven’t been sitting on 2-0, but the best wins I’ve had in my career, including Omaha last year, came in elimination games. I have full confidence in our team we will execute. Our goal isn’t just to get out of here now. Our goal is to have the best day we’ve had as a team tomorrow.”

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Will Nickel

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