Miscues plague Tar Heels in loss to Oregon State
OMAHA, Neb. -- Of North Carolina's four errors in a 3-2 loss to Oregon State in the College World Series championship game, Bryan Steed's proved costliest.
Tar Heels coach Mike Fox wouldn't let the junior second baseman take the fall, though.
Steed's off-target throw to first on an eighth-inning grounder allowed the Beavers to score the winning run Monday night.
"This is not ever about one player, it's never about one pitch," Fox said. "This is a team sport. I love Bryan Steed to death. So do his teammates.
"It's as much me. I mismanaged the game a couple times. ... You can put any of that on me. We're not putting any of it on the players. That's for sure."
Steed came into the game in the fifth inning after Matt Spencer had pinch hit for Garrett Gore, who started at second base.
Steed caught a short fly in the sixth and made a clean play on a grounder in the seventh.
But in the eighth, with two out and Oregon State runners on first and second, he botched what would have been an inning-ending groundout. Steed picked up pinch hitter Ryan Gipson's grounder, but his throw went wide of first baseman Tim Federowicz, allowing Bill Rowe to score from second base.
"It was a pretty routine ground ball," Steed said. "The reason I got rid of it so quickly was that the pinch hitter was pretty quick. We got that from the dugout. I probably just got rid of it a little too quick. It was a little bit up the line. I didn't make the play."
Steed started 43 games and committed 13 errors, second-most on the team.
Oregon State scored its first run on two errors on the same play by Tar Heels starting pitcher Daniel Bard.
Bard tried to grab John Wallace's bunt with his bare hand but couldn't come up with it. Then he threw wildly to first, allowing Tyler Graham to score.
The Tar Heels survived their other error, catcher Benji Johnson's throw into center field when Mitch Canham stole second base in the third.
It was the fourth time North Carolina committed four or more errors in a game this season. The Tar Heels had four in an 11-5 win over Alabama in the super regionals and a season-high five in a loss to North Carolina-Greensboro in April.
North Carolina also made errors on the basepaths.
In the sixth, Josh Horton was thrown out at the plate on a ground ball to third base. Fox said he regretted sending Horton from third.
On the same play, Jay Cox was caught in a rundown between second and third and was tagged out to end the inning.
In the eighth, Horton tried to steal home, but Johnson swung at strike three to end the inning. Fox said Horton probably would have been safe it he had had Johnson take the pitch.
"We just took a gamble," Fox said. "We should have done it the pitch before. Just kind of crazy baseball. Two strikes, I told Josh to duck your head and say a prayer. If we take that pitch, then we probably have it stolen."
North Carolina had won three straight games in bracket play to reach the best-of-three championship round, then won 4-3 in Game 1 on Saturday.
The Tar Heels squandered a 5-0 lead in Game 2 before losing 11-7.
They finished the season 54-15.
"Obviously, it's a huge disappointment for us to get this close and not win it," Fox said. "Disappointment, just the loss in itself, but probably the way we lost. We had opportunities to get big hits and push a run or two across but weren't able to do it."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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