OMAHA, Neb. — An LSU team that came to the College World Series as one of the top offensive clubs in the nation left town wondering how it could have scored only three runs in two losses.
Cody Glenn gave up a first-inning home run to Brian Holberton and the Tigers left 13 runners on base in a 4-2 loss to No. 1 national seed North Carolina on Tuesday.
"We expected to come out here and play better than we did," LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. "Even though we didn't play great, we lost a one-run game and a two-run game. We were in position to win the games. It wasn't like we came out here and got blown out. We were right there and just couldn't come through with the play here or hit here or a pitch there, and it stings a lot."
On only one other occasion this season did the Tigers record fewer runs in consecutive games. That was in April, when they managed two in losses to South Carolina.
The Tar Heels (58-11) play North Carolina State or UCLA in an elimination game Thursday. The No. 4-seeded Tigers (57-11) went 0-2 in their first CWS appearance since winning the 2009 national title.
National freshman of the year Alex Bregman, who was batting a team-leading .374, was hitless in eight at-bats at the CWS and his error at shortstop against UCLA on Sunday allowed the Bruins to score the go-ahead run.
"This is the first time he's been at the College World Series, first time as a freshman," Mainieri said. "He hasn't played like a freshman all year, and I don't think necessarily he played like a freshman today. The other night I thought he looked a little bit nervous on defense and some of his at-bats he was kind of flailing away. But today was different. I thought he was in there taking some good swings. He's better for this experience."
Raph Rhymes, whose .431 averaged led the nation last year, came in batting .337 Tuesday but was 0 for 9 in Omaha and stranded eight base runners against the Tar Heels.
"Raph's had just an up and down season," Mainieri said. "We've grown accustomed to him being so consistent. His year last year was off the charts. This year he just hasn't been able to able to repeat his swing on a regular basis. We've worked hard with him. We've tried our best. I just feel bad for him, knowing that the kid is going to blame himself."
Christian Ibarra, batting .311, finished the season hitless in his last 22 at-bats.
Holberton's 12th homer of the season staked the Tar Heels to a 2-0 lead in the first inning against LSU starter Cody Glenn (7-3), and Colin Moran singled to make it 3-0 in the third.
Trent Thornton (12-1) worked around two singles and three walks to hold the Tigers scoreless until the fifth. Leading 4-2, Thornton walked Ibarra to start the eighth and was relieved by Chris McCue.
McCue hit Sean McMullen in the arm with 2-2 pitch to load the bases with two out. That brought up Mark Laird, who had a double and four singles in his first eight CWS at-bats. But McCue got Laird to fly out to short left field and keep it a two-run game.
McCue worked a perfect ninth for his second save.
Carolina, which lost 8-1 to North Carolina State in its CWS opener, remains the only team in the country to not lose back-to-back games this season. The Tar Heels are outscoring opponents 85-30 after losses, and their 58 wins are a school record.
LSU lost consecutive games for only the second time.