CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina athletics officials confirmed late Saturday night that baseball coach Scott Forbes has been suspended for two games, per NCAA rules, following his ejection during a 4-3 loss to VCU in the NCAA Tournament.
School spokesman Gary Paczesny said the Tar Heels had been in communication with the NCAA and were awaiting clarification.
Forbes was tossed by home plate umpire Jeff Henrichs after arguing a no-call in the third inning of the Chapel Hill Regional game at Boshamer Stadium. First base umpire John Brammer, the crew chief, then intercepted the objecting Forbes and appeared to signal Forbes’ suspension with a raised hand and two fingers as they had an animated exchange.
“It is incredibly disappointing to have the NCAA confirm a two-game suspension for our head baseball coach, yet have no explanation for the call that ultimately led to the suspension,” UNC athletics director Bubba Cunningham wrote late Saturday night in a Twitter post. “We must do better for our student-athletes and teams.”
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Forbes’ ejection became a moment that encapsulated the prevailing frustration for North Carolina, the No. 10 overall seed in the 64-team NCAA field, which saw its eight-game winning streak run out. The Tar Heels, who swept through the ACC Tournament unbeaten and dominated Hofstra on Friday to begin this regional, had gone 16-2 across its previous 18 games and hadn’t lost since May 15.
Assistant coach Bryant Gaines took over in Forbes’ absence. Gaines said “we were all confused as to what exactly was going on” during his postgame comments about Forbes’ ejection and the precipitating factors. Gaines said he thought Forbes was warranted in arguing the umpires missed on ruling an infield fly on a pop-up with two UNC runners aboard.
“I thought he had a very viable argument, and unfortunately the umpires just didn’t see it that way,” Gaines said. “It’s unfortunate, but at the same time, it’s just part of it tonight. It’s just one of those things.”
Now, without Forbes and facing elimination in the double-elimination regional format, UNC (39-20) must defeat Georgia (36-22) at 1 pm Sunday to set up another meeting with VCU (42-18) at 6 pm, and win that game to force a winner-take-all matchup Monday.
Henrichs tossed Forbes in the third inning. The North Carolina coach argued what he believed should’ve constituted an infield fly that would’ve benefited UNC, after the Tar Heels couldn’t convert an opportunity.
Danny Serretti’s dying one-out pop-up with runners at first base and second base wasn’t caught by VCU second baseman Marcus O’Malley, sliding on the infield grass behind the pitcher’s mound.
The Rams then got Mac Horvath out at second base and Colby Wilkerson out at third base. Both North Carolina runners had frozen under the assumption that O’Malley would make the sliding catch. The ensuring double play ended the top of the third, with Forbes objecting that O’Malley intentionally dropped the shallow pop-up to give VCU a chance at the double play.
In the second inning, the Tar Heels loaded the bases, but Johnny Castagnozzi grounded into an inning-ending double play. UNC runner Tomas Frick was ruled to have committed interference with Rams shortstop Connor Hujsak as he tried to turn the potential double play, allowing VCU to escape the inning and denying North Carolina a run in the form of Alberto Osuna coming home from third base.
Frick took a knee from Hujsak in the side of the head during that collision at second base. Castagnozzi would’ve beaten Hujsak’s throw to first base.
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Adam Smith is a sports reporter for the Burlington Times-News and USA TODAY Network. You can reach him by email at email@example.com or @adam_smithTN on Twitter.
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