Some of it was playing the nation's No. 4 team.
Most of it was a frustrating offensive drought -- again.
"We're getting the hits, just got to get them in the clutch situations with runners on base," said center fielder Tyler McBride, moments after a 6-1 loss to North Carolina in the Coca-Cola Classic on Thursday. "I think once we do that, we'll be fine."
That's probably true. But until the Eagles can turn on the offense the way they did in their two wins, they're liable to wind up on the short end of games like Thursday's, where they stranded eight runners and squandered five straight innings in which the leadoff batter reached.
"We out-hit them, we had plenty of opportunities to score," coach Joe Hudak said. "We just got to get some hits with runners in scoring position. We took a lot of called third strikes. Can't do that."
Winthrop has now stranded 38 runners in five games. The Eagles (2-3) are getting on base and their pitching, thought in the preseason to be the biggest obstacle to success, has been very good.
But no pitcher can win without run support, and Winthrop fell below .500 and posted a losing streak for the first time this year because of it against UNC.
"It's a game that we could have won," Hudak said. "Just didn't quite score enough runs, didn't take advantage of opportunities."
The Tar Heels (4-1), runners-up in the past two College World Series, were a formidable opponent, true, but Winthrop had a 1-0 lead for three innings and only trailed 4-1 after the top of the fifth. The Eagles' pitching, announced before the game as an affair where everybody in the bullpen would get a look, could have been in line to be shelled by UNC's heavy lineup, but instead held the Tar Heels to seven hits.
What hurt the most were the other mistakes. Two hit batters and two walks in the fifth gave UNC three runs on one hit. Then when Winthrop had the chance to erase the futility with a couple of well-timed knocks, the bats had holes in them.
Eddie Tisdale socked three doubles to break out of a slump, but only scored on one of them. Kevin Nolan, Aaron Bonomi (twice) and Tisdale each led off an inning with a hit, only to still be standing on the bag when the inning ended.
The chances disappeared in frame after frame until UNC's Kyle Seager feasted on a two-out pitch from Matteo D'Angelo, blasting it over the right-field wall for a 6-1 lead in the eighth inning. The Eagles again led off with a hit in their half and had two men on with one out, only to have Eddie Rohan pop up to short and Tisdale whiff on a full-count pitch.
It also didn't help that Tony Brunetti, after collecting Winthrop's only RBI, was picked off first base to end the second inning. He was echoed by Bonomi in the third, wiping out a two-out single.
"I told them it's the exact same thing as the first St. John's game," Hudak said, referring to the 4-3 loss to the Red Storm in the second game of the season. "Got to be a little bit more aggressive in scoring position."
Winthrop's young roster -- 21 of the 32 players are either freshmen or sophomores -- is learning on the job and it's natural to expect some growing pains. But another troubling statistic is the plummeting averages of the veterans.
The Eagles returned six position starters this season. Only Nolan and catcher John Murrian began the season like they finished in the batter's box, while Tisdale seemed to join them against UNC.
Louis Ullrich didn't play against the Tar Heels, but is hitting .273. Bryn Henderson and Billy Froehlich are mired in some deep mud, hitting a combined 5-for-34 between them.
There's only so much credit the opposing pitching can take.
"I think it's a combination of (pitching and clutch hitting)," McBride said. "We've had guys on base, just haven't gotten the big hits with runners on."
"We were right in the ballgame until the two-run homer," Hudak said. "But we'll keep playing hard and I think good things will happen to this club."
Winthrop hosts St. John's at 4 p.m. today. The Red Storm (5-0) have beaten the Eagles 4-3 and 2-0 within the past week. Ryan Schwartz (1-0) is expected to start for the Eagles.
n NOTE: Brunetti made his first start of the season, patrolling left field. Normal left fielder Froehlich switched to right.