Posted: 3:51 p.m. Tuesday, June 11, 2013
By Brian Barbour
Needless to say, this UNC team is simply tough as nails. With the starting pitching again faltering early, the Tar Heels once again had to summon a big day from the bullpen to get by the South Carolin for a sixth appearance in the College World Series in eight years. Benton Moss got the start and despite only giving up one run in 2.1 innings, South Carolina had runners on base in each of the first three innings. Mike Fox, not wanting to gamble too much with Moss out there, went to Trent Thornton who went 4.2 innings giving up three runs, only one of which was earned. It was Thornton's second extended outing of the Super Regional and despite surrendering the runs, he remains UNC's most reliable pitcher.
The Tar Heel bats were a little quiet early until a two run blast in the second from Brian Holberton gave UNC a 2-1 lead. That stood up until the fifth when it appeared Thornton had worked his way out of a jam with South Carolina runners on 2nd and 3rd with one out. Thornton got a strikeout then a flyball to centerfield where senior Chaz Frank botched a routine play for what should have been the third out allowing the Gamecocks to take a 3-2 lead. South Carolina made it 4-2 in the sixth on an RBI double from Tanner English.
The Heels responded in the bottom of the sixth. Colin Moran, whose first two at-bats had ended in double plays, tripled to bring in Landon Lassiter. Then it was South Carolina's turn to make a crucial mistake. After Skye Bolt was hit by a pitch, Cody Stubbs hit a fly to centerfield which was too shallow to bring in Moran. With the throw coming home anyway, Bolt made a dash for second. Gamecock 1B Kyle Martin cut the throw off and then tried to gun down Bolt but his throw went into the outfield permitting Moran to tie the game at 4-4. UNC would then load the bases against Gamecock reliever Adam Westmoreland and then got a base-loaded walk off closer Tyler Webb to take a 5-4 lead.
From there is was on the Tar Heel pitching to make the lead stick. Chris McCue came in to pitch the 8th and while not sharp got around trouble to retire the side. He would come back out for the 9th and after getting an easy first out, walked the next batter on four straight pitches. With Gamecock clean-up man LB Dantzler at the plate, Mike Fox again went to Kent Emanuel in relief. Much was made on the past ten days of Emanuel's pitch count having thrown 237 pitches in three appearances dating back to June 1st. In what could be called the best possible outcome, Emanuel needed just two pitches to punch the Tar Heels' tickets to Omaha.
UNC will now head back to the College World Series for the first time since 2011. This time they will face NC State in the opening game on Sunday at 3 PM. Undoubtedly it the Heels will see ace Carlos Radon for a third time.