June 11, 2013


Tar Heels Stop Gamecocks

By John Whittle

Special to CollegeBaseballInsider.com


CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - North Carolina scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning Tuesday afternoon en route to a 5-4 victory over South Carolina to become the eighth and final team to reach the College World Series.


In a game marred by errors, misplays and sloppy execution on both sides, the Tar Heels (57-10) came up with enough big hits - and a crucial walk - to punch its ticket to Omaha for the sixth time in eight years. The Gamecocks (43-20) fell short of a return to Omaha, where they reached the final series for three straight years, winning two national titles.


“It’s a very, very disappointing day for us,” South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook said. “I felt like the game was there for us to win. We didn’t make some plays we normally make, do some things we normally do. You have to credit North Carolina. We kind of opened the gates for them a little bit.”


South Carolina made mistakes but North Carolina, masters of the comeback late this season, took advantage at the right time.


“I told them today before the game how much I trust them,” North Carolina coach Mike Fox said. “It’s easy for me to sit here and say this team deserves to go to Omaha and I really, truly believe that. People doubted them here down the stretch.”


Junior Brian Holberton snatched the lead for North Carolina in the bottom of the second inning with a two-run home run off South Carolina starting pitcher Jack Wynkoop. Holberton sent a first-pitch fastball over the right-field wall, which was the first homer that Wynkoop has allowed all season in 62.1 innings.


Errors played a critical role in all three games, and South Carolina was able to retake the lead in the top of the fifth on a routine fly ball that was dropped. UNC centerfield Chaz Frank coasted to a two-out pop up off the bat of Joey Pankake but the ball hit off his glove and fell to the ground allowing both runners on base to score. The Gamecocks took a 3-2 lead at that point with reliever Adam Westmoreland on the mound.


“We thought maybe that was the break we needed,” South Carolina senior Tyler Webb said. “North Carolina is a great team, and we knew they wouldn’t go away quietly. We knew we’d have to play good baseball the last four or five innings.”


That would be the last time that the Tar Heels would make an error. The Gamecocks had more to come, and those mistakes played a large role in the final outcome.


In the sixth, there were makeable defensive plays that impacted the inning and ultimately the game – the hosts took full advantage and went from a 4-2 deficit to a 5-4 lead.


Pankake had a line drive go off his glove for a leadoff single, while right fielder Connor Bright misplayed an RBI triple to the corner. UNC senior Cody Stubbs hit a fly ball to center with no one out that wasn’t deep enough to score Moran from third base. Freshman Skye Bolt, who reached when he was hit by a pitch, tagged to go to second base. USC first baseman Kyle Martin, the cutoff man, threw the ball past second and back into the outfield allowing Moran to score and tie the game.


Later in the inning, No. 9 hitter Parks Jordan worked an eight-pitch walk off Gamecocks closer Tyler Webb to give the Tar Heels the lead for good.


“We haven’t given up all year,” UNC reliever Trent Thornton said. “I knew [Frank’s error] wasn’t going to be the deciding factor.”


Thornton (11-1) allowed three runs (one earned) over 4.2 innings to pick up the win. Right-hander Chris McCue registered four outs before giving way to staff ace Kent Emanuel for the final two.


Emanuel, who entered with the game-tying run on first base in the ninth inning, threw just two pitches and recorded a fly ball out by cleanup hitter LB Dantzler and a ground out from Grayson Greiner to end the game. The save was the first of Emanuel’s career, which capped a run of four appearances in 11 days.


The Tar Heels entered the weekend without losing two straight all year and kept that record intact.


“Starting the series, it wasn’t the start I wanted,” Emanuel said of his Saturday night performance. “Finishing it was pretty cool.”


South Carolina committed nine errors on the weekend. All of the runs in the sixth inning were earned on the stat sheet, but Holbrook knows there were plays there to be made.


“It’s unfortunate it happened at this time of year,” Holbrook said. “In postseason play when you’re playing a great team, every little mistake is magnified. We made our fair share this weekend and it’s disappointing. We lost two games, and both games were there for us to win.”


North Carolina will meet ACC rival NC State in the opening round of the College World Series. The two teams will meet on Sunday at 3 p.m. EDT at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha in the third game of the CWS.