June 8, 2013


Bolt Delivers in Ninth for UNC

By John Whittle

Special to CollegeBaseballInsider.com


CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Freshman All-American Skye Bolt added another accolade to his already gaudy resume on Saturday afternoon with a game-winning RBI single to propel North Carolina to a 6-5 victory over South Carolina in the opening game of the Chapel Hill Super Regional.


The Tar Heels (56-9) have played three extra-inning games over the past eight contests, including its Regional-clinching win against Florida Atlantic, but Bolt seized an opportunity to end the game without going into extra frames.


“Who wants to play 14 innings when you can play nine and get the victory,” he asked, after capping his 2-for-5 day with the game-winning hit.


North Carolina notched 11 hits and took advantage of several miscues by South Carolina, a team that is one loss away from missing out on the College World Series for the first time since the 2009 season.


The Gamecocks left 12 runners on base and were 3 for 17 with runners in scoring position. Three errors also led directly to two runs for the Tar Heels. While first-year coach Chad Holbrook was pleased with his team’s effort, he wasn’t happy with the execution.


“The game was there for us to win,” Holbrook said. “We had opportunities to win it and we didn’t capitalize on those opportunities. North Carolina, on the other hand, took advantage of a few mistakes we made. Bolt had a great at-bat against a veteran pitcher and you have to tip your cap to him.”


The Gamecocks (42-19) touched up UNC ace Kent Emanuel for four runs in the first three innings. Emanuel was chased from the game without making it through the third inning in a start for only the second time in his career, the first since April 2011 during his freshman season. Emanuel threw 175 pitches in two appearances during the Regional round last weekend.


South Carolina sophomore Grayson Greiner roped a two-run single in the top of the first to give his team an early lead, while Joey Pankake’s solo blast to begin the top of the third was an early sign that Emanuel didn’t have his best stuff in the Super Regional opener.


“We got him out because he was getting hit,” UNC coach Mike Fox said. “He wasn’t locating any of his offspeed pitches, and he couldn’t command his breaking ball. South Carolina came out swinging and swung it the whole day. Last weekend didn’t have any bearing on Kent today.”


North Carolina was able to hang in the game early as its hitters were able to get to South Carolina starting pitcher Nolan Belcher. The Tar Heels scored three runs in the first three innings and, despite Emanuel’s struggles, were still in prime position for another comeback.


The Tar Heels took their first lead when junior Brian Holberton, the new everyday starting catcher due to an injury to Matt Roberts, drove a one-out single to centerfield in the bottom of the sixth inning off of South Carolina reliever Adam Westmoreland.


The hit gave his team a 5-4 lead, which held until the top of the eighth inning.


Sophomore Kyle Martin singled off of closer Trent Thornton and was sacrificed to second to give the Gamecocks life. He eventually came around to score and tie the game at 5 on an RBI double to center by senior Chase Vergason. The visitors left the go-ahead run at third base though as Pankake and Greiner were retired on a strikeout and flyout, respectively.


“You have to capitalize on your opportunities against this team,” Holbrook said. “They made the big pitches when they had to make them.”


That set the stage for Bolt in the bottom of the ninth when his bouncer off of 17-save closer Tyler Webb went through the right side and scored Parks Jordan, who slid feet first into home plate and popped up before being mobbed by his teammates.


“You have to want to be in that situation,” Bolt said. “I love being in that situation; I thrive off of it.”


For the Tar Heels to miss out on the College World Series this season, the Gamecocks will have to accomplish a task that no team has done against North Carolina this season, which is win two straight games. The Super Regional hosts haven’t lost back-to-back games yet this this year and need just one win to advance to Omaha, Neb., for the sixth time in Fox’s tenure.


North Carolina will turn to junior left-hander Hobbs Johnson (4-0), while South Carolina will put sophomore lefty Jordan Montgomery (5-1) on the mound.