Tar Heels, Gamecocks await Game 3
North Carolina rarely has finished on time this postseason, and the NCAA super regional series against South Carolina will be no exception.
The decisive third game between the border-state rivals at Boshamer Stadium was pushed back from Monday night to today at noon (ESPN2) because of weather conditions in Chapel Hill. The area was under a tornado watch and there was a possibility of scattered showers or thunderstorms when the decision was made Monday afternoon.
“The NCAA and the participating institutions all agreed this was in the best interest of the student-athletes and fans,” NCAA assistant director of championships J.D. Hamilton said in a statement.
Sophomore right-hander Benton Moss (8-1, 3.78) is scheduled to pitch for UNC today against freshman left-hander Jordan Wynkoop (7-3, 2.92). Moss is hoping to reverse a trend of bad outings for UNC starters, who are 1-1 with a 7.20 ERA in six NCAA games after going 35-4 with a 2.41 ERA entering the tournament.
The series was scheduled to run from Friday-Sunday, but rain pushed the opening game to Saturday. Hamilton said there was no discussion about playing a doubleheader on Sunday, when the skies were clear, in order to ensure the series ended on time.
Hamilton said a super regional never has been extended to Wednesday (the format was instituted in 1999), but the game could be played then if rain was an issue today. Though it’s never been done, Hamilton said that another option is to play the game at a neutral site where weather won’t be a factor, but he doesn’t expect that to happen.
The winner will advance to face N.C. State, which clinched its first College World Series appearance since 1968, on either Saturday or Sunday in Omaha, Neb.
UNC (56-10) is the No. 1 overall seed, but it hasn’t been an easy journey through the postseason. The Tar Heels won 14- and 18-inning games in the ACC Tournament, ending past midnight on consecutive days, and won a winner-take-all NCAA regional final against Florida Atlantic 12-11 in 13 innings.
UNC was the last of the 16 teams to advance out of regionals, finishing after 1 a.m. on Tuesday after a two-hour rain delay and a five-hour game.
UNC continued its run of dramatic wins on Saturday, with Skye Bolt’s two-out single in the bottom of the ninth giving the Tar Heels a 6-5 victory in the first game of the super regional. The Gamecocks (43-19) extended the series with a dominant 8-0 victory Sunday, which was the first time UNC had been shut out all season.
The delay would appear to help the Tar Heels, since their relievers have pitched 13 innings in the series while South Carolina’s bullpen has only pitched 3.2 innings. Still, neither team used its top relievers on Sunday because of the lopsided score, so both bullpens would have been fresh by Monday night.
UNC is looking to avoid back-to-back losses for the first time this season and make its sixth College World Series in eight years, while South Carolina is 8-1 in elimination games since 2010, when it won the first of back-to-back national titles.
The only other time the Tar Heels played a third game in the super regional came in 2007, when they beat the Gamecocks 9-6 at Boshamer.
UNC trio voted to all-freshman team
Skye Bolt, Landon Lassiter and Trent Thornton were named to the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Freshman All-America first team on Monday.
UNC was the only school with three players honored. All three also had made the Louisville Slugger Freshman All-America team a week ago.
Lassiter owns a team-best .502 on-base percentage and as started 62 games, primarily as the starting designated hitter.
Bolt missed 17 games in the middle of the year with a foot injury but is hitting .335 with 50 RBIs and 10 stolen bases.
Thornton has been UNC’s top reliever all season, posting a team-low 1.24 ERA in 80 innings.