BORDER WARS

Jun. 06, 2013 @ 11:31 PM

Deep inside Boshamer Stadium, photos celebrate North Carolina baseball highlights from the past two decades.

South Carolina baseball coach Chad Holbrook spent a few minutes Thursday looking at them.

Of course, it’s not as if the former UNC player and assistant coach needs a reminder of those moments.

“Most of those pictures are in my house in Columbia,” Holbrook said.

But even though it doesn’t take much work to find his UNC roots, his job this weekend will be to cause heartache for the Tar Heels.

Back in 2008, after 15 seasons as a UNC coach preceded by four as a Tar Heel player, Holbrook left Chapel Hill to become Ray Tanner’s assistant at South Carolina.

Last summer, having led the Gamecocks to two NCAA championships and a runner-up finish in the previous three seasons, Tanner retired to become the school’s athletics director.

His first act was to promote Holbrook as his successor in the dugout.

Beginning with today’s first game of the NCAA Tournament’s Chapel Hill Super Regional (1 p.m., ESPN2), Holbrook will square off against his alma mater with a College World Series berth on the line.

While it is impossible to eliminate his admiration for UNC, he’ll find a way to suppress those feelings.

“While I love the people that are here, I coach at the University of South Carolina and Columbia is my home,” Holbrook said. “While I’ll always have a little bit of North Carolina in me, I bleed Garnet and Black. I hope to coach my entire career there.”

Holbrook called his decision to leave UNC “very difficult” when the opportunity arose six years ago.

He and Tanner had been close friends since Holbrook’s playing days at UNC, when Tanner was coaching at N.C. State. In 1996, Tanner left the Wolfpack — his alma mater — to take over the Gamecock program.

Holbrook attended Tanner’s introductory press conference and found time to hand his friend at handwritten note.

“One day,” the note said, “I hope to do things that will warrant you wanting me on your staff.”

Tanner had an opening on his staff following the 2007 season and reached out to Holbrook.

But Holbrook was in the middle of a family crisis. His son, Reece, had been diagnosed with leukemia in 2004 and was undergoing treatment at UNC Hospitals. Holbrook’s wife, Jennifer, is a Columbia, S.C., native who grew up not far from where the Gamecocks’ home stadium now sits. But Reece Holbrook’s health situation complicated matters.

“It wasn’t a time Chad could make a move,” Tanner said. “I wasn’t comfortable with him making the move even if he would have wanted to.”

The following year, with Reece’s health having improved, Tanner had another opening when Monte Lee left his staff to become College of Charleston’s head coach.

This time, Reece’s battle with leukemia flipped from a reason to stay to a reason to go.

“Reece had been through three and half years of chemo,” Holbrook said. “I wanted my son around his grandparents. I thought at that time it was not only the best thing for me professionally, it was the best thing for my family.”

UNC coach Mike Fox also referred to that time as difficult. Holbrook had recruited future Major League players Daniel Bard, Matt Harvey, Chris Iannetta, Andrew Miller, Kyle Seager and Dustin Ackley to Chapel Hill.

“It was difficult, but Chad had to do what was best at the time for he and his family,” Fox said. “They had been through an extremely difficult time with Reece and his diagnosis. There was a lot on a family and a young child.”

Fox said he and Holbrook haven’t kept in close touch. He even referred to Holbrook as “the enemy now” on Thursday.

Holbrook, though, said the 10 years he worked for Fox had a positive impact on his career.

“I owe the shirt off my back to coach Fox,” Holbrook said. “I think the world of him. He allowed me to coach at my alma mater. We don’t talk as much as I would like but I wouldn’t be up here coaching at the University of South Carolina if it wasn’t for the opportunities that he afforded me. I’ll be forever grateful to him.”

Another prominent UNC head coach, Roy Williams, has remained close with Holbrook. Along with Tanner, Williams has played a strong role in the Reece Holbrook Win Anyway Foundation, which raises money to fight pediatric cancers.

“He meant a lot to me (when Reece was sick) and he means a lot to me now,” Holbrook said. “He helped me and my family get through a tough time. He’s a better man than he is a basketball coach.”

Holbrook contributed to the foundation to win a seat on the bench at UNC’s home basketball game with Miami last January. Williams returned the favor with a contribution that won him a dugout seat at a baseball game in Columbia this season.

Earlier this week, when the matchup between UNC and South Carolina was assured, Williams called Holbrook to mentor him on coaching against his alma mater. Williams, a UNC grad, experienced it several times when he was coaching Kansas.

“He reached out to me because he knows the situation I’m in,” Holbrook said. “He knows. He reached out. I didn’t have to call him and ask for his advice.”

Williams also gave the Gamecocks baseball team a tour of the Smith Center on Thursday.

But today, weather permitting, that pairing of the Gamecocks and Tar Heels that lives inside Holbrook will split once again.

 

ROTATIONS SET

UNC coach Mike Fox said sophomore Hobbs Johnson (4-0, 2.09) will start today’s opener, while ACC pitcher of the year Kent Emanuel (11-3, 2.70) will start Saturday and Benton Moss (8-1, 3.78) Sunday.

Though Emanuel is the team’s ace, he threw 175 pitches over three days during the regional tournament, including 124 pitches during his start Saturday and 51 pitches in relief during Monday’s 13-inning win over Florida Atlantic. He allowed five earned runs in each appearance.

“If it was up to me I’d be throwing tomorrow,” Emanuel said on Thursday. “My arm feels great, body feels great.”

Fox said that Emanuel would pitch the first game if today’s opener is rained out.

Meanwhile, South Carolina is throwing all lefties this weekend — senior Nolan Belcher (7-5, 2.25) today, sophomore Jordan Montgomery (5-1, 1.67) on Saturday and freshman Jordan Wynkoep (7-3, 2.92) on Sunday.

UNC, which features six left-handed bats in the lineup, is 18-7 against lefty starters and 37-2 versus righties.

Still, Fox said that South Carolina’s accuracy concerns him more than their pitching hands. All three Gamecocks starters have more than three times as many strikeouts as walks.

“Their strikeout-to-walk ratio is pretty scary, which means you’re going to have to really work to score runs,” Fox said.

 

ROBERTS ON ROSTER

Starting catcher Matt Roberts is still on UNC’s 27-player roster for the super regionals, though utility player Brian Holbertson is expected to be behind the plate this weekend. Roberts broke the thumb on his throwing hand during Monday’s game when it was hit by a foul tip.

“(Roberts) can catch. He can bunt. He can cheer loud in the dugout,” Fox said. “But I certainly don’t expect to see him on the field the next three days.”

 

RAIN IN FORECAST

The weather forecast for the Chapel Hill area today includes the threat of inclement weather throughout the day and it may affect the NCAA Chapel Hill Super Regional schedule.

A decision will be made by 11 a.m. today whether the scheduled first pitch of the 1 p.m. South Carolina-North Carolina baseball game will occur or if a change to the schedule will be made, UNC officials said Thursday night.

— Staff writer Harold Gutmann contributed to this report.

 

NEWS AND NOTES ON TAR HEELS-GAMECOCKS

UNC News Service

The Tar Heels and Gamecocks have faced off 95 previous times on the diamond with the Tar Heels holding a 60-34-1 edge and will be meeting for the first time since the 2007 NCAA Super Regional in Chapel Hill that UNC claimed 2-1 en route to the College World Series.

The two squads have met 12 times in the postseason with South Carolina owning an 8-4 advantage, including a five-game winning streak from 2002 until the 2007 Super Regional.

Postseason Success Stories
• Carolina owns the most overall wins since the start of the 2006 season and the Tar Heels have elevated their game in postseason play.
• Since 2006 the Tar Heels are tied with South Carolina for the most NCAA Tournament wins.
• Both the Tar Heels and Gamecocks have recorded 45 wins in the last nine postseasons.

Most NCAA Wins Since 2006
45 - North Carolina, South Carolina
33 - Oregon State

More News & Notes
• Carolina is 92-61 all-time in the NCAA Tournament and is 29-6 as the host. The Tar Heels are 57-29 in NCAA Touranment action under head coach Mike Fox.

• The Tar Heels were put to the limit in the regional round as FAU nearly knocked off the top overall seed in back-to-back nights but UNC pulled out one of the best games in NCAA Tournament history.

• UNC claimed its 12th regional title and seventh regional crown since the adoption of the regional and super regional rounds in 1999.

• Carolina has won seven straight super regional games after perfect sweeps in 2008, 2009 and 2011. The last time UNC lost a super regional game was to South Carolina in the second game of the 2007 Super Regional.

• The Tar Heels are the top overall seed in the tournament for the first time after earning national seeds in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012. The previous high was the No. 2 seed in 2008.

• This weekend's super regional will feature the top two offenses of the regional round as UNC posted a .382 team batting average behind 60 hits in four games and South Carolina was 39-for-113 (.345).

• The trio of Chaz Frank, Landon Lassiter and Cody Stubbs each had nine hits over the weekend, the second-highest total in the country.

• Carolina had 88 men reach safely over the weekend (60 hits, 21 walks, 7 HBPs) over the weekend for an average of 22 runners per game but managed 28 runs on the weekend (7.0 per game). During the regular season the Tar Heels averaged 8.1 runs per game.

• The Tar Heels have already posted the most runs in the BBCOR era for a UNC squad with 518 this season and are only 23 runs shy of the school record of 541 set in 2002.

• The Tar Heel defense committed just one error during the regional round, tied with three other schools (Binghamton, UTSA, Virginia) for the lowest total of the weekend. Only UNC and Virginia advanced to the super regional round after their stellar weekend of defense. Carolina's .993 fielding percentage was tops in the country this past week.

• Entering the tournament Carolina played 31 games against teams in the NCAA Tournament, which tied for the second most of any team in the field.

• Carolina racked up 23 wins against teams in the field during the regular season, the most of any team.

• UNC claimed its sixth ACC Tournament title in school history to grab the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. For the 15th time in the 40 ACC Tournaments the ACC regular season champion won the tournament title.

• Consistency has been the key for the Tar Heels in 2013 as Carolina is the only team in the country not to suffer a losing streak. The last time a UNC team did not lose back-to-back games in a full season was 1953.

• UNC ranks among the top five in the country in both scoring and earned run average and would become the fourth team since 1989 to finish among the top five in both categories.

North Carolina's NCAA Tournament History
• Carolina is making its 28th NCAA Tournament appearance and has posted a 92-61 all-time record in the event.
• The Tar Heels are 29-6 as the host in the NCAA Tournament and had a run of 16 straight wins snapped a year ago against St. John's.
• UNC is 6-1 in advancing to the Super Regional round when hosting a regional and 4-0 in advancing to the College World Series when hosting a Super Regional.
• The Tar Heels have won seven straight Super Regional games.

A 12th Regional Title
• The Tar Heels used a pair of three-run wins to reach the regional final against Florida Atlantic but were knocked off on a three-run home run on Sunday to force a game seven.
• The game seven was the third for the Tar Heels in regional play and came out on the winning side for the first time in three tries after losing in 2000 and 2002 in the regional final.
• The dramatic 12-11 win in 13 innings saw Carolina overcome a 2-run deficit in the ninth and a 3-run deficit in the 12th before winning in walk-off fashion in the 13th.
• The regional crown was the 12th overall for the Tar Heels and seventh since 1999.

Heels Bring The Bats
• Carolina turned in one of its most productive weekends of the year durign the regional round as the Tar Heels hit .382 as a team in the four games of the NCAA Chapel Hill Regional.
• The .382 average was nearly 40 points higher than any other team during regional action and nearly 50 points higher than any weekend series in 2013 for the Tar Heels.

Top 3 Regional Team Averages
.382 - North Carolina
.345 - South Carolina
.340 - Towson

UNC Looking To Drive In Runs
• The Tar Heels put on 88 runners last weekend in their four regional games and accumulated 28 runs, the fourth-most in the tournament.
• Carolina stranded 44 runners over the weekend as they hit .288 with RISP.
• Of the 16 remaining teams in the tournament, the Tar Heels are tied for second with a runners in scoring position average of .318 this season.
• The Tar Heels own the third-highest batting average remaining in the tournament with a .310 mark behind only Vanderbilt (.317) and Virginia (.313).

Offensive Explosion In 2013
• The 2012 season saw the Tar Heels eliminated in the regional round for just the second time since 2006 and as a result the Heels finished below 400 runs scored for the first time since 2005.
• The 2013 season has been an offensive resurgence for the Tar Heels as they have scored more runs than any other UNC team during the BBCOR era.
• The Tar Heels lead the country in runs scored at 518 so far and are 23 runs shy of tying the school record for runs scored in a season set in 2002.

2012 UNC Offense/Ranks     2013 UNC Offense/Ranks    
Average     .276/145th     .310/13th    
Scoring     6.0/72nd     8.1/2nd    
OBP     .374/71st     .413/5th    

Lefty-Heavy Lineup No Problem For Heels
• With five and sometimes six left-handed bats in the Carolina lineup a number of opponents have resorted to throwing left-handed starters against the Tar Heels.
• The Tar Heels are 37-2 this year when a right-handed pitcher starts the game but were 14-6 against left-handers going into the ACC Tournament before winning four straight games in which southpaws started for the opponent.
• Carolina has won nine of its last 12 games in which a left-hander has started the game.
• UNC was 15-7 against left-handers last year and posted a .261 average.
• FAU was the only team to throw a left-hander against the Tar Heels last weekend and UNC went 10-for-26 (.385) in the two games.
• South Carolina is scheduled to start a trio of left-handerd pitchers this weekend.
• UNC is hitting .276 against lefties this year and are paced by freshmen Landon Lassiter (.412) and Skye Bolt (.353).

Roberts Could Miss Time
• Junior catcher Matt Roberts suffered a thumb in Monday's regional final win after taking a foul ball off of his throwing hand and will likely miss some time due to the injury.
• Roberts had turned in a 3-for-10 weekend with a run scored and a double before leaving early in the contest.
• Roberts has appeared in 55 games with 44 starts behind the plate.
• Junior Brian Holberton will likely move behind the plate for the super regional.

Young Bullpen Stepping Up To The Challenge
• Entering the season the Tar Heels had uncertainty at the back end of the bullpen due to the departure of UNC's single season saves leader Michael Morin.
• Freshman Trent Thornton forced his way into the weekend picture with five stellar midweek starts and has emerged as the de facto closer for the Tar Heels.
• Thornton owns the fifth-lowest ERA in the nation at 1.17 and has tied Paul Shuey for the UNC freshman saves record with 8 in 2013.
• Fellow Ardrey Kell graduate Chris McCue has been nearly as dominant for the Tar Heels this season with a 7-1 record and a 2.30 ERA in 26 appearances.
• Freshman Reilly Hovis has emerged as of late allowing only two runs in his last 13.1 innings of work.

Going Up Against Some Of The Best
• Carolina played 30 games prior to the NCAA Tournament against teams that earned a spot in the field of 64, the third-highest total in the tournament.
• The Tar Heels posted an NCAA-best 22 wins against teams in the NCAA Tournament and all eight of their losses in 2013 have come against teams in the tournament.
• UNC finished with the fifth-hardest schedule in the country according to Warren Nolan and the second-hardest of any regional host.
 

 

10 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SUPER REGIONALS

BY ERIC OLSON | AP Sports Writer

We're down to 16 teams in the NCAA baseball tournament, and it'll be down to the final eight after this weekend. Here are 10 of the topics for this weekend's best-of-three super regionals, which will determine the field for the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., starting June 15.

1. WELCOME BACK, COACH: South Carolina's Chad Holbrook will return to his old stomping grounds for his first super regional as a head coach. The Gamecocks are playing at top-seeded North Carolina, where Holbrook was an outfielder from 1990-93 and an assistant from 1994-2008. Holbrook's two sons were born in Chapel Hill, his sister is married to the Tar Heels' director of baseball operations and he counts UNC basketball coach Roy Williams as one of his best friends.

2. GLENN BACK IN GOOD STANDING: LSU starting pitcher Cody Glenn's teammates voted him back onto the team after he missed a start in regionals because of an undisclosed violation of team rules. The No. 4-seeded Tigers turned to senior left-hander Brent Bonvillain for the regional final against Louisiana-Lafayette, and he allowed three hits and no earned runs in a career-best 5 1/3 innings. Aaron Nola will start the opener against Oklahoma on Friday. Coach Paul Mainieri said Glenn, Ryan Eades and Bonvillain are options for Saturday and, if necessary, Sunday.

3. BEEN THERE, DONE THAT: Seventh-seeded Florida State is appearing in the super regionals for the sixth year in a row, the longest streak in the nation, and 13th time in 15 years. The Seminoles have won 19 straight regional games since 2008 and will be playing in their 291st NCAA tournament game on Saturday against Indiana. The Hoosiers, on the other hand, are in their first super regional and will be playing in their ninth tournament game.

4. SAM GOES BAM: The bat of Sam Travis is a big reason Indiana is the first Big Ten team since 2007 to reach a super regional. The sophomore first baseman goes into the series at Florida State with a .538 batting average in seven postseason games. He's hit three homers and four doubles, driven in 11 runs and hasn't struck out in 26 at-bats. He has a 1.038 slugging percentage and .618 on-base percentage.

5. FAMILIAR FOES: The UCLA and Cal State Fullerton campuses are 45 miles apart, and their baseball teams are meeting in the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in seven years. Fullerton beat the Bruins in a 2007 super regional and defeated them again in regionals the next year. The Bruins prevailed in a 2010 super regional. The teams met twice in the regular season this year, with the fifth-seeded Titans winning both meetings. Second-year Titans coach Rick Vanderhook was an assistant under UCLA coach John Savage from 2009-11.

6. RUNS, NOT STYLE POINTS: Kansas State, which plays at No. 3 seed Oregon State, is looking like a team of destiny considering how two of its biggest wins of the season came. The Wildcats clinched their first Big 12 regular-season championship on a bases-loaded passed ball in the bottom of the ninth inning against Oklahoma last month. After falling behind 3-0 in the regional final against Arkansas, they scored the tying run on a wild pitch during an intentional walk and the game-winner on another wild pitch. K-State has never reached the College World Series.

7. LEADOFF MAN EXTRAORDINAIRE: North Carolina State leadoff man Trea Turner goes into the Wolfpack's super regional against Rice having reached base in 107 of his 114 career games. When he gets on base, the Wolfpack is 82-25. When he doesn't reach base or doesn't play, they are 8-9.

8. NOT JUST A TWO-MAN SHOW: Tyler Beede and Kevin Ziomek are Vanderbilt's 1-2 pitching punch, but don't forget sophomore lefty Philip Pfeifer. He might be coach Tim Corbin's go-to guy if the super regional against Louisville goes to a third game. After giving up a career-high nine hits against LSU in the SEC tournament championship game, Pfeifer bounced back to throw five shutout innings in a surprise start in the regional final against Georgia Tech.

9. LATE-GAME DOMINATION: If you're going to beat No. 6 seed Virginia, you might want to jump on the Cavaliers early. Virginia enters its home super regional against Mississippi State having given up no runs after the sixth inning in six straight games. The Cavaliers have outscored opponents 168-54 in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings this season.

10. BASEBALL-SOFTBALL DOUBLE: Oklahoma is bidding to make it to both the men's and women's College World Series in the same season — a feat accomplished 13 times since 2000. The most recent schools to do it were California and Florida in 2011. Oklahoma's softball team won the national championship this week in Oklahoma City, sweeping two games from Tennessee in the WCWS finals.

 

 

NCAA Division I Super Regionals Baseball Glance
Associated Press


All Times EDT
Best-of-3
x-if necessary
At Boshamer Stadium
Chapel Hill, N.C.
Friday, June 7

South Carolina (42-18) at North Carolina (55-9), 1 p.m.

Saturday, June 8

South Carolina at North Carolina, Noon

Sunday, June 9

x-South Carolina at North Carolina, 1 p.m.

At Doak Field
Raleigh, N.C.
Friday, June 7

Rice (44-18) at North Carolina State (47-14), 4 p.m.

Saturday, June 8

Rice at North Carolina State, 4 p.m.

Sunday, June 9

x-Rice at North Carolina State, 4 p.m.

At Alex Box Stadium
Baton Rouge, La.
Friday, June 7

Oklahoma (43-19) at LSU (55-9), 7 p.m.

Saturday, June 8

Oklahoma at LSU, 7 p.m.

Sunday, June 9

x-Oklahoma at LSU, 7 p.m.

At Goodwin Field
Fullerton, Calif.
Friday, June 7

UCLA (42-17) at Cal St.-Fullerton (51-8), 7 p.m.

Saturday, June 8

UCLA at Cal St.-Fullerton, 10 p.m.

Sunday, June 9

x-UCLA at Cal St.-Fullerton, 10 p.m.

___

At Dick Howser Stadium
Tallahassee, Fla.
Saturday, June 8

Indiana (46-14) at Florida State (47-15), Noon

Sunday, June 9

Indiana at Florida State, 1 p.m.

Monday, June 10

x-Indiana at Florida State, 1 p.m.

At Hawkins Field
Nashville, Tenn.
Saturday, June 8

Louisville (49-12) at Vanderbilt (54-10), 3 p.m.

Sunday, June 9

Louisville at Vanderbilt, 4 p.m.

Monday, June 10

x-Louisville at Vanderbilt, 7 p.m.

At Davenport Field
Charlottesville, Va.
Saturday, June 8

Mississippi State (46-18) at Virginia (47-10), 1 p.m.

Sunday, June 9

Mississippi State at Virginia, 7 p.m.

Monday, June 10

x-Mississippi State at Virginia, 4 p.m.

At Goss Stadium
Corvallis, Ore.
Saturday, June 8

Kansas State (44-17) at Oregon State (48-10), 7 p.m.

Sunday, June 9

Kansas State at Oregon State, 10 p.m.

Monday, June 10

x-Kansas State at Oregon State, 7 p.m.