HEELS TOAST TIGS
After Towson leadoff hitter Zach Fisher became Kent Emanuel’s 10th pickoff victim of the season, Fisher turned to first baseman Cody Stubbs.
“He looked at me and said a bad word,” Stubbs said. “I don’t know what to tell you buddy. It’s a great move and it’s been working all year. I don’t know how many people he’s picked off, but it’s been a lot, and I’ve gotten to enjoy each and every one of them.”
Fisher wasn’t alone in his misery for No. 3 regional seed Towson. North Carolina’s ace faced the minimum 15 batters through five innings as the Tar Heels built a five-run lead, and then UNC held on for an 8-5 victory in an NCAA Tournament winners’ bracket game Saturday night at Boshamer Stadium.
“Nothing’s easy at this stage of the season,” Tar Heels coach Mike Fox said. “We just kept hanging in there. Another tough win for us — but a good one.”
As a result, UNC (54-8) is one win away from claiming the Chapel Hill Regional. The Tar Heels, the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA , will return at 6:05 p.m. today to face the winner of a 1:05 p.m. elimination game between Towson and regional No. 2 seed Florida Atlantic. If UNC loses tonight, there will be a winner-take-all game Monday at 6:05 p.m.
Emanuel (11-3), a junior who was named the ACC pitcher of the year, improved to 4-0 in the NCAA Tournament. He allowed two singles through five innings, but erased both runners on pickoffs.
Meanwhile, Cody Stubbs hit his eighth home run in the second inning and Michael Russell had a two-run single in the fourth inning against Towson starter Brandon Gonnella (4-5), who entered the game with an ERA of 5.22. Russell finished 3-for-5 with a double and three RBIs.
The Tar Heels added to the lead with a Chaz Frank sacrifice fly in the fifth and an RBI double by Brian Holberton in the sixth.
The Tigers (30-29) eventually got to Emanuel, who matched a career high with a five earned runs allowed in 7.2 innings, but it was too late to stop a 13th straight loss in the series.
“I wasn’t too pleased with my performance but we won so I’m as happy as can be,” Emanuel said. “No matter who we’re playing you’re fighting for your lives out there so you just want to go out and win, no matter how you do it.”
The Tigers had the go-ahead run at the plate in the eighth, but freshman closer Trent Thornton got Brendan Butler to fly out to center to keep UNC ahead 7-5.
Thornton then pitched around a single in the ninth to record the four-out save, extending the bullpen’s streak to 28.2 straight scoreless innings.
UNC has won each of its regional games by three runs, including 6-3 win Friday over No. 4 regional seed Canisius. Though both lower-seeded opponents were in the game late, the Tar Heels avoided the winners’ bracket loss that led to their stunning elimination by St. John’s in last year’s regional round.
Towson must now win three games in two days to advance, while UNC needs to win one of its next two.
“You lose this one you’ve got three in two days, backs against the wall,” Fox said. “The winners’ bracket game is a big one.”
The Tar Heels will send lefty Hobbs Johnson (4-0, 2.14) to the mound tonight. Both FAU and Towson said they would wait until after this afternoon’s elimination game before announcing a starter.
Pack rides Rodon’s 2-hitter past W&M
RALEIGH — Carlos Rodon threw a two-hitter and North Carolina State beat William & Mary 1-0 on Saturday night in the Raleigh regional.
The hard-throwing lefty struck out 10, walked none and hit three batters while moving the top-seeded Wolfpack (46-14) within one victory of a second straight trip to the super regionals.
Rodon (9-2), a sophomore who allowed one hit in 11 innings against North Carolina last week in the ACC tournament, threw 81 of his 111 pitches for strikes and hit 94 mph with his fastball.
The third-seeded Tribe (38-23) managed only two two-out singles — one by William Shaw in the sixth and another by Ryan Brown in the eighth.
Grant Clyde drove in the game’s only run with a sixth-inning single off John Farrell. Trea Turner finished with two hits for the Wolfpack.
Farrell (11-3) struck out six in 7 1-3 innings for William & Mary.
William & Mary will play Mississippi in an eliminate game at Doak Field at 1 p.m. today with the winner taking on N.C. State at 6 p.m. and needing to beat the Wolfpack twice to advance to the super regionals.
Ole Miss 8, Binghamton 4
RALEIGH — Austin Anderson had four hits and an RBI, and Mississippi pulled away to beat Binghamton 8-4 in an elimination game.
FAU 14, Canisius 6
CHAPEL HILL — Corey Keller hit two home runs and Nathan Pittman added a three-run homer to help Florida Atlantic beat Canisius in a Chapel Hill Regional elimination game.
Keller hit a three-run homer in the second, then Pittman followed in the third for the second-seeded Owls (40-21). Levi Meyer and Mark Nelson each drove in two runs, while Austin Gomber (8-4) allowed five runs and seven hits in 7 2-3 innings for the Sun Belt champions.
Brooklyn Foster had three hits to lead the fourth-seeded Golden Griffins (42-17), who were making their first NCAA appearance after winning the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title.
FSU 11, Troy 0
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Luke Weaver struck out 14 in eight scoreless innings to lead Florida State, moving the Seminoles within a win of reaching their sixth straight super regional.
Troy (41-19) and Alabama (35-27) play in an elimination game today with the winner needing to defeat Florida State twice to advance.
Ga. Tech 5, ETSU 1
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Buck Farmer and Jonathan Roberts combined on a three-hitter, leading Georgia Tech to a 5-1 win over East Tennessee State in an elimination game Saturday.
UNC-W 9, Army 5
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Corey Dick homered and had three of UNC Wilmington’s 16 hits, and the Seahawks eliminated mistake-prone Army on a bizarre game-ending triple play.
On the last play of the game, Jon Crucitti struck out with two runners on — and both running on the pitch. Lead runner Michael Sands was caught between second and third, and third baseman Ryan LaGrange chased him to second, where Grant Van Orden was standing. LaGrange tagged Van Orden out and Sands broke for third, where LaGrange threw to catcher Drew Farber, who tagged him to end the game.
Clemson 10, St. Louis 2
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Steve Wilkerson hit two homers and drove in five runs to lead Clemson to a 10-2 victory, eliminating Saint Louis. The Tigers (40-21) snapped a six-game losing streak and are to face either Liberty or rival South Carolina in an elimination game today.
Va. Tech 9, Coastal Carolina 1
BLACKSBURG, Va. — Devin Burke of Virginia Tech pitched a five-hit, complete game and the Hokies beat Coastal Carolina in an elimination game. Mark Zagunis and Andrew Rash each drove in three runs to help the Hokies (39-21), who already have one loss in the double-elimination tournament.
Valpo 5, Florida 4
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Valparaiso won its first NCAA tournament game since 1966, scoring four times in the seventh inning and holding on to eliminate Florida. The Crusaders (32-27) are coached by former major league and N.C. State infielder Tracy Woodson.
Virginia 2, Elon 0
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Scott Silverstein and two relievers scattered eight hits and Virginia beat Elon to move within one victory of advancing to the super regionals of the NCAA tournament.
Silverstein (10-1) allowed six hits in six innings, striking out six and walking two, before Josh Sborz worked the seventh and Kyle Crockett finished for his 12th save. Spencer Medick (7-7) went all the way for the Phoenix, allowing nine hits.
Silverstein stranded two runners three times, and Crockett allowed a one-out single in the ninth, but struck out Chris Bresnahan and pinch-hitter Tyler McVicar to end it.
Elon will play UNC Wilmington in an elimination game today, with the winner facing Virginia.
Louisville 6, Miami 4
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville used a six-run seventh inning to top Miami 6-4 on Saturday and advance to the regional final against either Miami or Oklahoma State today.