Posted: 2:42 a.m. Sunday, May 26, 2013
By Brian Barbour
All sorts of records were broken in this game from the number of people on-hand to witness a college baseball team in the state of North Carolina to the most innings played in the ACC Tournament. For the most part, the game was a straight-up pitcher's duel with NC State's Carlos Radon going ten innings giving up one hit and striking out 14. UNC's Hobbs Johnson was good early but started to struggle giving up a run in the sixth. Mike Fox pulled him in favor of Trent Thornton. The freshman closer, who had not pitched yet in the ACC Tournament, held the Wolfpack hitless for 6.2 innings.
In the meantime, the Heels were completely flummoxed by Rodon coming up with only one hit during his ten innings on the mound. Fortunately for the Tar Heels there is more than one way to skin a wolf and that came from the ineptitude of the Wolfpack defense. After a Mike Zolk walk a pair of NCSU errors paved the way for UNC's first run of the game which came without the benefit of a hit.
From there until the 18th innings both teams had plenty of opportunities to win the game but failed to cash in. None was bigger than having the bases loaded with one out in the bottom of the 13th. Tar Heel pitcher Chris McCue struck out the next two Wolfpack batters including on a full count with two outs to end the threat.
Finally, in the 18th inning, UNC was able to push a run across. Landon Lassiter drew a walk and Colin Moran was hit by a pitch to put a pair on. Lassiter advanced to third on a fielder's choice bringing up Cody Stubbs who dropped a bloop single into centerfield to put the Heels ahead 2-1. The bottom half of the inning was not without drama. A double and wild pitch from Chris Munnelly put the Wolfpack's Brett Williams on third with no outs. Two pop-outs and a ground out sealed the win for the Heels who are set to take the field again in just 11 hours.
Overall, this game was all about the pitchers and missteps on defense, especially for NC State which committed three errors. UNC's hitters simply struggled with the Heels going 6-61 in this game. Moran was 0-7, Landon Lassiter 0-6 and Skye Bolt 1-8. The 2-5 batters in the Tar Heel lineup were 3-28 creating a long night of futility.
UNC will face Virginia Tech at 1 PM on Sunday(ESPN2) with a fairly spent pitching staff. Munnelly's appearance in the game against NC State precludes him from being the starter in the title game which likely would have been the case. Likewise Thornton and McCue will be unavailable and it is doubtful Kent Emanuel would be used in any capacity. And at this point, it probably doesn't matter. UNC went 3-0 in pool play and while winning an ACC title would be nice, the eye is still on the NCAA prize. Considering the Hokies had an off day on Saturday and UNC has played 32 innings since Virginia Tech last took the field, the odds don't favor a championship for the Tar Heels.