Photo Courtesy: GoHeels.com
CHAPEL HILL – It was all South Carolina on the mound and at the plate Sunday afternoon as the Gamecocks leveled UNC, 8-0, in game two of the Chapel Hill Super Regional in Boshamer Stadium.
The loss snapped a 96-game streak in which the Heels had not been shutout. At the end of the second inning, UNC trailed by five. The biggest deficit which the Heels overcame this season was five runs against Clemson in the ACC Tournament.
The Gamecocks (43-19) forced a decisive game Monday in the best-of-3 series with the winner going to the College World Series. UNC (56-10) won Saturday’s opener 6-5 on an RBI single in the ninth, putting them one win shy of returning to Omaha for the sixth time in eight seasons.
Landon Lassiter had two hits for the Heels, who will be the home team Monday.
South Carolina’s left hander Jordan Montgomery, a sophomore, pitched a complete game and his first career shutout.
“Obviously the key to the game was Montgomery,” UNC Head Coach Mike Fox said. “He was sensational for them from the first pitch to the very last one. It was a complete game for him. We couldn’t get anything going. I just thought that was the key to the game- how well he pitched against us.”
UNC starting pitcher Hobbs Johnson struggled mightily on the mound , and the Heels would go five deep in the bull pen. Chris McCue and Trent Thornton were not used, likely being rested for game three.
“Obviously we didn’t use a number of guys today, and that’s where you have to look at the silver lining. The score really doesn’t matter when you lose,” Fox said. “Really now that we’ve lost, it’s better that we lost this way and not a 1-0 game or 5-4 game where you use Trent Thornton and Chris Munnelly and Chris McCue. And they got the same thing, and I think we’re both probably in the same position in terms of relievers. I think Benton will be ready.”
The Gamecocks struck first in the game, on a second inning bunt single from Tanner English, and scored Max Schrock from third with one out.
Hobbs Johnson allowed his third walk of the day, advancing Chase Vergason to first. South Carolina then produced back-to-back 2-RBI hits, the second with bases loaded.
UNC then made the pitching change, and switched Reilly Hovis for Johnson. It was the shortest outing of the season for Johnson.
“It’s certainly disappointing. I really thought Hobbs was going to be ready. The key with him is his fastball command,” Fox said. “It was disappointing, but he’s doing the best he can.”
Hovis got UNC out of the second inning to end the threat, but the damage was done with five Gamecock runs.
Montgomery made quick work of UNC batters in the third and fourth inning, and retired the Heels in order.
In the bottom of the forth, Hovis walked four South Carolina batters— one intentionally— giving Graham Saiko the score, and increased the lead to six.
UNC brought in right-handed pitcher Taylore Cherry with one out. He got the Heels out of the inning with three Gamecocks left on base.
In the top of the fifth, Cody Stubbs and Mike Zolk were left on base following a Parks Jordan fly out to left.
The Gamecocks increased the lead to 7-0 after Vergason hit a sacrifice fly to right in the bottom of the fifth, scoring English. Saiko tallied another run for South Carolina as Colin Moran made a fielding error on a Joey Pankake hit, allowing the score.
UNC made yet another pitching change, bringing-in Trevor Kelley, after a wild pitch from Cherry hit a Gamecock batter. Grayson Greiner was struck out looking as Kelley ended the two-run inning.
The Heels failed to score in the top of the sixth, and were retired after a 6-4-3 double play.
Kelley carried the Heels through bottom of the inning quickly to move it to the seventh, but the UNC batters were retired in order again by Montgomery.
The Heels, in the top of the seventh, put Korey Dunbar in to catch, moving Brian Holberton to outfield and benching Parks Jordan. Another pitching change brought in the lefty Tate Parrish.
In the top of the eight, Montgomery showed signs of weakness as he walked Dunbar. South Carolina then got Dunbar out at second with Frank beating the throw to first. Lassiter then singled to center, advancing Frank to second with two outs. Colin Moran fouled out, with South Carolina maintaining the lead 8-0.
By the bottom of the eighth, UNC pitchers had allowed nine walks. Right-hander Mason McCullough relieved Parrish, and got the Heels out of the inning.
In the top of the ninth, the last chance for UNC, Skye Bolt and Cody Stubbs failed to make it on base. A pop-up from Russell then ended it for the Heels.
UNC pitching coach Scott Forbes after the game:
Game 3 is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday night– as always 97.9 FM WCHL and Chapelboro.com will be broadcasting and live-streaming all of the action.