Photo Courtesy: Go Heels
OMAHA, NEB. –UNC’s Hobbs Johnson combined with reliever Chris McCue on a five-hitter to help the Tar Heels stay alive in the College World Series with a 7-0 shutout over rival North Carolina State on Thursday night.
Johnson set a career high of 8 1/3 innings pitched, and hurled 132 pitches, most of them fastballs.
“For pretty much the whole post season and in the Virginia Series, I’ve been throwing the fastball for the most part. It’s worked outside the game against South Carolina. Today I had better command that I did against South Carolina and Florida Atlantic. I was able to get ahead today and get some defensive swings,” Johnson said.
UNC’s left-hander out shown the Wolfpack’s Carlos Rodon, who took to the mound with three days rest after getting the win over the Tar Heels on Sunday. Rodon was pulled in fifth inning after allowing two UNC runs. Carolina Head Coach Mike Fox said he wasn’t surprised that Rodon started for the Wolfpack, though.
“It’s hard when you are in elimination games to not put that boy [Rodon] out there after he only threw 108 pitches. He’s as strong as a bull. I know it was a tough decision for his staff, but you don’t want any regrets leaving here, and I think they would have if they hadn’t of pitched him,” Fox said.
ACC Player of the Year, Colin Moran, led the Carolina (59-11) attack with his second consecutive three-hit game. Moran had two RBIs and Michael Russell added three more to help the Heels in their dominant offensive performance. Moran led off the top of the fourth inning with a single and was advanced to second on a throwing error by Rodon, attempting to get the force-out on a bunt by Holberton.
“Going into it, I wanted to make him [Rodon] throw a lot of pitches because he had pitched a few days ago and had a high pitch count. Landon’s at bat in the first inning set the tone and gave us a good idea of what to do when we went up there,” Holberton said about facing Rodon for the fifth time this season.
Cody Stubbs then had an excellent at-bat, fighting off several pitches from Rodon, eventually earning the walk. On a Michael Russell fly-out to left field, Holberton scored the first run of the game from third base by avoiding the tag out at home plate. NC State Head Coach Elliot Avent was threatened with ejection after he argued the call.
Parks Jordan was hit by a pitch to lead off the fifth inning. Chaz Frank laid down a sacrifice bunt that advanced Jordan to second. Landon Lassiter moved Jordan to third base on a ground-out to second. Colin Moran then brought Jordan home on a line drive single, increasing the lead to 2-0.
In the eighth inning, NC State’s reliever Brad Stone was brought on for Rodon. Stone walked Moran and Stubbs and then threw a wild pitch, hitting Bolt on a 3-2 count, to load the bases. Michael Russell came up with a big single to center field with two outs and two strikes that scored Stubbs and Moran. Zolk then drove in Russell and Bolt on a line drive double to right field, Tar Heels up 6-0.
Carolina scored the final run of the game in the ninth inning on a Moran single to left center that scored Jordan.
McCue came on in the bottom of the inning to relieve Johnson and sealed the victory, getting the final two outs.
With the win, UNC takes the rubber match, 3-2, over NC State, who finished their season with a record of 50-16.
Carolina next faces UCLA Friday at 8 p.m. ET. The Tar Heels will have to beat the Bruins twice to advance to the CWS Finals. You can hear Friday’s game on 97.9 FM WCHL and streaming online at Chapelboro.com.