Earlier in the week I noted that the state of North Carolina had 5 teams in the NCAA tournament. Thanks to some colossal imploding, 4 of the 5 will find themselves matched up in Sunday's elimination games.
Our good friends over in Chapel Hill enjoyed a 4-2 lead over St. John's heading into the bottom of the ninth, but normally automatic closer Michael Morin, who entered the game with a microscopic 0.91 ERA, managed to record just one out before serving up a walk-off home run to Danny Bethea, who bats 8th for St. John's and had just 2 previous dingers on the year.
If there is any good news for State fans it's that Carowhina's choke job means one of two teams we love to hate will go home tomorrow when UNX squares off against EZU. The Pirates, who lost to St. John's Friday night, stayed alive today with a 15-hit attack against Cornell. All 9 Pirates had at least one hit in the 10-6 triumph.
(Jump past the jump for much, much more)
When news of the Holes' loss scrolled across the webcast, things were looking rosy for the Pack, who led Vandy 6-1 heading into the bottom of the 7th. (What's up with all the host teams being the visiting team?) Carlos Rodon was laboring a bit, but surely he would gut it out until the 9th and let Chris Overman close the door. Instead, Rodon gave 2 back before being relieved in the 7th inning, and, even though Ryan Mathews got those 2 back with his second round-tripper of the tournament, the bullpen and a painfully immobile catcher conspired to punt a 5-run lead in the 8th. I really hate to criticize amateur athletes, but damn if somebody doesn't need to throw about a 1,000 Krispy Kreme doughnuts in the dirt to Pudge Canela until he learns how to block a ball.
State's gut-wrenching, alcoholism-inducing loss set up the second elimination matchup between in-state foes, as the sweet-swinging Seahawks from UNCW dispatched Sacred Heart with a 5-homer, 17-hit attack. Every Seahawk starter hit safely, and Tyler Molinaro's bomb was his 16th of the season. State and UNCW have already met twice on the diamond this year. The first meeting was an odd one that saw the teams deadlocked 0-0 heading into the bottom of the 8th, where the Pack hung a 10-spot on the board. Ethan Ogburn pitched 4 perfect innings of relief to get the win. Andrew Ciencin led the offense with 3 hits and 3 RBI.
In the teams' second meeting, Brett Austin had a 4-hit day and Ogburn notched two more perfect innings out of the pen to nail down the victory. In sum, Ogburn has shut down the Seahawks for 6 innings, striking out 8 along the way. The really, really scary thing for the Pack is that some guy named Carlos Rodon pitched the other 12 frames against UNCW this year. These were not midweek games sandwiched around conference play, but rather early season matchups, so we threw our best at them and likely needed our best to beat them. Now that the Pack must win 3 games in a row to advance, we may not have the luxury of starting Ogburn Sunday afternoon.
Mat Batts (6-4, 2.59), who seems to have misplaced a "t" in his name, will likely be the Seahawk trying to miss bats tomorrow. He's yet to go in the regional. Batts scattered 10 hits and allowed just 3 runs, 2 earned, against the Wolfpack on March 4th.
So what of the 5th North Carolina team in the tournament, the mighty ASU Mountaineers? They were washed out on Friday, so they have only played one game, but that one game was a doozy. Ryan Arrowood took a no-no into the 7th against Oklahoma, and Appalachian hung on to win 5-4 for its first NCAA tournament post season victory since 1973. It was not pretty in the bottom of the 9th, as Nathan Hyatt, who has a team-record 15 saves, either got a case of Steve Blass disease or came down with ncstateshit. Hyatt hit a batter, walked a pair, and balked one in without ever throwing a strike, but teammate Ryne Frankoff bailed him out to preserve the win.
Before the season started, if you told me that ASU would be the lone remaining unbeaten team from North Carolina going in to Sunday of the regional round, I would have fitted you for a straight jacket. At least the upstart Mountaineers give us someone to root for if the Pack falls short tomorrow.
Remember, things could always be worse. We could be Miami. The Canes were trounced by a combined score of 22-4 against the likes of Stony Brook and Missouri State to bow out of their regional.