Gamecocks' Holbrook back at UNC for Super Regional
JUN 06, 2013 8:34p ET
A College World Series berth is on the line when North Carolina (55-9) faces South Carolina (42-18) in a three-game series that begins Friday. Here's a look at both teams heading into the Super Regionals:
How they got here: South Carolina went 3-0 in its home regional last weekend, beating St. Louis once and Liberty twice. The No. 2 seed, Clemson, lost twice and never faced the Gamecocks. South Carolina had lost five straight entering postseason play. No. 1 overall seed North Carolina won the first two games of its regional last weekend against Canisius and Towson before losing once to No. 2 seed Florida Atlantic and escaping the regional final with a wild 12-11 walk-off victory in 13 innings.
History: The most common storyline you will hear this weekend is that South Carolina head coach Chad Holbrook was a longtime assistant at North Carolina under head coach Mike Fox. Holbrook has a close relationship with UNC basketball coach Roy Williams (his wife worked for him) and he was on Fox’s staff in 2007, the last time South Carolina came to town for a Super Regional.
South Carolina is making its fourth straight Super Regional appearance and 11th overall. The Gamecocks have made the College World Series four straight years as well; the last time they lost a Super Regional was in 2007, at North Carolina. South Carolina has made 13 College World Series appearances.
North Carolina had a similar run of College World Series appearances from 2006-11, when UNC made trips to Omaha five out of those six seasons. This is the Tar Heels’ seventh Super Regional appearance; they are looking for their 10th trip to the College World Series. The Tar Heels haven’t been to Omaha since 2011.
The teams are tied for first in the nation with 45 wins each in the NCAA Tournament since 2006.
Since the format changed in 1999, North Carolina and South Carolina have met four times in the postseason (twice in a Super Regional) with South Carolina holding a 7-3 edge. (North Carolina leads the all-time series 55-35-1.) The two schools split in Super Regional play: South Carolina won at home in 2003 with a two-game sweep while the Tar Heels took two out of three from the Gamecocks in 2007 in Chapel Hill.
Pitching: South Carolina has a staff of lefty starters, which is bad news for North Carolina on paper since the Heels' lefty-heavy lineup has struggled against left-handed pitching. The ace is sophomore lefty Jordan Montgomery (5-1, 1.67 ERA), who pitched seven innings against Liberty last weekend and allowed just three hits and no runs, striking out 11. Fifth-year senior lefty Nolan Belcher (7-5, 2.25 ERA) has started a team-high 16 games. In his last start, he went 6 1/3 innings against St. Louis and gave up just four hits and one earned run in a no-decision. Freshman Jack Wynkoop (7-3, 2.92 ERA), yet another lefty, will likely be the third starter. He last just four innings in the regional final last weekend, allowing six hits and two runs.
The Tar Heels have a collective 2.69 ERA (9th nationally) and have allowed 6.9 hits per nine innings pitched (4th). Kent Emanuel (11-3, 2.70 ERA) is the reigning ACC pitcher of the year and staff ace, but Hobbs Johnson (4-0, 2.09 ERA) has been clutch in the last few games as well. Benton Moss (8-1, 3.78 ERA) has struggled recently with his control but when he can find the zone, he’s excellent. Catcher Matt Roberts is lost for the season after breaking his thumb against FAU on Monday. Brian Holberton has plenty of experience at catcher, but losing Roberts could hurt.
Hitting: LB Dantzler leads South Carolina in average on the season (.322) and he has 15 home runs and 51 RBI. Sophomore Joey Pankake adds a .312 average with 39 RBI, and he has 10 home runs. Grayson Greiner led the Gamecocks in batting average in SEC play and is third on the season (.304). He hit .556 in the regionals. But last weekend, it was the other guys who came through: Kyle Martin hit .500 with a team-high six RBI in three games, while Tanner English hit .385 with four RBI.
Colin Moran (.348) is a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award, but the junior was just 4-of-18 in the Regional. Freshman Skye Bolt, who was one of UNC’s best hitters before a foot injury at .341, has struggled since his return and hit just 4-of-16 last weekend and was moved to No. 7 in the batting order on Monday night. But the UNC 5, 6 and 8 hitters combined to go 7-for-10 at the plate, accounting for a third of UNC’s hits and seven RBI. Mike Zolk has the second-worst average in the lineup (.273) but had the game-tying and game-winning hits. UNC’s entire lineup is dangerous, but against South Carolina’s pitching, UNC’s best hitters need to get back on track.
Worth noting: South Carolina is 37-0 this season when leading after eight innings. That might seem insignificant, of course, but considering North Carolina’s recent history, it might not be. The Tar Heels have played eight postseason games and three have gone to extra innings. UNC is 3-0 in those games, but in two of them, UNC was trailing by a combined 15-8 score in the ninth inning (7-2 to Clemson, 8-6 to Florida Atlantic) and won in extra innings. North Carolina has not lost back-to-back games this season.
All-Name Team: North Carolina could’ve won on the strength of pitchers’ names alone. Kent Emanuel didn’t even make the cut. The last five names are all pitchers: Chaz Frank, Parks Jordan, Landon Lassiter, Skye Bolt, Tate Parrish, Reilly Hovis, Hobbs Johnson, Mason McCullough, Benton Moss. South Carolina has some strong submissions, too: Nolan Belcher, Tanner English, Grayson Greiner, Forrest Koumas, Joey Pankake and Jack Wynkoop. And the winner is North Carolina because Skye Bolt. Best name ever.
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