The first 11 innings provided a clinic in pitching execution as both staffs combined for 28 strikeouts while allowing no runs and just nine hits.
After notching four hits through 11 innings, North Carolina’s bats came alive in the top of the 12th for five hits. Adam Griffin broke the scoreless tie with a RBI single into right field with the bases loaded and Mike Zolk immediately followed with a RBI single to left field. Two batters later, Parks Jordan added a RBI single to right field and Chaz Frank closed the scoring with a sacrifice fly to centerfield.
Michael Morin (6-3) picked up the win in relief, giving up one hit in 5.0 innings. N.C. State’s Carlos Rodon allowed four hits in 9.0 innings. D.J. Thomas (2-2) was saddled with the loss after giving up three earned runs on two hits in 1.1 innings.
The extra-inning shutout was the first in ACC Tournament history and marked UNC’s ninth shutout of the season.
The announced attendance of 10,229 represents the largest crowd to ever witness a college baseball game in the state of North Carolina and surpassed the previous ACC Tournament record of 8,503.
UNC's victory eliminated N.C. State from the ACC Tournament. No. 6 seed Miami will play No. 8 seed Georgia Tech for the conference title on Sunday.
INSIDE THE GAME
One vs. Many
Rodon received most of the headlines entering Saturday’s matchup with North Carolina and for good reason – the freshman lefthander was 9-0 on the season with a 1.59 ERA and 114 strikeouts. Credit the Holly Springs, N.C. product with a dominant performance against the Tar Heels, but he could only throw so many pitches (128) before exiting the game.
That’s where North Carolina took advantage. While starting pitcher Benton Moss (no runs, two hits, one walk in 5.1 IP) may not have received near the press of his counterpart, the freshman was equally as impressive, and more importantly, there was no drop-off when he left the game.
Hobbs Johnson and Luis Paula held the Wolfpack scoreless for 1.2 innings before Forbes turned to Michael Morin, who hadn’t pitched this week due to a stomach bug.
As N.C. State’s bullpen imploded in the 12th inning, Morin was only getting stronger. The junior closer retired his final 14 batters after giving up a single to his first batter in the 8th inning.
“Every inning I went out there I was just trying to throw up a zero,” Morin told reporters during UNC’s postgame press conference. “That’s just my mentality in general. Usually I come in and its just for one inning, so I definitely focused and I talked to Jake [Stallings]. Getting the first out of every inning is probably the biggest way to shut a team down. Not really thinking long-term, just more on each pitch.”
As good as North Carolina’s starting rotation has been in recent weeks, its bullpen has possibly been better in allowing just two earned runs in the last 10 games.
“That may be the best bullpen in college baseball,” N.C. State head coach Elliott Avent said.
Delivering in the Clutch
Colin Moran won’t have fond memories of this ACC Tournament at the plate following a 2-for-14 showing with five strikeouts and five men left on base, but he couldn’t have picked a better time to have his final hit of the weekend.
With his team in desperate need of an offensive spark, the sophomore All-American singled to lead off the top of the 12th inning. Stallings moved him to second with a single of his own to shift the momentum completely in UNC’s favor.
And while those two veterans may have ignited the rally, it was a pair of reserves – Griffin and Zolk – that delivered tough at-bats to score the Tar Heels’ first two runs. Griffin, a freshman hailing from Clemmons, N.C., stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and no outs and hit a 2-2 pitch through the right side to turn on the scoreboard.
“I actually told Griffin right before the game, I was like, ‘Hey man you’re not in the lineup, but some way, shape or form you’re going to help us win this game,’” Forbes said. “So I’m glad that when he got up there he came through for us and got that hit.”
North Carolina relied on timely hitting to capitalize on its dominant pitching during the 14-game winning streak that ended on Friday against Miami – due in part to missed opportunities at the plate. It took longer than expected on Saturday, but the Tar Heels took advantage in crunch time.
Next up for North Carolina
The Tar Heels are already assured a regional hosting spot next weekend for the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, but will find out their opponents and their likely national seed during the Division I Baseball Selection Show at noon on Monday (ESPNU).