North Carolina (45-14) loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the second, but had to settle for one run on a fielder’s choice. The Tar Heels went to work in the fourth inning, however, as Parks Jordan, Griffin, Colin Moran and Jacob Stallings all drove in runs to give UNC a 5-0 cushion under threatening skies.
Brian Billigen bombed a two-run homerun over the right field wall to put Cornell (31-16-1) on the scoreboard in the top of the sixth. That blast set in motion a lightning delay that lasted from 4:37pm until 5:48pm.
The Cornell bats stayed warm through the delay as the Big Red strung together three singles – including a RBI by Kevin Tatum – and loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth. R.C. Orlan settled down and struck out Brenton Peters.
Stallings and Jordan added their second RBIs of the day with singles in the bottom half of the inning.
Peters singled in a run in the top of eighth to close the deficit to 7-4, but the Big Red left four men on base in the final two innings.
Hobbs Johnson (7-1) picked up the win for UNC after giving up two earned runs and six hits in 5.0 innings. Junior closer Michael Morin tied the school single-season record with his 18 save in 19 tries.
Rick Marks (4-5) suffered the loss in giving up nine hits and four earned runs in 3.2 innings.
INSIDE THE GAME
Mike Fox has created a culture within his program that is absorbed as soon as a student-athlete steps on campus and there typically aren’t deviations from that approach. The players know what’s expected of them and they assume responsibility for the direction of the program.
So it was surprising when Fox entered the postgame press conference with his players and immediately let the media know how he felt about his team’s approach to the game.
“I’ll tell you the same thing I told my team during the rain delay,” the 14th-year UNC head coach said. “Right now I’m enjoying watching Cornell play more than I am our team and I’m going to stick with that…
I really thought Cornell just played outstanding and they were excited to be here. I’m not sure our team matched that and I think you have to be really careful about that at a regional. Just being home and being complacent and just not locking in and bringing it, but I take nothing away from Cornell. We did just enough to win and I thought we were fortunate to win this game.”
When asked if he agreed with his head coach, Morin replied: “Definitely.”
The junior placed the blame on himself and senior catcher Jacob Stallings from a leadership perspective and vowed to have the team ready to play with more intensity on Saturday.
“It’s a postseason atmosphere – if you’re not excited to play, then you don’t have a pulse,” Morin said.
Moran Back on Track
Colin Moran struggled during the ACC Tournament last week, batting 1-for-13 with five strikeouts and five men left on base to open the event. The sophomore third-baseman delivered in his final at-bat, though, by singling into right field to ignite UNC’s 12th inning offensive onslaught against N.C. State.
Moran only needed four at-bats on Friday to double his hit total in three games in Greensboro, N.C. He drove one run in and scored another.
“He was 4-of-5 today, so he got a third of our hits,” Fox said. “He’s an important part… He’s our best hitter. We need him to get to where we want to go. There’s no question about it and that comes with the talent that he’s been given.”
Moran is now batting .376 on the season with a .516 slugging percentage and 35 RBI.
It’s a rarity to a fielder pull off an improbable defensive play in a clutch situation. To get two of those plays in the same game from the same player is practically unheard of, but that’s what Cornell shortstop Marshall Yanzick did on Friday.
With North Carolina threatening with the bases loaded and no outs in the second inning, Parks Jordan’s blooper over the third baseman’s head was pushed toward the third baseline by the wind. What looked like a fluke single was ripped away from a running-and-diving Yanzick to hold the runners.
UNC once again loaded the bases in the sixth inning. With one out, Michael Russell hit a ball up middle for what appeared to be a two-RBI single before Yanzick made yet another diving grab to prevent the base hit.
“We expect that from Marshall,” Cornell head coach Bill Walkenbach said. “He makes all of the routine plays and he makes some spectacular ones on top of that. It was actually our fault that he had the second spectacular play. We had just moved him into the six hole, by error I guess, and gave him just enough room to make a spectacular play and hopefully make a highlight reel somewhere.”
North Carolina will face No. 3 seed St. John’s in the pivotal winners’ bracket game at 6pm on Saturday. The Red Storm dismantled No. 2 seed East Carolina, 11-3, earlier on Friday. Six different batters posted RBIs as St. John’s tallied 16 hits and still managed to leave 10 men on base.
The Big East champions lost nine of their first 13 games before turning things around and winning 20 of their last 27 contests.
Left-handed pitcher Sean Hagan (8-2, 2.58 ERA) is slated to start on Saturday. The 6-foot-6 junior is 5-0 with a 1.89 ERA and two complete games in his last seven starts.
Hagan is 2-0 in career NCAA Tournament starts, allowing three runs and striking out 12 in 12.1 innings of work.
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