St. John’s (40-21) scored first on Kyle Richardson’s RBI single to centerfield in the top of the second. Parks Jordan tied the game for UNC (46-16) in the bottom half of the inning with a RBI single and Chaz Frank added a two-RBI single in the next at-bat.
The Red Storm loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth and capitalized with three runs scored. Sean O’Hare delivered a two-RBI single before Jeremy Baltz stole home after Tommy Coyle lost the ball at second in a throw-out attempt.
Anthony Iacomini drew a two-out walk in the sixth, advanced to second on a wild pitch and eventually scored on Jimmy Brennan’s single up the middle. UNC matched that score on Shell McCain’s RBI single in the bottom of the inning to close to within 5-4.
Pinch hitter Robert Case knocked in two runs with a single to centerfield in the seventh to push St. John’s lead to 7-4. James Lomangino gave UNC one back in the bottom half of the inning by walking Jacob Stallings with the bases loaded.
St. John’s tacked on two insurance runs in the ninth thanks to a base-loaded walk and an error by Michael Morin on an infield pop-up.
INSIDE THE GAME
Break from S.O.P.
Mike Fox referred to Sunday afternoon’s victory over East Carolina as “typical” of a lot of UNC’s wins this season. The season-ending loss to St. John’s was certainly atypical.
While North Carolina faced a daunting challenge coming out of the losers’ bracket – only 18 teams in 80 regionals had accomplished that feat in the previous five seasons – the incredible depth of this pitching staff was thought to be enough to give the Tar Heels a legitimate chance to advance.
Taylor struggled with his control early and only lasted two complete innings, but Luis Paula entered the game and pitched well through the sixth, striking out seven batters and walking just one. Even though UNC trailed 5-4 at that point, it seemed as though the Tar Heel arms and defense would give the bats a chance down the stretch.
Instead, those staples helped the Red Storm increase their lead. A single and walk ended Paula’s day in the seventh. Mason McCullough walked his second batter to load the bases with two outs and Chris McCue gave up a two-RBI single to a .235 pinch hitter.
Two errors, a hit by pitch and a walk in the ninth allowed St. John’s to seal its victory with two more runs in the ninth.
“We’re running freshman after freshman after freshman out there and they haven’t been in this situation before,” Fox said. “So do they not quite make the pitch we want them to? Occasionally, but you got to give St. John’s credit. They swung it well and they got the big hits when they needed to and that’s what separates regional champions from everybody else.”
St. John’s first baseman Frank Schwindel pointed to a change in approach at the plate for the Red Storm’s ability to tally 14 hits.
“They’ve been throwing a lot of off-speed [pitches], so today I felt like we were trying to sit on it some more and try to look for some pitches instead of letting them get ahead and then they could throw whatever they want,” the sophomore said.
A Lack of Timely Hits
North Carolina has been able to mask their lack of offensive prowess this season with timely hitting at critical times, such as Frank’s two-run single in the second inning on Sunday.
Unfortunately, that ability to capitalize proved elusive this weekend, culminating with a missed opportunity in the seventh inning. Trailing 7-4, UNC put two runners on with no outs before loading the bases with one out and scoring on a walk.
With the tying run on second, Cody Stubbs fouled out to the catcher on a 1-0 pitch and McCain struck out on three pitches to effectively end UNC’s chance for a comeback.
“We had our opportunities,” Fox said. “We had guys on and it’s about who makes pitches and who doesn’t, who puts the bat on the ball and who finds a hole. It’s part of the game and you have to give them credit. It’s disappointing that we had some opportunities and somebody just couldn’t step up and get a big base hit for us.”
North Carolina left 37 men on base in its four regional games.
“You can’t just rely on the other team to walk you, make a mistake, make an error, make an errant throw to give you opportunities to win,” Fox said.
Prior to this regional, North Carolina had scored 281 runs in 30 regional and super regional appearances since 2006 – good for a 9.4 run-per-game average. UNC averaged 5.25 runs per game in four games this weekend.
Brutal End for Morin
The final 25 hours of Michael Morin’s All-America season could not have played out any worse.
On Saturday, Danny Bethea’s three-run walk-off homerun on Morin prompted the junior closer to admit to reporters that he didn’t feel comfortable on the mound in either of the first two games of the regional. He set the single-season school record for saves (19) against East Carolina on Sunday afternoon, but gave up a solo blast to John Wooten.
Later that evening, Morin took the mound yet again with two runners on and no outs in the top of the ninth. His third pitch hit O’Hare to load the bases. After notching two critical outs, Morin walked Kyle Lombardo, a .111 hitter with two hits on the season. He then dropped a routine pop fly to let a second run score before striking our Jimmy Brennan to end the inning.
Stallings was asked about Morin’s earlier comments during the postgame press conference.
“Michael’s felt uncomfortable before and gotten three-up, three-down,” Stallings said. “I didn’t notice anything glaring. He came out and threw all four games for us. He had an unbelievable year. I don’t think you could have a better year. He was bound to get hit sometime, I guess.”
The final hours of the season don't take away from Morin's tremendous junior campaign. It justs leaves an unfortunate bookend to an otherwise stellar season.