Moran Swinging a Big Stick

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Colin Moran struggled early against Clemson on Saturday, but the third baseman delivered a two-run RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning. That hit put the game out of reach, nailing the exclamation point onto No. 6 North Carolina's (25-4, 9-2 ACC) 9-5 win.

President Theodore Roosevelt once said, "Speak softly and carry a big stick; you'll go far." The quiet freshman from Rye, N.Y. does his talking with his bat.

"You have to pull words out of Colin," UNC coach Mike Fox said after the victory. "Just very even keeled, and you can't really tell, [but] he's just one way, and it's a good baseball way. I don't know if it will ever get him a girlfriend, but baseball-wise, it's a good thing."

Moran, the brother of former Tar Heel Brian Moran and nephew of Carolina great and ex-Major Leaguer B.J. Surhoff, busted onto the national scene last week earning a trio of honors – National Player of the Week, National Hitter of the Week and ACC Player of the Week. He batted .529 (9-17), scoring eight runs, bringing in 13 RBI, posting 25 total bases and slugging an amazing 1.471. Moran also earned five walks.

For the season, Moran is batting .356 with five home runs and a team-leading 40 RBI.

"I feel like I've seen the ball pretty well," Moran said. "Last week I just felt like everything clicked. This week not so much, but I just have to battle at the plate."

Fox says Surhoff never pushed his nephews to North Carolina, but UNC took a chance and brought Brian in as a walk-on who ended up being an All-American.

Carolina's coaches initially were not sure they wanted to take the same gamble on Colin. In the fall of his junior year, UNC assistant coach Scott Jackson said the ball was not coming strong off his bat, but the coach's perception changed the summer before Moran's senior year of high school.

Moran attended one of the Tar Heels' baseball camps and the coaches took him down to the batting cages. That's when he wowed them with his hitting.

"He came in and performed well at the camp," Jackson said. "Of course, we knew the family well, and all the background, makeup, the character; all that stuff we knew was great, so we had to have him. Gosh, thank goodness we got him."

For Moran, the biggest adjustment from high school to the collegiate level was getting used to Division I pitching.

"The fall was huge," Moran said. "I learned a lot in the fall, struggled a lot in the fall."

Jackson said Moran comes to the ballpark with the right approach every day. With that quiet, strong work ethic, along with the talent he displayed last week, one can only expect big things with those Surhoff genes.

Moran was too young to keep up with Surhoff in his playing days, but knows enough about his uncle to model his game after him.

"If you look back through at his career you realize he was a steady, everyday player, so I try to learn from that," Moran said.

But his older brother is the main reason why he chose to be a Tar Heel. Watching his sibling go through the program and following the team made him a fan. He can also credit his brother for being the hitter he is today. Having an ace pitcher to practice against in the backyard as a kid can only help.

"He was always all-around better than me, so it kind of helped push me to get better," Moran said.

The 6-foot-3 freshman's success is not just at the plate – he has also proven to be an effective infielder at third base. Moran has only committed three errors this season. Like his uncle he just tries to make the simple everyday plays.

He showcased his fielding skills Saturday, making the simple play of grabbing a ground ball and throwing it to first base for the game's final out, quelling any last ditch efforts by the Tigers.

"It's a tough position to play," Fox said. "We've been really pleased with his defense too. It's a tough spot for a freshman to play. He's played well for us. He's got good genes, a good demeanor."

Moran's genes, demeanor and ability have helped the Tar Heels reach a top-10 national ranking, and it doesn't seem like the freshman is going to slow down. He's just trying to be that everyday player like his uncle.

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