Heels Put Down Pirates

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - There was no hangover for No. 5 North Carolina (30-5, 12-3 ACC) after its victorious weekend in Tallahassee against Florida State as it used a two-run seventh inning rally and Michael Morin's stellar pitching to edge in-state rival East Carolina 5-3 on Tuesday.

"We were fortunate," UNC coach Mike Fox said after the game. "We're a good defensive team, and we played better defense tonight, and I think that was the difference in the game."

Weeknight games are becoming a pitch-a-thon for the Tar Heels. UNC used eight pitchers on Apr. 5 in its win over Winthrop and seven against the Pirates.

Fox did not like the matchup between his pitcher R.C. Orlan and ECU's Zach Wright, so the skipper called in Morin to finish the seventh frame.

Morin warmed up to Eminem's song, "Till I Collapse." It made sense, because the gist of the song is to keep fighting even when one has his reached his wit's end. The game was tied 3-3, and Carolina needed to suppress the Pirates momentum.

"We found it last year," Morin said of the song. "We listen to it in the weight-room. I like it. It's one of my favorite songs, so I just kept it for this year. It usually always helps."

The Tar Heels did not collapse. Catcher Jacob Stallings caught Trent Whitehead stealing second base for the final out of ECU's at-bat, leading the Heels into the seventh inning stretch.

Then the rain came, not like the downpour an hour before the first pitch, but a shower of hits booming from Carolina's bats. Tommy Coyle broke the tie with an RBI single, scoring Ben Bunting, and then Jesse Wierzbicki brought in Levi Michael on a sacrifice fly to right field.

Michael finished with an impressive line, going 3-4 and scoring two runs, including a triple in the first inning. The junior short stop is batting a solid .331 as Fox's ace in the two-hole.

"I felt like I had a good approach today," Michael said. "I've got to give a lot of credit to the guys in front of me being on base, opening up a lot of holes. It just felt good to finally have a couple of barrels."

Re-enter Morin. The confident Kansan kept his cool when it mattered most, fighting through the frustration of a miscommunication with Wierzbicki in the top of the eighth, which allowed Chris Gosik to single for ECU.

UNC pitching coach Scott Forbes then went out to calm his young pitcher, and that was all the right-handed hurler needed as he posted three strikeouts in ECU's final four outs.

"Confidence, baby," Fox said. "It's amazing what confidence can do."

Confidence, it's what Morin needed after giving up three runs and two hits in just 15 pitches in the Tar Heels' only loss to the Seminoles.

The sophomore boasts an anemic 4.87 ERA, but has been on a tear since last Friday's meltdown. He pitched in Carolina's two victories over FSU, throwing seven strikeouts and allowing only two hits.

"It's amazing what this game can do in terms of Friday night, how badly he felt, we all felt," Fox said. "We just couldn't get it done. And then how he felt after Saturday night's game and after Sunday… You can just see him out there, and see that look of confidence."

The 6-foot-4 Morin was not brought in to finish the game because he has pitched in three of the last four contests, but the sophomore was not about to collapse.

"My changeup was working tonight," Morin said. "It's been a little inconsistent this year, but just kind of locating and not trying to throw too hard and just trying to hit spots. I'm going to need some ice after tonight, but I can't turn down an opportunity to throw. Adrenaline gets you through."

With the win Morin's pitching record improves to 2-2.

The Diamond Heels will stay in North Carolina this weekend, but will travel to Raleigh for a series with rival N.C. State (18-15, 5-10 ACC).

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