Small Ball Success

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - No. 13 North Carolina only needed one great inning at the plate to defeat No. 1 Virginia, 6-0, due to Patrick Johnson's brilliance on the mound. The Tar Heels delivered that offensive blast in the sixth inning on Thursday.

"Our kids know we can beat anybody, because we've done it all year long," UNC head coach Mike Fox said. "Our kids really believe in themselves..."

The Diamond Heels used some small ball to get the bats going in the sixth to light up the scoreboard with five runs in the bottom of the frame.

Chaz Frank began the Tar Heel tear, earning his base on balls. He soon had UNC knocking on the door after Levi Michael advanced him to third base with a single.

Enter Colin Moran. The freshman hit a sacrifice RBI (his 64th RBI of the season), scoring Frank and triggering the Tar Heels' onslaught against the Cavaliers.

A failed pick-off attempt at first allowed Michael to steal second base, who then advanced to third base when Jesse Wierzbicki singled to left.

Virginia made a pitching change, subbing Kyle Crockett for starter Cody Winiarski. The change at the mound put the Cavaliers into a deeper hole, as Ben Bunting laid down a sacrifice bunt that sent Wierzbicki to second. Crockett intentionally walked Jacob Stallings, loading the bases.

The Tar Heels then caught the first of their two big breaks in the inning. Tommy Coyle hit a two-run RBI single that bounced before Virginia shortstop Chris Taylor could get a handle on it, scoring Michael and Wierzbicki.

"We hadn't been swinging the ball as well as we'd like to," Coyle said. "Coach [Fox] has kind of taken the thought out of our head, making us swing the bat on a slash, which I did on one play. Coach is just trying to get us to move the ball around and move base runners. I worked myself into a bad count, and then I was just able to put a bat on a ball and luckily good things happen when you put the ball in play with two strikes."

Greg Holt followed Coyle's big hit, replacing Brian Holberton as a pinch hitter, and the senior shined. He singled to right field for an RBI, scoring Stallings, and then followed that with North Carolina's second big break of the inning.

Forcing Virginia into a pickle, Holt bought Coyle enough time in a rundown to make it home before he was finally tagged out by Virginia first baseman Jared King.

"Coach gave me first move, and I just took off," Holt said. "When I looked in and saw the catcher standing up I stopped my feet, and turned around and tried to stay in as long as I could. We were able to score the run."

All eight of North Carolina's batters got into the mix in the bottom of the sixth, recording four singles, two sacrifice hits (one of which was Moran's RBI), two walks and five runs.

There is no time for the Diamond Heels to celebrate its victory over the nation's top team, as they will have to find a way to repeat Friday's performance against one of college baseball's elite pitchers, Danny Hultzen, in game two. Hultzen sports a 1.42 ERA and a 9-2 record.

"I go home, close my eyes, and wake up [on Friday], and it's like, ‘Crap we have to face Danny Hultzen today'," Fox said.


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