Heels Blast JMU

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Patrick Johnson continued his mastery on the mound with a three-hit lockdown in eight innings and his offense exploded with seven runs in the seventh inning as No. 3 national seed North Carolina throttled James Madison, 14-0, on Saturday night.


ACC Freshman of the Year Colin Moran's RBI single to score Chaz Frank in the first inning was ultimately all of the run production that Johnson needed against the Dukes (41-18), but the Tar Heels (47-14) added to their total in five more innings.

Greg Holt (4-of-5, 4 RBI, HR) blasted a home run to left field in the second inning and added a sacrifice fly in the fourth to score Jacob Stallings. Frank delivered a RBI double in the sixth inning before UNC exploded with seven runs in the seventh. Ben Bunting knocked in two RBI with a triple in the ninth inning and Holt finalized the scoring with a RBI single to score Bunting.

North Carolina has posted consecutive shutouts in NCAA Tournament play for the first time in school history. The 14-0 victory marks UNC's largest margin of victory in NCAA Tournament play since a 15-1 victory over East Tennessee State in the 1978 regional opener.

Alex Valadja (7-4, 3.1 IP, 5 hits, 3 ER) picked up the loss for the Dukes.


The Silencing of the Bats
James Madison's offensive resume entering the Chapel Hill Regional was nothing short of ridiculous. The Dukes led the nation with 522 runs scored for an average of 9.2 runs per game, while also ranking fourth in home runs (78) and fifth in batting average (.321).

But in facing North Carolina ace Patrick Johnson on Saturday, the Dukes' bats may as well have been made of Styrofoam. The Conover, N.C. native hadn't allowed a hit in 10 innings or a run in 15 prior to his first NCAA Tournament start this season, and he continued his near flawless pitching through another eight innings.

Johnson (3 hits, 11 SO, BB) retired the first nine batters he faced and 17 of his first 18 with six strikeouts. His streak of scoreless innings now stands at 23.

"Really I had no idea that it's up to 23," Johnson told reporters during UNC's postgame press conference. "I like to go out and put our team in a position to win and that's what I've been trying to do throughout this streak."

Johnson accounted for his recent pitching tear by highlighting his ability to throw more strikes.

"Early in the year, I had a lot of 3-2 counts and I was walking hitters," Johnson said. "I think I've only had one or two walks over these last three games and I think that's been the biggest key for me is throwing strikes and letting my defense do the work."

Johnson has won six straight outings and becomes just the seventh pitcher in school history to reach 12 wins in a season and the first since Alex White in 2008.

The Dukes' lowest run output on the season was a pair of two-run games in March. James Madison had not been held to fewer than four runs since a 4-3 loss to UNC Greensboro on Apr. 16.

James Madison advanced a runner into scoring position twice all game.

"There's an old saying that good pitching beats good hitting, and I think that's what happened today," JMU head coach Spanky McFarland said.

Seven in the Seventh
Thirteen batters. Four pitchers. Two runs scored on wild pitches. One run scored on a walk, one run scored after a player was hit by a pitch and another scored on a fielding error.

Yes, the seventh inning was as horrific as it sounds for James Madison.

North Carolina put pressure on the Dukes immediately in the top half of the inning with three consecutive hits to plate a run and set up Jacob Stallings with runners on the corners and no outs. But when reliever James Weiner was pulled and right-hander Josh Futter stepped to the mound and struggled to find his catcher's mitt during warm-ups, a sense of trouble for the Dukes seeped into the atmosphere at Boshamer Stadium.

Futter proceeded to walk Stallings on four pitches to load the bases and then promptly beaned Bunting in the middle of his back to score UNC's second run of the inning. Luke Munson entered the game in relief after a Greg Holt RBI single that could have been called an error on shortstop David Herbek, but the lefty walked Frank to give the Tar Heels another run and then sandwiched two wild pitches around a walk to Levi Michael to plate two more runs.

Two batters later, Jesse Wierzbicki hit a grounder to third base for what should have been the final out of the inning, but Conner Brown pulled first baseman Matt Tenaglia off the bag, allowing Frank to score an unearned run.

It's difficult enough to upset a national seed in its home ballpark, but when you allow your opponent to post a crooked number primarily due to an abundance of miscues, your margin of error vanishes.

McFarland summed up the inning in his opening statement in James Madison's postgame press conference, saying, "It's a humbling game."

Up Next
North Carolina is now in full command of the Chapel Hill Regional and awaits the winner of Sunday's 1 p.m. game between James Madison and No. 4 seed Maine. If the Tar Heels win on Sunday night, they will advance to next weekend's Super Regional against the winner of the Cal State Fullerton Regional. If UNC loses on Sunday, the teams will play again at 6 p.m. on Monday to determine the regional winner.

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