Pirates season comes to an end
CHAPEL HILL — Fourth-ranked North Carolina used a strong pitching performance by freshman Benton Moss to eliminate instate rival East Carolina 5-3 Sunday afternoon at Boshamer Stadium.
UNC (46-15) plated a trio of runs in the top of the seventh and withstood a pair of late ECU rallies on its way to advancing into the NCAA Chapel Hill Regional championship round Sunday.
After Moss and Pirate starter Jharel Cotton exchanged three scoreless innings to begin the contest, the Tar Heels grabbed a 1-0 lead in the fourth. Tommy Coyle led off the frame with a single to left and stole second before moving to third on Jacob Stallings’ single over Corey Thompson’s head at third. With runners on the corners and one out, Cody Stubbs lifted a high fly ball to Tim Younger that scored Coyle and gave the host squad an early advantage.
North Carolina extended its lead to 2-0 in the sixth. Stubbs drew a one-out walk and moved into scoring position following a wild pitch by Cotton. The ECU right-hander was lifted for Andy Smithmyer, who struck out Shell McCain for the second out. Brian Holberton sent a clutch run-scoring single into left, putting the Heels up by a pair.
That was all the run support Moss (7-2) would need as he allowed one run (earned) on six hits in six innings.
Cotton (8-3) was impressive against the nation’s overall No. 6 seed, allowing a pair of runs (both earned) on three hits in 5 1/3 frames of work. He walked three and struck out two.
Younger earns Chapel Hill
All-Regional team Honors
GREENVILLE — East Carolina senior Tim Younger closed out his Pirate career being named to the 2012 Chapel Hill All-Regional Team as voted by the members of the media following Sunday night’s championship game between St. John’s and host North Carolina.
The Clearwater, Fla. native batted .357 (5-for-14) tying for second on the team with Drew Reynolds and trailing only sophomore Chase McDonald, who batted .545 (6-for-11). Younger drove in a pair of runs, scored twice, drew one walk and recorded 14 putouts and six assists.
Younger, who became the ninth recipient of the honorary No. 23 jersey worn by the late ECU Head Coach Keith LeClair, started 60 games on the season (52 at second base) concluded his career season batting .313 (68-for-217) with 10 doubles, 27 RBI and scored 38 runs. He posted 19 multi-hit games, including a three-hit performance against No. 6 national seed North Carolina in his final collegiate game in the Chapel Hill Regional. Younger recorded a pair of game-winning RBI (Penn State, UAB) and on March 30 drove in a career-best four runs in ECU’s 11-6 win over the Blazers where he was 3-for-4 with a double and a run scored.
He took home his first ever Conference USA Hitter-of-the-Week award on April 9 following ECU’s series win over Houston at Lewis Field inside Clark-LeClair Stadium. During that week Younger batted a team-best .500 (9-for-18) and helped the Pirates to their second-straight C-USA series win over Houston (2-0-1).
He recorded multiple hits in all four games on the week and scored at least one run in all three C-USA contests, totaling five. At instate rival UNC Wilmington on April 3, Younger was 2-for-4 (both singles) and reached base three times (hit by pitch). In the series opener against Houston, he was 2-fof-4 with a pair of RBI, a run scored and reach base four times (two singles, a walk and a fielder’s choice). Younger followed that with his third-straight multi-hit performance, going 2-for-4 with a pair of runs and a walk. In the series finale, he tied his career-high with three hits (two singles and a double) and scored a pair of runs.
The Pirates (36-24-1) trimmed the lead to 2-1 on Drew Reynolds’ RBI single to right center. Mike Ussery ignited the rally with a two-out hit and the senior second baseman advanced to second on Younger’s looping liner to right. Reynolds brought home Ussery with a flare over the head of Coyle at second. UNC avoided further damage as Stallings threw out Reynolds, who tried advancing to second on Chaz Frank’s throw home from the outfield.
North Carolina seized control of the contest in the seventh, as Smithmyer walked Frank and Coyle with one out. The runners moved up 90 feet after Smithmyer was called for a balk and with first base open on a 3-2 count to Colin Moran. The Pirates elected to intentionally walk the Tar Heels’ first baseman to load the bases and set up a potential inning-ending double play.
Reynolds replaced Smithmyer on the mound and Stallings lifted a sacrifice fly to left off East Carolina’s closer, extending the lead to 3-1. Reynolds issued a walk to Stubbs to once again load the bases and pinch-hitter Mike Zolk produced the game-winning run as he drove in a pair with a line drive single into center field.
Smithmyer was charged with all three seventh-inning runs and allowed one hit, walked three, and struck out two in one stanza.
Reynolds finished the game having tossed 2 2/3 frames, walking two, yielding a hit, and fanning one.
Trailing 5-1 in the eighth, East Carolina mounted a threat against UNC’s R.C. Orlan, who replaced Moss in the seventh. Chase McDonald and Jack Reinheimer recorded back-to-back singles to right before Orlan was replaced by Luis Paula. Younger greeted Paula with a single into right, his third base knock of the day, to bring the Pirates within three, 5-2. Paula was replaced by left-handed specialist Tate Parrish, who retired Reynolds on a pop out to short, ending the rally.
Orlan allowed one run (earned) on two hits in 1 2/3 stanzas, while Paula and Parrish each pitched to just one batter apiece.
Michael Morin, who blew a save in day two of regional action against St. John’s, earned the save for North Carolina despite surrendering a solo home run to John Wooten with one out. Morin struck out two in the ninth on his way to establishing the Tar Heels’ single-season saves record (19).
Despite amassing 10 hits to UNC’s five, East Carolina walked eight batters and five Tar Heel hurlers did not issue a free pass on the afternoon.
Holberston was the only Heel with more than one hit as the designated hitter singled twice.
McDonald continued his torrid, late-season surge as the sophomore recorded his third multi-hit performance in as many days. In seven career NCAA Regional tilts, the big first baseman has had at least two base knocks in six contests.
Younger paced East Carolina offensively on Sunday, picking up three singles and an RBI. Reynolds, Wooten, Cannon and Reinheimer each contributed a lone hit to the Pirates’ 10-hit performance.
A 2012 NCAA Tournament berth marks the 12th time in the last 14th years in which the Pirates have qualified for national post-season play and 26th in the programs history.
St. John’s, the region’s third-seeded club, does not have a loss in tournament play, thus the Tar Heels must beat the Red Storm twice to earn a berth to the Super Regional.