Freshman Skye Bolt singled home the winning run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to give No. 1 North Carolina a 6-5 victory over South Carolina in a see-saw Super Regional opener in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Bolt recorded his game-winning hit off of All-American reliever Tyler Webb – who was chosen in the tenth round of the 2013 Major League Baseball draft by the New York Yankees on Friday. Entering the game Webb had not allowed a run in 25 of 30 relief appearances and was sporting a minuscule earned run average of 1.36.
Webb just didn’t have it against the Tar Heels (56-9), though, who came back from a two-run deficit twice in this game to push South Carolina to the brink of elimination.
Head coach Chad Holbrook’s Gamecocks (42-19) raced to a 4-2 lead against heralded North Carolina starter Kent Emanuel, a third round draft pick who lasted just 2.1 innings. USC’s early barrage was punctuated by sophomore shortstop Joey Pankake, who took Emanuel deep to left field at Boshamer Stadium – clearly not only the wall but a building behind it.
South Carolina couldn’t hold the lead though, stranding a dozen runners and committing three critical two-out errors to help keep North Carolina in the game.
Eventually, the top-seeded Heels took advantage of those Gamecock miscues – manufacturing a ninth-inning run with a leadoff single, sacrifice bunt and Bolt’s two-out single to right field (all off of Webb).
Game two of the series will be held on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. EDT with ESPN providing national coverage. Sophomore southpaw Jordan Montgomery (5-1, 1.67 ERA) will start for USC while left-hander Hobbs Johnson (4-0, 2.09) will get the ball for the Tar Heels.
If South Carolina is able to even the series, a deciding third game would be held on Monday … with the winner of that contest advancing to Omaha.
The Gamecocks have advanced to each of the last three College World Series finals – defeating UCLA and Florida in 2010 and 2011, respectively, to capture the school’s first-ever national championships in a major sport. Last year USC came up short against Arizona in its effort to pull off the three-peat.