Posted: 11:37 a.m. Monday, June 10, 2013
By Brian Barbour
#1 UNC vs South Carolina, 7 PM, ESPN2
Win or go home.
The Tar Heels faced this particular gauntlet a week ago when they faced Florida Atlantic in an elimination game. Twice in the contest the Heels were against the wall with the season on the brink and twice they rallied to stay alive. UNC went on to win that game to advance to the Super Regional where they face the same test again. This time it will be against a South Carolina team that is playing with some confidence after an 8-0 win in Game 2.UNC will go into the game with a somewhat taxed bullpen and a starting pitcher who has had his share of troubles for about a month now.
Of course in the random and sometimes ironic way athletic contests play out, it stands to reason Benton Moss could be the one Tar Heel starter who steps up in a big way for the Heels in this series. The two expected reliable options in the rotations, Kent Emanuel and Hobbs Johnson, each failed to make it past the third inning. Heading into the series, the expectation was those two would pitch well and Moss, if it came to it, would have trouble. If UNC has plans on meeting NC State in Omaha, Moss must step up where his fellow starters failed and give the Heels a solid outing.Trent Thornton, Chris McCue and Chris Munnelly, while throwing multiple innings on Saturday did not pitch on Sunday meaning they would be available.
As good as Moss needs to be, this game is really about the Tar Heel bats. Here is the bottom line. The Tar Heels have one of the best offensive teams in the country. They are an experienced group built for a College World Series run. In an ideal world, the Heels could have swept through the regional and then beaten South Carolina two-nil to advance to Omaha. However this is baseball which can be random, crazy and messy, occasionally all at the same time. In the postseason UNC has dealt with all three and even in a game against Clemson which meant nothing, the fight never left this Tar Heel team. As good as this team has been all season, the way they respond with their backs against the wall has been nothing short of incredible.
Tonight is a question of whether they can respond like that again and while additional motivation isn't needed, seeing NC State in Omaha should provide a little more.