CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina has prided itself on its bullpen work this season. And most of those relievers were called upon by the Tar Heels on Friday.
Although the UNC relievers saw their recent scoreless string end, closer Michael Morin pitched out of two late-inning jams, and Colin Moran collected four hits as the Tar Heels topped Cornell 7-4 in a rain-interrupted NCAA baseball regional at Boshamer Stadium.
Morin, the sixth North Carolina pitcher of the day and the fourth used in the eighth inning by coach Mike Fox, got Marshall Yanzick to ground out to short to end the inning with runners at the corners and the Tar Heels leading by three. Morin finished up to tie the single-season school record for saves after allowing a walk and single with no outs in the ninth. Morins 18th save matched the mark shared by Andrew Carignan (2007) and Thad Crisman (1993).
You have to have a dominant closer today in college baseball, and we have one, Fox said.
It was one of my goals at the beginning of the year, Morin said of the record. Youre always glad to achieve your records.
Morin should get a chance to break that mark, beginning Saturday when the Tar Heels (45-14), who are seeded sixth in the NCAA field, will take on St. Johns at 6 p.m. The Red Storm downed East Carolina 11-3 earlier Friday.
North Carolina staked sophomore left-hander Hobbs Johnson (7-1), making his first NCAA appearance, to a 5-0 lead when the Tar Heels got to Cornell right-hander Rick Marks (4-5) for four runs in the fourth. Adam Griffin, Moran and Jacob Stallings contributed RBI singles in the inning.
Moran, meanwhile, raised his batting average to a hefty .389 with his third four-hit game of the season.
Four-for-five today, he had a third of our hits, Fox said of the sophomore third baseman. He was in the middle of about all of our scoring in one way, shape or another. Hes our best hitter, and we need him to get to where we want to go.
Johnson sailed along until the sixth, when Yanzick led off with an infield hit and Brian Billigen hammered a 2-0 pitch over the 355-foot mark in right field for his sixth home run of the season to make it 5-2.
Left-hander R.C. Orlan relieved Johnson, who had already thrown 93 pitches. Before Orlan could throw a pitch, the game was suspended for 71 minutes because of rain.
When the game resumed, the Big Red nicked Orlan for a run on two-out singles by Brandon Lee, Tom DAlessandro and Kevin Tatum. It was the first earned run Orlan had allowed in six outings, spanning eight innings, and the first by any North Carolina reliever in 171/3 innings.
The Tar Heels added two runs off Cornell reliever Nick Busto in their half of the sixth. Tommy Coyle led off with a walk, Moran singled, and Stallings delivered his second RBI single of the afternoon.
Apex High grad Houston Hawley relieved Busto but compounded the problems by throwing wide to first on Brian Holbertons sacrifice bunt, loading the bases. Hawley nearly got out of the jam, but Jordans two-out grounder went through third baseman Ben Swinford for an error, making it 7-3.
Cornell rallied for another run off the UNC bullpen in the eighth. Lee led off with a single off Luis Paula, who gave way to Tate Parrish after an infield out. Parrish walked Tatum and was relieved by Chris McCue, who got the second out on a fielders choice before giving up an RBI single to Brenton Peters.
Thats when Fox turned the game over to Morin.
They just did what theyve done all year, Cornell coach Bill Walkenbach said of the Tar Heels, and thats win ballgames and win close games and use their pitching staff to their best advantage.
• Fox has tabbed sophomore left-hander Kent Emanuel (8-4, 2.03 ERA) to pitch Saturday, with freshman right-hander Benton Moss (6-2, 1.97) going Sunday. St. Johns is expected to start junior lefty Sean Hagan (8-2, 2.58) against UNC.
• The Tar Heels defeated St. Johns 8-4 on Feb. 28. Shane Taylor got the win in relief of Moss in that game, and Moran went 4-for-5 with two RBIs.
• Cornell will pitch freshman right-hander Brian McAfee (6-0, 3.19) against East Carolina.