UNC’s Moran, Bolt break out of hitting slumps

acarter@newsobserver.comJune 18, 2013 

LSU, UNC, North Carolina, College World Series, Omaha, CWS

UNC's Colin Moran gets a hit in the first inning during UNC's game against LSU in an elimination game in the College World Series Tuesday, June 18, 2013, at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska.

ETHAN HYMAN — ehyman@newsobserver.com

Had it been April instead of June, what Colin Moran and Skye Bolt did Tuesday might have seemed ordinary. It was back in April, after all, when Moran and Bolt, two of the best hitters in North Carolina’s batting order, regularly drove in runs and ended games with multiple hits.

The NCAA tournament, though, had been a struggle for both players. And neither had hit all that well in the same game. Until Tuesday, at least, when they combined to drive in half the Tar Heels’ runs in their 4-2 victory against Louisiana State in an elimination game of the College World Series.

The victory extended UNC’s season at least another game. It also provided hope that maybe junior third baseman Moran and freshman right fielder Bolt are closer to breaking out of slumps that couldn’t have come at a worse time.

Entering the CWS, Moran, whom the Miami Marlins recently selected with the sixth pick in the Major League Baseball draft, was hitting .233 in the NCAA tournament. Bolt, who missed about a month after suffering a broken foot in a victory at Virginia Tech on April 12, was batting .214.

Those are jarring numbers, considering that Moran, who entered the CWS hitting .343, flirted with .400 for a large portion of the season. Bolt’s average also approached .400 before his injury.

They looked more like their old selves on Tuesday, combining to go 5-for-9 with the two RBIs.

“Colin’s just so talented, I think it’s just a matter of time that he’s going to get back into it a little bit,” UNC coach Mike Fox said. “I thought he looked at the ball a lot better today. Although, he swung at ball four when he flied out to left field. That’s something you don’t see him do very often, so he kind of reverted back a little bit.

“… He’s got to continue to look at the ball good because that’s one of his best traits.”

Fox adjusted his batting order Tuesday, moving Bolt from the No. 4 spot to sixth in the order, and putting junior catcher Brian Holberton in the cleanup spot. The moved worked in UNC’s favor twice: the first time on Holberton’s two-run home run in the first inning. And then on Bolt’s RBI single in the seventh, which gave the Tar Heels a 4-1 lead.

Bolt didn’t seem to mind being moved down in the order. He had a good view of Holberton’s home run, at least.

“We know that the man strength’s there,” Bolt said of Holberton’s home run, which was his 12th. “But this year it’s been good to see it translate into his swing. And when that ball went out, I don’t think any of us believed it.

“And then watching it on the replay, seeing that it went three, four rows deep – it gave us life.”

So, too, did Moran and Bolt.

Moran’s RBI came in the third inning, on a single to right that drove in Landon Lassiter. Bolt followed later with a hit that drove in an insurance run.

It was the kind of performance that Moran and Bolt had provided regularly earlier in the season, and one they hope becomes more routine in the postseason.

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