UNC bolsters NCAA case with 13-7 win over Maryland

jgiglio@newsobserver.comMay 24, 2014 

— This we know: Maryland and Georgia Tech will play for the ACC baseball championship on Sunday.

This we don’t: How many ACC teams will make the NCAA tournament?

North Carolina solidified its case for the NCAA tournament with a 13-7 win over the Terrapins on Saturday.

The league’s bubble situation is crowded and somewhat complicated but the Tar Heels (34-25) put their best foot forward on Saturday. Michael Russell, Skye Bolt and Zach Daly each drove in two runs for the Tar Heels, who went 2-2 in Greensboro with wins over N.C. State and Maryland.

The Heels hope they will hear their name called on Monday during the selection show for the NCAA tournament.

“I have no idea what this means for Monday,” UNC coach Mike Fox said. “I’m not a politician. We’ve done what we’ve done. We’ll wait and see what our fate is going to be.”

Wood Myers drove in Michael Massardo, in another close play at the plate for UNC, for the deciding run in the six-run eighth inning.

The ACC got eight teams in the NCAA tournament last year and seven in 2012. Virginia (No. 1 in the RPI), Miami (regular-season champion) and Florida State (No. 4 in the RPI) are locks for at-large spots.

The Terps (36-20) and Yellow Jackets (35-25) have likely played their way into the 64-team NCAA field by winning their respective pools in the ACC tournament. Both Maryland and Georgia Tech went 2-1 in pool play.

The Terps, in their last athletic event as an ACC member, actually clinched a spot in the title game on Friday when UNC lost to Virginia. It’s the first time in the tournament final for Maryland since 1976. The Terps have never won the ACC tournament, which started in 1973, and have’t won a conference title in baseball since 1971.

UNC won last year’s ACC title but entered Saturday’s game with more at stake for its NCAA chances. After a 7-1 loss to Florida State on Wednesday and a 3-2 loss to Virginia on Friday, the Heels were in danger of going 0-3 in pool play (with the 4-3 win over N.C. State coming in the play-in round).

The Tar Heels started Saturday at No. 46 in the RPI, a spot ahead of Clemson and 12 ahead of N.C. State. Duke, also on the NCAA bubble, entered the day at No. 82 before a 6-5 loss to Miami in 12 innings.

Another factor, besides RPI, that the selection committee considers is a team’s record in its last 15 games. UNC improved to 8-7 with Saturday’s win, compared to 11-4 for Clemson, 10-5 for N.C. State and 7-8 for Duke.

The Heels led 3-0 and then 7-2 with a quick start by Russell, who sat out the Virginia loss with back spasms, but went 2 for 3 with two RBIs as the designated hitter.

UNC posted four runs in the fifth, all with two outs and all unearned after a throwing error by Maryland second baseman Brandon Lowe. Daly had the big hit with a two-run single for UNC.

The Terps tied the score at 7 with five runs in the seventh. Maryland had six hits and nickel-and-dimed UNC’s pitchers for five runs.

Fox brought in Trent Thornton, who closed out N.C. State on Tuesday, but the Terps touched up Thornton for three runs.

Reilly Hovis (8-1), the regular closer who started on Tuesday, cleaned up for Thornton in the eighth.

Massardo scored from second after Maryland centerfielder Charlie White dove and missed a liner by Myers. The relay throw beat Massardo to the plate but he slid under the tag by catcher Kevin Martir.

“It is what it is,” UNC’s Parks Jordan said. “We’re going to take what we get and hopefully we’ll get to play somewhere.”

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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