UNC’s arms get more rest as Game 3 of super regional against South Carolina is delayed
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — South Carolina’s seemingly interminable NCAA tournament super regional at North Carolina is dragging on another day.
The series’ winner-take-all Game 3 was set for Monday at 7 p.m. — until severe weather intervened again. It will now be today at noon on ESPN2.
The super regional was originally scheduled to last from Friday to Sunday. But rain pushed Game 1 from Friday to Saturday, and moved all the games up a day.
Game 3 being bumped again seems to favor North Carolina, which used far more relief pitchers in the first two games than USC.
But a one-day change in this game won’t alter the starting pitchers, or their differing recent results. USC will go with freshman left-hander Jack Wynkoop, who has a 1.84 ERA in his past five starts. North Carolina will start sophomore righty Benton Moss, who has a 5.53 ERA in his past five starts.
If Wynkoop needed early help Monday, USC’s bullpen was going to be fresh, because lefty Jordan Montgomery threw a complete game Sunday when USC won, 8-0, to force Game 3. Setup man Adam Westmoreland threw 48 pitches Saturday when North Carolina won, 6-5. Closer Tyler Webb threw 18. They are the only two USC relievers who have appeared in the super regional.
The Tar Heels’ starting pitchers in the first two games lasted just 21/3 and 12/3 innings. North Carolina coach Mike Fox used four relievers Saturday. They threw five, 19, 33 and 58 pitches. On Sunday, Fox used five relievers. They threw five, eight, 22, 24 and 39 pitches. One of the relievers who threw Saturday, Tate Parrish, also threw Sunday. He threw five pitches Saturday and eight Sunday.
The Tar Heels’ ERA leader, Trent Thornton, threw only on Saturday (58 pitches). An extra day of rest should benefit him if he pitches today, which seems possible. Thornton has a 1.24 ERA, 74 strikeouts and 13 walks.
There is also a chance Fox could use his Saturday starter, third-round Major League Baseball draft pick Kent Emanuel, in today’s game. Emanuel threw 63 pitches Saturday and allowed seven hits and four runs in 21/3 innings.
North Carolina’s two top relievers besides Thornton are Chris Munnelly and Chris McCue. Both threw Saturday (19 pitches for Munnelly, 33 for McCue). Neither threw Sunday.
Today’s winner will play North Carolina State in its College World Series opener. The Wolfpack beat Rice in two games in the Raleigh Super Regional, finishing the series Sunday night. N.C. State’s only other Omaha trip came in 1968. The eight-team College World Series’ opening games are Saturday and Sunday, with two games each day.
North Carolina (56-10) is the tournament’s top seed and hasn’t lost back-to-back games all year. USC (43-19) is trying to make its fourth straight Omaha trip — something it has never done.
South Carolina has advanced just three times in 18 road NCAA tournament rounds and is 1-4 in super regional Game 3s. This super regional marked the fifth time USC has dropped the opening game of a regional or super regional. It also happened in the 1977 and 1983 regionals and 2001 and 2007 super regionals, the latter at North Carolina. Just once in those four rounds did USC come back to advance — 1977, when the Gamecocks won four times in three days to make Omaha.
As they try to storm back again, they have some recent history on their side.
They are 8-1 in elimination games since the start of the 2010 tournament, getting their most recent victory Sunday. And of North Carolina’s 10 losses this season, eight came to opponents who started a lefty, as the Gamecocks will do today, with a pair of lefty relievers, Westmoreland and Webb, ready for extended action.