CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Freshman Skye Bolt hit a game-winning RBI single through the right side in the ninth inning to lift North Carolina past South Carolina, 6-5, on Saturday in the opener of the NCAA super regional best-of-3 series.
Bolt’s two-out hit scored Parks Jordan from second for the Tar Heels (56-9), putting them within a win of reaching the College World Series for the sixth time in eight seasons. It was yet another close win for the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament as North Carolina overcame a shaky start from top pitcher Kent Emanuel and an early two-run deficit.
Reliever Trent Thornton (10-1) earned the win, allowing one run in three innings. Tyler Webb (3-3) took the loss for the Gamecocks (42-19).
The Tar Heels reached the super regionals with a 12-11, 13-inning win against Florida Atlantic on Monday night.
South Carolina won the national championship in 2010 and 2011, then finished as the runner-up last season. Now the Gamecocks — led by former UNC player and assistant Chad Holbrook — will have to beat the Tar Heels on Sunday and Monday to return to Omaha.
Meanwhile, UNC hasn’t lost consecutive games all season.
Emanuel, the Atlantic Coast Conference pitcher of the year, lasted just 21/3 innings in his shortest start of the year. He allowed seven hits and four runs on 63 pitches. Going back to last weekend’s Chapel Hill Regional, Emanuel has allowed 18 hits and 14 earned runs on 238 pitches in 112/3 innings — all in an eight-day span.
That helped South Carolina get off to a 2-0 first-inning lead and a 4-2 edge in the third before UNC rallied.
The Gamecocks got 15 hits, including three each from Graham Saiko, Chase Vergason and Kyle Martin. Joey Pankake also hit a solo home run in the second inning, but South Carolina hurt itself with three errors that led to two unearned runs.
Brian Holberton drove in two runs for North Carolina, which finished with 11 hits and led 5-4 in the eighth before the Gamecocks tied the game on Vergason’s RBI double that scored Martin.
The opener was supposed to be Friday, but heavy rain from Tropical Storm Andrea forced it to Saturday.