JMU falls at #3 UNC
Senior right-hander Patrick Johnson struck out 11 over eight innings and North Carolina blew open a 4-0 game with a seven-run seventh en route to a 14-0 shutout victory in game four of the NCAA Regional in Chapel Hill on Saturday night at Boshamer Stadium.
UNC, ranked 10th nationally by Collegiate Baseball and the overall No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, improved to 47-14 and advanced to Sunday’s 6 p.m. regional championship game. Meanwhile, 28th-ranked JMU saw the nation’s longest winning streak come to an end at 10 games while falling to 41-18. The Dukes will battle Maine in a 1 p.m. elimination game on Sunday after the Black Bears beat FIU 4-1 to open the day.
The Tar Heels have posted a pair of shutouts in their two regional games. Johnson limited JMU to three hits and one walk with 11 strikeouts in his eight innings of work. He extended his streak of consecutive innings without allowing a hit to 13 before sophomore right fielder Johnny Bladel (Ashburn, Va./Stone Bridge) singled to lead off the fourth. Johnson has not allowed a run in his last 23 innings while surrendering just seven hits.
Designated hitter Greg Holt went 4-for-5 with three runs and four RBIs to pace UNC’s 15-hit attack. Catcher Jacob Stallings was 3-for-5 with three runs while center fielder Ben Bunting had two hits with a triple, two runs and three RBIs.
Senior left-hander Alex Valadja (Pittsburgh, Pa./North Catholic) took the loss. As the starter, he allowed three runs on five hits in 3 1/3 innings.
JMU was shut out for the first time in 76 games dating back to a 6-0 home loss to UNC Wilmington on April 10, 2010. Bladel was the only Dukes’ batter to reach base twice with a single and a walk.
UNC scored first in the ballgame as left fielder Chaz Frank led off the first with a walk. He advanced to second on a wild pitch. After a groundout, Frank scored on an RBI single through the right side by third baseman Colin Moran. A walk and a Stallings single loaded the bases but Valadja recovered to strike out Bunting on three pitches and end the inning trailing 1-0.
The Tar Heels added to the lead in the second on a solo home run to left center by Greg Holt to make it 2-0. In the fourth, Stallings led off with a double to left and advanced to third on a bunt single by Bunting. Holt lifted a sacrifice fly to center to make it a 3-0 lead for the Tar Heels.
UNC added a run in the sixth as Holt singled to right center with one out. Then with two outs, Frank doubled to deep right center with the relay throw to the plate just late as Holt slid in with the fourth run.
In the seventh, Moran singled and first baseman Jesse Wierzbicki doubled to put runners in scoring position with no outs. Second baseman Tommy Coyle singled to left to drive in one run and make it 5-0. The Dukes turned to junior Josh Futter (Columbia, Md./Wilde Lake), who promptly issued a four-pitch walk and a hit batter to bring in a run. Holt then singled through a drawn-in infield to make it 7-0 for UNC. Freshman Luke Munson (Roanoke, Va./Cave Spring) got one out but then a four-pitch walk and a wild pitch brought in two more runs to make it 9-0. Another four-pitch walk with a wild pitch made it 10-0. After a strikeout, Wierzbicki reached on a throwing error to keep the inning going and make it 11-0.
UNC added its final three runs in the ninth, two on Bunting’s two-run triple and the last on Holt’s RBI single.