3 things: Tar Heels sweep Duke
The story of yesterday’s series finale victory over Duke was Shane Taylor’s terrific performance on the mound. As the Tar Heels prepare for the final four games of the regular season, here’s three quick takeaways you need to know about the Coastal Division champs.
- Michael Morin is one of the best closers in Carolina history. The junior righthander picked up saves on Friday and Sunday. He’s been so effective that even with Taylor pitching a gem in the finale, Mike Fox said he had “no hesitation at all” about making the move to Morin. The Kansas native, who was the subject of an extensive Turner Walston profile in our May issue, faced six batters this weekend and retired all six without the ball leaving the infield. “Those moments are exactly why I love playing baseball,” Morin said of picking up the final key outs of a game. “That’s why we work in the weight room and do all the preparation. It all comes down to that moment.” Morin’s ERA is down to 0.94, and his 16 saves in 2012 rank second all-time on the Carolina all-time single-season list, behind the 18 posted by Andrew Carignan (2007) and Thad Chrismon (1993).
- Pitching will get most of the attention this weekend, but don’t overlook the clutch at-bat from Mike Zolk on Sunday. Carolina was locked in a 0-0 tie in the eighth inning when Fox called on the freshman with two outs and runners on first and third. Zolk promptly hit the second pitch he saw for an RBI double. Zolk hasn’t complained at all about the defensive shuffles that, through no fault of his own, saw Tommy Coyle move to second and Michael Russell to shortstop, squeezing Zolk out of his starting spot. “From a team standpoint, we preach readiness all the time,” Fox said. “His attitude has been terrific and I’ve told him several times how much I appreciate it and that his time would come. And his time might come again soon.” Zolk played the final inning defensively at first base, which could give the Tar Heels some flexibility.
- Carolina’s victory clinched the Coastal Division title and kept the Tar Heels firmly in the race for a coveted national seed. This morning’s updated RPI has the Tar Heels sixth, and the projected Needs Report says Carolina needs only to go 2-2 in the final four games to land in the top eight of the RPI. Tomorrow’s trip to UNC Asheville (#139) will not be an RPI booster, but the home series against Virginia Tech (#31) might be. Sunday also brought some good news from other squads competing for a national seed, as Purdue, NC State and Virginia all lost, plus LSU lost a series to Vanderbilt and closes the season with South Carolina. As we did last week, we’ll compile this week’s NCAA Tournament bracket projections, and the expectation is that the Tar Heels will again be a national seed in all of them.