OMAHA–North Carolina lefthander Brian Moran made Matt Clark look silly in a key spot on Sunday, striking him out on a breaking ball well off the plate with the bases loaded in the eighth inning. He faced Clark again with a runner on first in the sixth inning tonight, and Clark got his revenge. Moran tried to get Clark to chase another breaking ball away, but Clark laid off. When Moran tried to sneak an 87 mph fastball by him on the inner half, Clark made him pay, launching a two-run homer to right field that tied the score 3-3. That’s the thing about Clark: You can beat him with a good fastball, but good luck sneaking an 87 mph heater by him on the inner half. Clark now has a nation-leading 28 homers on the year, and John Manuel texted to say UNC’s lack of power may do it in; the Tar Heels remain the only team that has yet to hit a home run in Omaha this year.
- Dustin Ackley is just a machine. The UNC first baseman/leadoff man has hit safely in each of his first four at-bats, tying his career high for hits in a game. Of course, all four hits are singles, but all were hit on the nose. Ackley got himself into scoring position anyway here in the seventh, stealing second base on a 3-and-2 pitch to Tim Fedroff (who struck out) and taking third on a passed ball.
- Jared Bradford has a ton of guts–not that that’s news to LSU fans. The righthander threw 77 pitches (50 strikes) in 5 2/3 strong innings of relief today after working into the seventh inning Tuesday against Rice. He really had that sinker working for him tonight, using it to get ground balls but also five strikeouts. And he came back after that hour-and-a-half rain delay and didn’t miss a beat. I’m impressed.
- Louis Coleman came on in the seventh for LSU and struck out the side, stranding Ackley at third base. He showed quite a display of emotion after getting Tim Federowicz lunging at an 80 mph slider off the plate on a 2-and-2 pitch, pumping his fist, jumping and yelling. The Tigers are fired up right now, and they definitely have the momentum. Coleman’s slider makes him really tough on righthanded hitters, and he was able to retire the lefthanded-hitting Fedroff as well, but this is where UNC would be really dangerous if it had its three best hitters–lefties Ackley, Fedroff and Seager–batting in order, instead of interspersing righties like Kyle Shelton and Tim Federowicz, effectively giving righthanded pitchers a break. It’s not like a lefthanded pitcher would be able to come in and shut down those three lefties in a row, because none of those guys rolls over against southpaws. Of course, the Tar Heels have done it this way pretty much all year and it’s worked awfully well, so I’m certainly not suggesting they change anything now. Just food for thought.
- UNC has stuck to its usual bullpen formula, going with righthander Colin Bates, then lefty Moran, then righthanded closer Rob Wooten. Wooten just worked a 1-2-3 seventh, striking out the first two batters. Both teams now have their closers in the game as we head to the eighth.
NCAA Blog Central.