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June 9, 2013

Cocks dominate to force third game

CHAPEL HILL--- Coming off Saturday's thrilling 6-5 victory over South Carolina in the opening game of the Super Regional between the two bordering rivals, North Carolina needs just one more victory over the Gamecocks to return to Omaha and the College World Series for the sixth time in the last eight seasons.

Unfortunately for the Tar Heels, they'll have to wait until Monday for another chance at that all-important victory, as they were overwhelmed Sunday afternoon by Gamecocks left handed ace Jordan Montgomery and the red-hot South Carolina bats on the way to an 8-0 blowout loss.

For the second straight game the Gamecocks came out hitting early, recording five hits before the second inning was concluded. 

It was in the South Carolina bottom half of the second when the Gamecocks exploded for five runs, pounding out five hits and knocking UNC starting pitcher Hobbs Johnson out of the game having retired just five batters.

Max Schrock, South Carolina's second baseman, got it going with a leadoff double, and he was eventually driven in by center fielder Tanner English on a perfectly-executed safety squeeze bunt down the first base line.

A couple batters later shortstop Joey Pankake gave USC a 3-0 advantage on a piercing double down the left field line that nearly hit the third base umpire before falling in, driving in Kyle Martin and English.

The batter after Pankake, designated hitter LB Dantzler, drove in two more with a drive to right field that brought home Chase Vergason and Pankake to make it 5-0.

As it turned out, the five run South Carolina bottom of the second was basically the ball game---the proverbial 'atomic bomb' that rendered the remainder of the game an anticlimactic settling of the dust.

Just for good measure, South Carolina tallied three more runs---one in the fourth and two in the fifth---to make the second half of the game relatively insignificant.

It simply wasn't UNC's day, for each time they seemed to be putting something together at the plate, it all fell apart.

Perhaps the best two examples were in the sixth and the eighth, when the Tar Heels got two runners on base both innings but failed to capitalize.

If ever there was a chance for the Diamond Heels to make a dent into Montgomery's dominance it was in the top of the sixth, as cleanup hitter Skye Bolt stepped up with runners on first and second.

Bolt indeed hit the ball hard, only he hit it right at South Carolina shortstop Pankake, who turned a classic 6-4-3 double play to get the Gamecocks out of the threat.

Carolina put two runners on base again for ACC MVP and No. 6 overall MLB Draft selection Colin Moran in the top of the eighth, but Montgomery, still on the mound for the Gamecocks, coaxed him into a popout in foul territory along the third base line to end UNC's last legitimate threat at scoring on the afternoon.

With the loss, UNC now has to once again play an elimination game on Monday---a do-or-die final showdown with the Gamecocks to see who will move on to Omaha and who will be watching it all back home.

Stay tuned for more coverage of UNC's Sunday loss in the Super Regional to South Carolina here at Tar Heel Illustrated in the coming hours.

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