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June 20, 2013

Johnson, Heels shut out Wolfpack

OMAHA, Neb.--- "Hobbs Johnson," coach Mike Fox said Thursday night after North Carolina shutout NC State 7-0.

"That's the overview."

The junior left-hander threw a career high 8.1 innings as he helped give a confident UNC team at least one more chance to play in TD Ameritrade Park this year.

Despite NC State making a game-day decision to start ace lefty Carlos Rodon against the Tar Heels, the Wolfpack fell short of extending its first trip to Omaha, Neb., since 1968, into the weekend.

"I wouldn't really exactly say I outdid him because he pitched us great against us the first game," Johnson said of Rodon. "Today, we just happened to get on him early and made him throw a lot of pitches early, and we were able to attack him."

UNC's Chaz Frank got on base off of Rodon's second pitch then Landon Lassiter was thrown a ten-pitch strike out before the southpaw threw two consecutive strikeouts in characteristic fashion to start the game, but Johnson matched the outing in the bottom of the first.

NC State batters reached on a walk and a fielder's choice bunt against Johnson in the first inning, but struggled to get on base off the fast balls UNC threw.

"I threw all fastballs," Johnson said. "I didn't throw an off-speed pitch."

From catcher Brian Holberton'sChris McCue's pitches.

"Every single pitch (Johnson) threw was a fastball," Holberton said. "Even when McCue came in, he threw one changeup and it was supposed to be a fastball."

"We just went right after them and wanted them to put the ball in play and let our defense work."

Outside of the one throwing error UNC made in the first inning to allow NC State's walked Jake Fincher to advance on the fielder's choice, the Tar Heels were consistent in holding down the Wolfpack long enough for North Carolina's offense to start up, score and play ahead.

Colin Moran opened the fourth inning with a single up the middle to start an offensive rally that gave UNC the lead.

"If I could try and get a hit off (Rodon) every time, I would," Moran said. "But I got lucky on the first hit. (It) just kinda hopped up the middle."

Holberton - who was batting behind Moran for the second consecutive game - then reached on a fielder's choice and an NC State error allowed Moran to stay on.

Cody Stubbs walked to load the bases for Skye Bolt's fielder's choice, but Moran was tagged out at home as all runners advanced.

Michael Russell's sacrifice fly was just enough to score Holberton from third base before Mike Zolk flied out to end the inning 1-0.

North Carolina repeated its one-run-inning performance in the top of the fifth as Moran came with more, singling to score Parks Jordan from third base after Jordan had walked, then moved on two consecutive ground outs.

"We knew a few runs might win the game," Holberton said. "And it kind of looked that way until the last few innings."

"(We tried to) just get on top of them early just like we have been lately, and get the lead, and put some more pressure on that team to go up there and do more. (It) really helped us out."

Johnson was continually matching his team's offense, as he threw 1-2-3 innings in the second, fifth, sixth and seventh before UNC tallied a four-run eighth inning.

Moran was the first man on base after reliever Brad Stone walked him and then did the same two batters later to Stubbs.

Stone loaded the bases when he hit Bolt with a pitch bringing up Russell.

NC State replaced Stone with right-hander Ryan Wilkins - the first right handed pitcher to face a North Carolina batter since June 3 - who threw five pitches to right-handed Russell, before the sixth throw resulted in a two-RBI single.

"In my case, at least, I've gotten out so many times or struck out (against Rodon and NC State), I guess I was just bound to put one in play," Russell said.

But he wouldn't be the last North Carolina batter to put a ball in play against a team that held the Tar Heels scoreless into the bottom of the ninth inning less than a week ago.

The Wolfpack looked to its bullpen yet again after Russell's hit and put D.J. Thomas on the mound against Zolk, but he doubled off the first pitch to score Bolt and Russell before being tagged at third to end the inning.

Moran came to bat in the ninth inning and added one more RBI, no. 91 of this season, as he scored Jordan from third for UNC's final score.

Johnson took the mound in the bottom of the ninth in attempt to finish the first complete game of his career, but after allowing two hits, UNC pulled closer McCue from the pen and he finished the game as Bryan Adametz lined into a game-ending double play.

"Once we got the first couple of runs and with the way Hobbs was pitching, we definitely had a little bit of confidence," Moran said. "You know you've still got work to do. But really, I just had all the confidence in Hobbs."

Now the Tar Heels will engage UCLA in another elimination game Friday from T.D. Ameritrade Park Omaha. If Carolina can defeat the Bruins Friday, they'll play again Saturday in an elimination battle with the winner advancing to the championship series next week against either Oregon State or Mississippi State.


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