With the season on the line, South Carolina turns to sophomore left-hander Jordan Montgomery to keep things going. He has done it before.
The Sumter native threw eight shutout innings in a win over Arkansas in an elimination game at the College World Series last season. USC coach Chad Holbrook has complete faith in Montgomery, who has posted a 5-1 mark with a 1.67 ERA in 70 innings this season.
“He’s gives you a chance each and every time he pitches. He’s going to have to pitch very well against these guys, and hopefully we can get to the seventh or eighth inning and have a chance to win like we did today,” Holbrook said.
Montgomery, who threw seven shutout innings in an NCAA regional win against Liberty last weekend, will be facing a North Carolina team that’s batting .310 and averaging eight runs per game.
“It’s no easy task for him, but he’s an unflappable kid,” Holbrook said. “He’s pitched on a big stage, and he’s pitched in some pressure-packed games in the postseason. He has the experience to go out there and throw well.”
The Tar Heels answer with junior left-hander Hobbs Johnson (4-0, 2.09 ERA), who was drafted in the 14th round Saturday by Milwaukee. Holbrook realizes the Gamecocks have their hands full.
“They’ve got a good pitcher going,” he said. “They’ve obviously got momentum on their side. They’re a terrific team, and they’re playing at home.”
While they were playing Saturday, the Gamecocks had a few players selected in the MLB draft.
Senior first baseman LB Dantzler was chosen in the 14th round by the Blue Jays, senior left-hander Adam Westmoreland was drafted in the 26th round by the Marlins, and junior designated hitter Brison Celek was picked in the 31st round by the Blue Jays.
Tar Heel relief
UNC coach Mike Fox looked especially relieved sitting at the podium after the game. He watched his team battle back from an early 4-2 deficit to win a game in which his team is the national No. 1 seed and playing at home. He knows the pressure is on his Tar Heels to advance.
“It was an incredible baseball game, and we were very fortunate to have won,” Fox said. “We had some clutch swings of the bat by a lot of guys.”
He especially like the performance of freshman closer Trent Thornton, who is 10-1 with eight saves and a 1.24 ERA in 80 innings on the season. Thornton, who also has started five games in 27 appearances this season, tossed three solid relief innings against USC to get the win.
“We’ve trusted Trent from the very beginning in any role that he’s been in,” Fox said. “We have the luxury of being able to use him at any point and any time in the game.”
Video: Holbrook, USC postgame
Video: UNC's Mike Fox postgame