So far the series at the NCAA Super Regional is all tied up: Games played 2, Rainouts 2.
The actual best-of-three showdown is tied as well at one win apiece between South Carolina and top-seeded North Carolina. But the real story continues to be the wet weather that has led to rainouts Friday and Monday.
The decisive game that will send one of the two national powers to the College World Series at Boshamer Stadium was pushed to Tuesday at 12 noon, when conditions are expected to be better.
“We’d like to have played today, but at the same time, it’s the most important game of the year, and you want to play in good conditions,” USC coach Chad Holbrook said. “You don’t want to get into a situation where you have put the tarp on, take it off, put it on. Ultimately, it’s the right call. It’s unfortunate, but you can’t do anything about the weather. It looks like tomorrow we’ll be able to play our most important game under sunny skies on a dry field.”
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UNC coach Mike Fox also believed a Monday game would have been tough to complete. It rained on and off all day, and the forecast for the scheduled 7 p.m. game was more inclement weather with a tornado watch in effect.
“We’ve been through this before. If you’ve been around the game enough to know, you just hurry up and wait,” Fox said “In baseball, weather is what it is. We’ll see if we can get it started tomorrow at 12.”
Both coaches stated that the extra day will help both pitching staffs, especially the bullpens. Holbrook liked that senior left-handers Tyler Webb and Adam Westmoreland will have more rest after both pitching Saturday, and Fox felt the same way about having right-handers Trent Thornton, Chris McCue and Chris Munnelly having one more day after all of them also threw Saturday.
“I don’t think any team has an advantage or disadvantage at this point,” Fox said. “It gives everybody an extra day. I guess after the game you can surmise if that was good or bad.”
USC freshman left-hander Jack Wynkoop (7-3, 2.92 ERA) will start for the Gamecocks (43-19), and sophomore right-hander Benton Moss (8-1, 3.78 ERA) will start for the Tar Heels (56-10). Holbrook hopes that Wynkoop can give the team a solid outing.
“Wynkoop is capable of going out there and throwing eight complete innings. We don’t want to go in with a mindset that we’ll take him out early because that’s not the case,” Holbrook said. “He can go out there and be very, very effective. We’d like for him to get us to the middle of the game, and if he can do that, we can turn it over to our older guys.”
Fox believes momentum is determined by how well the starting pitchers throw, especially since his team’s walk-off win Saturday was followed Sunday by a poor start by Hobbs Johnson and a good one by USC’s Jordan Montgomery.
“You can always question after a win or a loss if it’s good to get right back on the field,” Fox said. “I don’t know. I really think the starting pitchers tomorrow are going to have a lot to do with it.”
Fox also noted the Tar Heels have the luxury of being surrounded by the comforts of home while the USC players are cooped up in a hotel, but Holbrook hopes his team can come out relaxed despite sitting through a second rainout.
“Our guys are loose. They’re excited about playing. They’re excited about the way they played yesterday,” Holbrook said. “We evened this thing up, which was a goal after Game 1. We’re not at home, this is not our home field, and we’re playing the national (top) seed. So we’re the underdog. Yet at the same time the last game we played, we won. So maybe that’s some momentum for us.”
Fox understands that every player on the two sides relishes the opportunity that each one has in front of him.
“If you can be playing in one game to go to College World Series, they’d take it,” he said.
Chad Holbrook on postponement
Mike Fox on postponement