It should have been automatic. After all, we've seen this movie multiple times this season. UNC is leading 4-2 going into the 9th inning and Michael Morin comes out to close the deal. Morin, a first team All-American reliever, has been as close to a lock as you can hope for from your closer. UNC in home regional games has likewise been a sure bet in the Mike Fox era.
I guess the Heels were due to have both of those go wrong on the same night because it did in spectacular fashion when Morin gave up a three run walk-off homer to send UNC on a steep climb to the Super Regional.
The Heels did pretty much everything they needed to do to win this game despite some suspect defense and missed opportunities on offense. UNC went down 1-0 then 2-1 before a Shel McCain two run home run gave UNC a 3-2 lead. The Heels tacked on an insurance run in the top of the 9th which should have been enough. Morin, however, was shaky giving up a double then having Tommy Coyle unable to make a play on an grounder putting runners on 1st and 3rd with no one out. Morin got a strikeout before SJU's Danny Bethea took a fastball over the left field fence for the win.
The story so far for UNC in this regional is the lack of key hits. UNC has left 19 runners on base in two games. Turning that stat around is the key to getting out of his regional alive. UNC now faces an elimination game versus ECU at 1:00 PM on Sunday and if the Heels win then must beat St. John's twice starting with a 6:00 PM game. Should UNC win twice on Sunday a winner take all final game would be played on Monday.
One major detraction of the loser's bracket is the degree to which it stretches the pitching staff. UNC has Benton Moss going against ECU and after that who knows. Then again, seeing UNC is facing three straight elimination games to make the Super Regional, the only game that matters is the one in front of you. That is why the bats need to wake up. If UNC can get a fair amount of run support, the fact the Heels will be operating with the thin end of the rotation won't hurt nearly as much.
It is not impossible but needless to say it will be a tough feat.