CHAPEL HILL, N.C., June 5, 2011 - North Carolina pulled away from a tie game after five innings to defeat James Madison 9-3 to win the NCAA Chapel Hill Regional and advance to the super regional round on Sunday night at Boshamer Stadium.
UNC, the overall No. 3 seed nationally and ranked 10th, swept through the regional by a three-game combined score of 27-3 to reach its fifth super regional in the last six years. The Tar Heels improved to 48-14 and will host the winner of the Fullerton Regional next weekend.
JMU finished a memorable 2011 season at 42-19 with its third most wins in a season and most games played. The Dukes won multiple games in a regional for the first time since their 1983 College World Series appearance and also advanced to a regional final for the first time since 1983.
The Tar Heels pulled out to an early 3-1 lead in the game as they plated two in the second and were held at bay by sophomore reliever Johnny Bladel (Ashburn, Va./Stone Bridge) until an unearned run in the fifth.
Madison answered back in the bottom of the frame as junior Jake Lowery (Midlothian, Va./Cosby) sent a two-run missile to center for his record-tying 24th home run of the season to tie it at 3-3 after five.
However, UNC methodically pulled away from there, plating two runs in the sixth, one in the seventh and putting it away with three in the eighth.
R.C. Orlan earned the win for the Tar Heels by pitching one inning in relief. He came in after starter Chris Munnelly battled through 4 2/3 innings allowing three runs on eight hits. Five more relievers worked after Orlan to limit JMU to two hits the rest of the way.
Second baseman Tommy Coyle and designated hitter Brian Holberton each had three hits and two RBIs for the Tar Heels. Left fielder Chaz Frank had two hits and three RBIs.
Senior left-hander Alex Valadja (Pittsburgh, Pa./North Catholic) took the loss in relief for JMU after allowing two runs on two hits in 2/3 of an inning. He was making his third pitching appearance in a 26-hour period.
Bladel capped his All-Regional Team performance with 3 1/3 innings pitched allowing an unearned run on two hits. He also had two hits with a double, a walk and two runs scored at the plate.
Lowery was also named to the All-Regional Team and led all players in the regional with eight RBIs and 13 total bases while hitting .400 with a double and two home runs. He finished one of the most dominant offensive seasons in JMU history batting .359 with 22 doubles, eight triples, 24 home runs, 91 RBIs, 80 runs scored, 200 total bases and a .797 slugging percentage. He set or matched JMU and CAA records for RBIs, home runs, extra-base hits (54) and total bases in a season.
Senior center fielder Alex Foltz (Mathias, W.Va./East Hardy) had two hits and a walk while freshman third baseman Conner Brown (Richmond, Va./Godwin) also had two hits as both players joined Bladel and Lowery on the All-Regional squad. Foltz led all players in the regional with seven hits. First baseman/outfielder Matt Tenaglia (Doylestown, Pa./Central Bucks East) also had two hits with an RBI.
After stranding two Tar Heels in the first, Bladel led off the first for the Dukes with a double deep to right center. He advanced to third on a groundout by senior shortstop David Herbek (Haymarket, Va./Battlefield) and scored one batter later when Tenaglia drilled a liner off the chest of starter Chris Munnelly, who stayed in the game after a stop in the action.
UNC bounced back quickly in the second as catcher Jacob Stallings walked. Center fielder Ben Bunting singled through the right side and Holberton then pulled a double inside the line at first base to score Stallings and tie the game. After a walk loaded the bases, Frank drilled a single through the right side to advance everyone one spot around the bases and make it 2-1.
The score held until the fifth when UNC got a one-out single. After a fielder's choice to retire the lead runner, Bunting reached on an error to extend the inning. Holberton then lined a sharp shot up the middle to plate Stallings with the unearned run to make it 3-1.
Immediately JMU responded in the fifth as Bladel reached on an infield single. Lowery jumped on a pitch with a hard liner to straight centerfield for his 24th home run of the season to tie the ball game at 3-3.
The Tar Heels had an answer again against Valadja as shortstop Levi Michael drilled a double deep to right center. Third baseman Colin Moran was hit by a pitch to put two on with one out. After an infield popup, Coyle came through with a single through the hole on the right side for a 4-3 UNC lead. Sophomore D.J. Brown (Locust Grove, Va./Orange County) entered in relief and Stallings greeted him with a ground-rule double deep to left. However, that proved a break for JMU as it prevented another run from scoring and kept the game at 5-3 after a groundout ended the inning.
After Lowery fouled out with two on to end the sixth, UNC jumped on Brown in the seventh. Right fielder Seth Baldwin doubled off the wall in right field, moved to second on a wild pitch and then came in to score on a sharp single to shallow right center by Frank to make it 6-3.
The Dukes had a chance to answer back in the seventh as Tenaglia singled to right and Foltz hustled to beat out a double on the ball in the gap in right center. JMU turned to pinch hitter Evan Scott (Haymarket, Va./Battlefield), who struck out swinging. UNC called upon freshman Andrew Smith to get sophomore second baseman Bradley Shaban (Midlothian, Va./Cosby) to fly out to center on one pitch to escape the jam.
UNC went back to work in the eighth to continue to pad the lead. First baseman Jesse Wierzbicki doubled off the wall near the pole in left to lead off. Coyle singled to score him to make it 7-3. After a hit batter, the Dukes went to senior James Weiner (Charlottesville, Va./St. Anne's-Belfield) in relief. He got a ground ball to second for a potential double play, but it skipped under the glove of Shaban for an error. After a strikeout, Frank hit a full-count sharp liner to right for a sacrifice fly with the sweep tag at home by Lowery just missing a wide slide by Stallings to finish the scoring at 9-3.
NOTES: The teams combined for 24 runners left on base in the game, 14 by UNC and 10 by JMU... a pitcher when recruited to JMU, Bladel had pitched just 5 2/3 innings in his career before working 3 1/3 against UNC and lowering his season ERA to 1.00 in nine innings... the Dukes finished the season averaging 8.9 runs per game, which led the nation entering the day... JMU established program season records for games (61), runs (541), RBIs (486), sacrifice flies (47), hit batters (85) and innings pitched (550 1/3)... in addition, JMU posted its second-most hits in a season (685), third-most homers (80), second-most total bases (1,109), second-most walks (289) and third-most steals (155)... Foltz wrapped up his career fifth in JMU history with 752 at bats and eighth with 259 hits after his All-Regional performance... in addition to tying the JMU season record, Lowery's home run pushed him into the JMU career top 10 with 33... senior left-hander James Weiner (Charlottesville, Va./St. Anne's-Belfield) tied for fourth in JMU history with his 82nd career pitching appearance... JMU's four members of the All-Regional team were joined by Maine shortstop Michael Fransoso as well as six UNC representatives in Jesse Wierzbicki, Tommy Coyle, Chaz Frank, Jacob Stallings and starting pitchers Patrick Johnson and Kent Emanuel.