Diamond Heels step up to face adversity

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Colin Moran stands with his teammates during a midweek game. Moran broke his hand on Saturday.

Colin Moran isn’t used to being a spectator.

The competitive third baseman thrust himself into North Carolina’s starting lineup as a freshman last year, hitting his way into the middle of the order and into national prominence.

But the same passion that fuels Moran can also be destructive.

Frustration mounted last Saturday as the Tar Heels lost 3-1 to N.C. State. Moran, who made a costly error in the contest, confirmed Wednesday that his broken hand was in fact self-inflicted. He punched a bathroom door in a burst of fury, and he’ll likely miss four weeks because of it.

Starting all but one game in his UNC career before the injury, Moran hasn’t particularly enjoyed life on the bench so far. But in the three games he’s missed, the Tar Heels have done more than hold their own.

They’ve won all three games — two in walk-off fashion.

“As much as it’s stunk sitting on the bench watching, it’s been awesome (seeing) the games that we’ve been playing,” Moran said. “Guys like Grayson (Atwood) and even guys like Trevor Kelley have come in here and been working really hard.”

“It’s been fun to watch them evolve and hopefully continue to get even better.”

Moran will still be just a spectator when the Tar Heels take on ACC foe Wake Forest this weekend.

Without Moran, it has become even more important for coach Mike Fox to be able to reach into his bench and get positive results.

On Wednesday, that production came from Atwood, a freshman who knocked in the game-winning run in the 10th inning. He could eventually see time at third base along with freshman Shell McCain, who has been filling in at the position.

“We need more depth,” Fox said. “And so I think this is going to bode well for us because I think those guys, obviously, they should have a little confidence.”

It will be especially important for the Tar Heels (20-5, 7-2 ACC) to be in sync against Wake Forest.

The Demon Deacons (18-9, 4-5 ACC) will come to Boshamer Stadium leading the ACC in home runs, while the Tar Heels haven’t exactly been playing their cleanest baseball — even with three straight wins.

The Tar Heels have committed seven errors and have struggled at times with runners in scoring position, but they’ve still been able to scrape out victories.

“We all have to step up now because obviously losing Colin is a huge piece of the puzzle,” said junior Cody Stubbs, who hit the game-tying home run in the ninth inning against Coastal Carolina on Wednesday.

“We all have to do our part, and if we don’t, someone else has to step up and do something special.”

After going through an 0-for-32 stretch, Stubbs is one of a few starters to step up for UNC. Junior Tommy Coyle and senior catcher Jacob Stallings have both solidified the middle of the order after Moran vacated the three-spot.

But even though the Tar Heels have responded well after Moran’s injury, Fox doesn’t expect his team to become complacent with its success.

“These guys, as soon as they get food in them and get their phone and tweet and text whoever they are, it’s over and done,” Fox said.

“The good thing about having a team that’s not very smart is that the good and the bad — it just kinda goes right through them.”

Contact the Sports Editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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