Tar Heels lose Moran to right hand injury

North Carolina baseball coach Mike Fox wouldn’t divulge exactly how Colin Moran broke his right hand Saturday, but it’s easy enough to read between the lines.

“You need to keep your frustration and your temper under control. … You have to be able to keep those emotions in check — both verbally and physically,” Fox said Sunday. “He didn’t hurt anybody else. Let’s put it that way. Nobody else on our team had to go to the doctor with him.”

Here’s what we do know: Moran, a sophomore third baseman, had a costly throwing error in the seventh inning of Saturday’s 3-1 loss to North Carolina State. He also didn’t come out to the on-deck circle when he was due up in the ninth inning.

Then word spread late Saturday evening that Moran had broken the fourth and fifth metacarpals in his right hand and would miss three to four weeks — information confirmed Sunday by a team spokesman.

Fox didn’t quite connect those dots, and Moran wasn’t made available for comment, but a somewhat cloudy image of what transpired can certainly be assembled.

Regardless of how it happened, Moran won’t be able to play for quite some time.

Dr. Don Bynum — the same doctor who operated on UNC point guard Kendall Marshall — will perform surgery on Moran’s hand Tuesday, leaving the Tar Heels without their All-American third basemen and leading hitter for at least three weeks.

In the meantime, Fox is left scrambling to find a replacement for an instrumental part of the lineup.

On Sunday, that replacement was freshman second baseman Shell McCain, and though he battled some nerves — he threw a ball away in the eighth inning — he relished the opportunity to man the hot corner.

“It was awesome as a freshman just to get out there and experience it,” McCain said. “I haven’t experienced it much this year, but Colin’s injury gave me a chance to step up for the team.”

But Fox hasn’t yet committed to McCain as the interim third baseman. The coach said several players are already trying to seize that opportunity, beginning Saturday night.

“I look out there … and there’s like half our team taking ground balls at third,” Fox said. “It was funny how some of them, today and pregame, were at another level.”

A higher level of play may indeed be necessary in Moran’s absence, but Fox said the focus is just on moving forward.

“It’s a big loss, but here comes the next game,” Fox said. “We’re not gonna wallow in self-pity about it.

“I was proud of Colin today for the way he was talking to Shell McCain and in the game and encouraging our guys. He’s learned a pretty tough lesson, and it’ll hopefully bode well for him in the future.”

Contact the Sports Editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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