Tudor: It’s an arms race now for Heels

STAFF COLUMNISTJune 20, 2011 

North Carolina is still a long shot to win the College World Series, but a 3-0 win over Texas on Monday is a perfect example of why the Tar Heels have reason to hope.

Thanks to what is being called the onset of the “Dead-Bat Era” in college baseball, pitching suddenly has become the sport’s inescapable trump card.

With Texas eliminated, the Heels now have as many quality pitchers as any of the seven remaining teams in Omaha.

The performance by freshman left-hander Kent Emanuel against the Longhorns won’t likely be duplicated, of course.

But entering another elimination game on Wednesday against either Florida or Vanderbilt, the Tar Heels have a fully rested bullpen and at least the outside option of using No. 1 starter Patrick Johnson if the situation is deemed dire enough by UNC coach Mike Fox.

Thanks to Emanuel’s four-hit masterpiece, Fox and pitching coach Scott Forbes can go to committee pitching for the remainder of the week.

No. 3 starter Chris Munnelly, a sophomore righty from Winston-Salem, likely will start Wednesday regardless of the opponent.

With a 6-5 record and a 4.11 earned-run average, Munnelly obviously doesn’t have the talent of Johnson and Emanuel. But with so many options in the bullpen, four or five effective innings from Munnelly may be all the Heels (51-15) need.

The more pressing issue is pushing across runners in scoring position. As was the case in the 7-3 opening loss to Vanderbilt, the Heels stranded runners from the first inning on.

But even with the problematic hitting, Carolina should be a slight favorite on Wednesday. The Heels are in the losers bracket, but they have an arm-up on the field after Monday.

caulton.tudor@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8946

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