GREENSBORO — North Carolina began play in the ACC baseball championship on Wednesday night in much the same way the Tar Heels ended the regular season: with timely, clutch hitting and with dominant pitching. And with a victory.
UNCs 6-0 victory against Wake Forest was the Heels 14th consecutive, and their performance mirrored so many of their others during the past month. The second-seeded Tar Heels, who havent lost since April 24, will carry their momentum into their game today against Miami, which suffered a 3-2 defeat against N.C. State on Wednesday.
Long a team that relied mostly on its dominant pitching, the Heels of late have started to produce the offense to go along with their reliable arms. That trend continued on Wednesday night, when UNC (43-13) used a four-run third inning to take control. The Heels scored three of those runs with two outs.
Pretty typical, UNC coach Mike Fox said of his teams performance, which reminded him of others in UNCs winning streak. Its not pretty the way weve won, its not flashy but we just get a couple of big hits, and weve not been a big inning team [this season] thats pretty much how weve won the past couple of weeks.
After loading the bases against Wake Forest lefthander Tim Cooney, who struck out 10 in seven and two-thirds innings, the Heels scored their first run on Mark Russells fielders choice grounder to first. Then came the most damaging blow of the inning: a Jacob Stallings double down the left line that scored two runs.
It was all the offense that UNC needed, what with the way Shane Taylor started the game, and how five others finished it. Taylor, a sophomore right-hander who was making his third start of the season, walked four batters and allowed three hits but didnt surrender a run in his four and one-third innings.
He successfully maneuvered out of trouble and received some defensive help, too none more important than when Chaz Frank, the Heels center fielder, threw out Wakes Pat Blair at home plate in the top of the third. Blair had been trying to score from second off of Mac Williamsons single to center.
Off the bat, it was kind of like a blooper and I kind of saw Blair hesitate a little bit, Frank said. I knew we had a chance.
Franks throw barely beat Blair to the plate to preserve what was then a scoreless tie.UNC broke it open in the bottom of the inning, and the Heels bullpen did the rest.
After UNC coach Mike Fox pulled Taylor in the fourth, two pitchers Tate Parrish and Luis Paula recorded the next two outs. R.C. Orlan, a junior left-hander, then worked the next three and two-thirds innings for UNC. He allowed one hit and struck out six.
Thats why they have the best pitching staff in the league, Wake coach Tom Walter said.
Wake Forest (32-23) went hitless in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, and UNC used more pitchers (six) than the Demon Deacons had hits (four). Fox changed pitchers with a six-run lead and two outs in the ninth inning, joking that he didnt mind extending the game a bit. He said he wanted to get some of his other pitchers some work.
Its just what we do, Fox said of using a multitude of pitchers. No apologies.
The Tar Heels, meanwhile, cushioned their lead with runs in the fourth and eighth innings.
UNC prevailed with ease on Wednesday despite using its least experienced starting pitcher. Kent Emanuel, a sophomore left-hander who earned first-team All-ACC honors after going 8-3 with a 1.80 ERA, will start for UNC today against Miami.
The Hurricanes swept UNC in a three-game series in Coral Gables, Fla., in early April. The Heels scored a combined three runs, and Frank acknowledged that he and his teammates had been flat that series. Frank and Stallings vowed thatd be different this time.
Miamis kind of kicked our butts, since Ive been here, said Stallings, who went 2-for-4 on Wednesday night. We definitely want to come out and not let them beat us four times this season.