Photo: Courtesy GoHeels.com
CHAPEL HILL- UNC baseball defeated No. 3 Towson 8-5 Saturday night, surviving a late run by the Tigers to advance to the Chapel Hill regional finals.
Carolina improves to 54-8 on the year, tied at second for most wins in a single season.
Kent Emanuel pitched into the eighth inning, and Michael Russell drove in three runs for the No. 1 overall national seed.
ACC Tournament MVP, Cody Stubbs, hit the game’s solo home run in the second inning, his eight of the season to put the Heels on the board first.
Hear the call: Stubbs Home Run
But the match began as a pitching duel, as UNC’s ACC Pitcher of The Year, the left-hander Emanuel retired one Tiger after the other. Through the sixth inning, the All-American only gave up two hits, and managed to pick-off two runners – on the year he has 10. Emanuel moves to 4-0 in five NCAA tournament starts, claiming his 11th win of the year
By the fourth inning, UNC batters finally figured out Towson’s right-handed pitcher, Brandon Gonnella. Russell notched a 2 RBI single, scoring Lassiter and Bolt to increase Carolina’s lead by two.
Hear the call: Russell 2 RBI Single
Mike Zolk got a double in the fifth, followed by bunt from Parks Jordan—putting Jordan on first. Chaz Frank hit a sacrifice fly, allowing Zolk to tag up and make it home for the score, Carolina with 4-0 lead. Lassiter hit a breaking ball through to left field for the single, and advancing Jordan. Colin Moran, the ACC Player of the Year, hit a grounder, enabling the double play, which retired the Heels for the inning.
Russell recorded his second hit of the day on a line-drive in the sixth inning, making it to first. Holberton next hit an RBI double off the right wall, scoring Russell. UNC extending its lead to five.
In the bottom of the inning, Towson’s Pat Fitzgerald sent a fastball over the plate to right field, scoring Richie Blosser, and put Towson on the board, score 5-1. Though rattled, Emanuel struck out three to end the threat, with no action from the Carolina bullpen.
Chaz Frank and Moran were left on base in the top of the seventh, after a pop-up from Skye Bolt retired the Heels.
Towson’s Peter Bowles got to second after a hard to hit to left field in the bottom of the inning. Then Brian Butler singled to center, bringing home Bowles, and the Tigers with in three. This triggered activity in the UNC bullpen—but Carolina got out of the inning on a 5-4-3 double play.
The Heels got a run in the eight after Russell registered his second RBI double of the night, sending a hard hit to left field to score Stubbs. Zolk followed with a RBI ground-out, allowing Russell to make it home—Carolina up 7-2.
By the bottom of the eight, Emanuel had hurled 97 pitches. With bases loaded, Towson’s Burt Wertz came to the plate—he had 13 home runs on the season. Wertz singled deep to right field, putting two more Tiger runs on the board, and Carolina’s lead was cut to three. The Tigers would score another off a sacrifice fly, 7-5 Heels. A single to center then put the tying run on base, with another runner at second. Carolina then made the pitching change, brining in Trent Thornton. The right-hander came on for the Heels with two outs and two Tigers on base. Thorton finished the inning on a fly out to end the threat.
In the eighth, Towson replaced Gonnella—he allowed 11 hits and seven runs in 7 2-3 innings of work—bringing in Nick Cioffi to face the Heels. But Carolina answered back when Lassiter dropped a single to right field. Moran followed with a big hit up the middle, advancing Lassiter to the third base. A sacrifice fly by Bolt scored Lassiter, putting UNC up 8-5.
In the bottom of the ninth, Holberton threw out the Towson runner trying to stretch a single into a double—Carolina then one out away from the win. Then Thornton ended it by forcing Hunter Bennett to fly out for his eighth save of the year.
Towson meets Florida Atlantic in an elimination game Sunday with the winner facing North Carolina at 6 p.m. As always, you can catch the game broadcasting live on 97.9 FM and streaming live on Chapelboro.com.