Tar Heels make their pitch
North Carolina freshman Taylore Cherry toed the rubber with a kind of nervous eagerness. So did senior Chris Munnelly.
There were fewer than 100 spectators in the Boshamer Stadium stands, but that didn’t matter. Each pitcher took the time to take in the sights of the stadium and savor the moment.
It was Wednesday night, the third game of the Fall World Series, and though these fall intrasquad games mean little in a statistical sense, they mean a lot in terms of preparation for veterans and rookies alike.
They also feel like the real thing.“The great thing about the Fall World Series is that it’s the closest thing to a real game setting and a real game feel that you can get,” Munnelly said. “The rest of the fall, we’re playing scrimmages. It’s hard to get your adrenaline up for the games.”
But motivation wasn’t an issue Wednesday night.
Cherry, who took the mound for the White team, was trying to make a strong impression on his new teammates.
Munnelly, throwing for the Blue team, said he’s just trying to end his UNC career on a high note.“Any time I feel nervous or I get any kind of those feelings, I just take it out to the mound,” Munnelly said. “I just look around, and I’m just like, ‘This might be my last season out here.’
“You only get one chance to play this great game.”
Munnelly made the most of his opportunity Wednesday, allowing just one unearned run and striking out 10 batters through seven frames.
Cherry, on the other hand, battled some freshman anxiety early in the contest, allowing three runs in the first inning and seven runs in total.
Cherry said he’s seen first-hand how much talent the Tar Heels have this fall, and that competition drives him to perform.
“All the players are top-notch players, or they wouldn’t be here,” Cherry said. “And the pitching staff, we’re absolutely loaded, so getting the chance to start was obviously huge for me. I had to get my confidence up going out there.”
But even though Cherry wasn’t at his best Wednesday, that doesn’t necessarily rule the Dayton, Ohio, native out of the weekend rotation.
Coach Mike Fox said that he takes a holistic approach when it comes to evaluating players for the spring season.
“I mean, the whole fall is kind of the telltale, so we won’t really look at it from the standpoint, ‘OK, how did they do in the Fall World Series?’” Fox said. “It helps a little bit more probably pitching more than anything else because we’re looking to see who can pitch certain innings and who’s going to close for us.”
The Tar Heels played in 17 scrimmages before the World Series began, and they’ll have at least three more games this fall to make an impression on the coaching staff.
After throwing against his teammates, Munnelly said he and the rest of the pitching staff now have a sense of what their strengths and weakness are.
And they’ve seen more of the former than the latter.
“This is by far the most talented team I’ve played on since I’ve been here,” Munnelly said. “We have guys deep at every position. I think it’s just going to be a very special team to watch this year.’”
If Munnelly and Cherry have their way, they’ll do more than just watch.
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