Current Date: Tue, 11 Mar 2014 15:42:26 -0400
With all three of his weekend starters returning for North Carolina’s 2013 season, coach Mike Fox hasn’t been shy about revealing where his confidence lies.
Games this season, he has said time and time again, will be won on the mound.
But with a 7-1 win against Coastal Carolina at Boshamer Stadium on Monday — UNC scoring its 24th run in a two-game span — the Tar Heels proved that they might be just as formidable at the plate.
North Carolina, which beat Seton Hall 17- 2 on Sunday afternoon, scored its seven runs against the Chanticleers on eight hits Monday. Center fielder Chaz Frank went two-for-four with three RBI, helping the Tar Heels grab an early lead with a bases-clearing triple in the second inning.
Despite offensive dominance, Fox is still sure pitching will continue to be the key.
“We’ve got the capability of scoring some runs. But it’s still all about our pitching,” he said. “When we get a lead like that … we feel like if we play good defense we’re going to have a good chance to win the game.”
Left-hander Hobbs Johnson missed his pitching debut due to Saturday’s snowed-out game, but threw the first 4 and 1/3 innings for UNC against Coastal Carolina. Fox pulled him mid-inning as a precaution when Johnson began feeling tightness in his forearm.
Fox said he thought reliever Chris McCue, who replaced Johnson on the mound, was the most significant player defensively. The sophomore pitched 2 and 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and striking out five.
McCue was thankful for the 5-1 lead he stepped into.
“Last year we were more pitching and defense dominance, but it’s nice to get the best of both worlds right now,” McCue said. “It’s a lot easier to pitch with a lead.”
Coming into Monday’s game 6-for-8 in his first two appearances as a Tar Heel, freshman right fielder Skye Bolt continued his offensive output against the Chanticleers, adding two more hits and an RBI.
Bolt, who hit in the seven-hole on Friday and Sunday, batted fourth Monday afternoon, a move Fox said he made to play to Bolt’s switch-hitting strengths.
Following heavy-hitter Colin Moran in the lineup, Bolt’s new spot comes with bigger responsibility. But it’s one the confident rookie shrugs off.
“It’s still the same game, still the same guy on the mound,” Bolt said. “It doesn’t matter if I’m fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth or even if I’m ninth.”
Bolt doesn’t worry much about his role on the team, or the Tar Heels’ ability to put runs on the board. Bolt and his teammates have already proven they’re capable of doing exactly that.
“(Defense has) always been our staple, and I think it’ll continue to be our staple,” he said. “For us up there at the plate, it’s nothing new. We’re trying to give them run support and we know we can do it this year.”
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