UNC baseball pitches forward in season
Much to-do has been made about the No. 1 North Carolina baseball team’s offense this season — and rightfully so — but outfielder Skye Bolt’s injury served as a reminder that the real strength of the team is in its pitching.
None of this is news to senior center fielder Chaz Frank.
“Absolutely, we are known for our pitching and defense,” Frank said. “Over the past four years I have been here, that’s what we have been known for.
That statement was true Tuesday night against Coastal Carolina, with UNC just letting up a single run during nine innings — taking the 5-1 win.
Starting pitcher Chris Munnelly battled on the mound for 6 2/3 innings, allowing the only run Coastal would tally while recording six strikeouts and allowing just five hits.
“I think it went well,” Munnelly said. “I got ahead in a lot of counts, they put the ball in play, (I) let my defense play behind me.
“I didn’t throw a lot of pitches, which was good — it let me go deep in the game, and we grinded it out and got the win.”
It seemed like runners were constantly on base while Munnelly was pitching, but he always managed to work his way out of it. The only run he gave up was off of a solo home run by Jacob May.
“I wasn’t trying to put runners on,” Munnelly laughed.
“It felt every inning the first batter got on, and that’s not a good thing, but I feel like it helped me lock in a little bit better every inning.”
Munnelly, who serves as a usual midweek starter, improved to 4-0 on the season.
“Chris has been good for us,” Fox said. “He had some big strikeouts in the inning when they were threatening.
“Having a senior start in the middle of the week is a great luxury for us right now.”
Another luxury the Tar Heels can boast of is their impressive pitching depth. UNC has great power arms at the top of the rotation in Kent Emanuel, Benton Moss and Hobbs Johnson, but many other pitchers have been performing as well.
The highest ERA of all UNC pitchers with 10 or more innings pitched is 3.00 from Moss. Munnelly, Trent Thornton and Chris McCue (all of whom pitched in the win Tuesday) have ERAs below 1.60, with Thornton boasting a .56 in 48 1/3 innings pitched.
Thornton got the save Tuesday night. He entered the game with the bases loaded in the top of the ninth, coming through in a tight situation yet again.
“He throws strikes … I just don’t want people out there that are going to walk people in the ninth inning, and Trent doesn’t usually walk people, so that was important.”
McCue also performed well in his relief appearance, throwing two innings with one strikeout, while allowing just two hits and one walk.
While Bolt’s injury may hinder the team’s offensive production, what UNC baseball has been known for year after year — pitching and defense — is as consistent as it’s ever been.
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