North Carolina has Miami’s number and then some this season with the dominance of the top-seeded Tar Heels continuing right into Atlantic Coast Conference postseason play Thursday.
A suddenly slumping North Carolina, 3-4 in its past seven games, regained a form that produced the No. 1 ranking most of the season in its first game of the 2013 ACC tournament, getting stellar pitching and turning in some slick defensive plays en route to a 10-0 drubbing of the Hurricanes.
The Tar Heels wore out the 32-foot high Blue Monster wall in left field at Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, N.C., banging out 18 hits as Miami dropped to 6-8 in ACC tournament play since winning the title in 2008.
“It’s a good start to the tournament for us,” UNC coach Mike Fox said. “Our kids were ready. I challenged our kids before the game because the teams that have won so far in this tournament look like they’ve been locked in. We had some guys have some individual spectacular games, and we got contributions from everybody.”
Cody Stubbs and Brian Holberton each had three RBI, and with Skye Bolt combined for 10 of North Carolina’s 18 hits.
The Hurricanes were outscored 29-7 in four games this season — with just one extra base hit in 36 innings — against the talented Tar Heels (49-8).
“It wasn’t a very good game to watch, that’s for sure,” UM coach Jim Morris said. “They are a very, very solid team. Give them credit, but on the other hand we didn’t do a very good job, we made no adjustments at the plate and we didn’t pitch as well as we’ve been pitching.”
Miami, with no .300 hitters in its starting lineup compared with four Tar Heels hitting .350 or better, remained a club searching for offense. Kent Emanuel, the ACC Pitcher of the Year, was wild early on but didn’t allow a Miami hit until two outs in the fifth inning, and by that time the Tar Heels were comfortably in front 5-0.
Emanuel (10-3) worked eight innings, allowing just four harmless singles on 97 pitches.
“They were in total swing mode the whole day,” said Emanuel, who was sixth in the ACC in strikeouts this season but didn’t record a single punchout Thursday. “Even if I made bad pitches it seemed like they would swing and get themselves out.”
The eighth-seeded Hurricanes (35-22) will next take on another team with solid pitching — North Carolina State — in the first game of the tournament Friday morning in Pool A of the event.
Six of North Carolina’s eight losses this season have been against left-handed starters, but the Tar Heels wasted little time getting to Andrew Suarez (3-5), scoring three runs and banging out five singles in the first inning alone. Holberton had a two-run hit to get North Carolina off to its fast start.
Emanuel and shortstop Michael Russell each made great defensive plays in the next two innings to set the tone for the Tar Heels. Emanuel flagged down a liner with his glove, but the ball bounced well toward the first base line. The 6-4 pitcher then hopped off the mound and was able to throw out Garrett Kennedy.
“I’ve said many times that Kent is the best fielding pitcher I’ve ever coached,” Fox said.
Russell then made a diving stop and threw out lead-off hitter Tyler Palmer to keep the Hurricanes hitless through three innings.
“The trait of a lot of really, really good pitchers are you better get them early,” Morris said. “After he settled down … we didn’t have many opportunities after that.”
In the bottom of the third inning, a two-run single by Stubbs gave the Tar Heels a five-run lead, while a bouncer up the middle by Matt Roberts off the first hitter faced by Miami reliever Eric Whaley in the sixth drove in two more to put the game out of reach.
Suarez pitched well against North Carolina in March, but he allowed 11 hits and seven runs in 5 1/3 innings this time around.