Recently, runs have been at a premium for the Heels. Coming into Friday’s contest, North Carolina had only scored a total of nine runs in the previous four contests. On the season, the team has put up 243 runs, which ranks 93rd in the country.
“It is the freakiness of baseball,” head coach Mike Fox said. “Hitting can be contagious hot and cold. It’s the nature of baseball, which makes it fun for all of us to kind of guess how it works.”
In particular, starting pitcher Kent Emanuel has received little support from the Tar Heel bats. In the left-hander's previous seven starts, North Carolina scored a combined nine runs. The offense nearly matched that total in the second inning against Boston College.
By the time Emanuel left the game after the sixth inning, the Tar Heels led 15-0. The sophomore ace tallied his sixth win of the season to go along with three losses and a 1.83 ERA.
“Regardless of what [the offense] does, I am always going to go out there and just try to throw a shut out inning,” Emanuel told reporters after the game. “… I’ll always take an eight-spot, no matter when it is.”
North Carolina has demonstrated flashes of offensive prowess this season, scoring 10 or more runs on eleven occasions. However, five of those double-digit explosions occurred in the first eight games of the season. Consistency at the plate has plagued the Tar Heels this season.
The eight spot put up in the second tied a season high for runs in an inning for the UNC offense. The Tar Heels also drove home eight runs in a single inning against Wright State on Feb. 24 and Georgia Tech recently on Apr. 21.
“I think it’s good, but at the same time, it’s only one game, so we've just got to take it and forget about it tomorrow,” third baseman Colin Moran said. “But it’s good for the offense to get it going so hopefully we can keep it going down the stretch.”
Certainly, the return of an All-American in Moran helps the offense’s cause. The sophomore from Rye, N.Y., who sat out 21 games due to a broken hand, is without question the Tar Heels' best hitter, batting .398 on the season. Friday night's win was Moran’s second game back from injury.
“It didn’t take me as long as I would think to get my timing back, but the coaches helped a ton with that,” Moran commented. “The practice I’ve had with a week off from exams helped a ton.”
In order to cement a national seed and make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament this June, the Tar Heels need to build off Friday’s performance and continue to hit well.
“We have to get a little more consistent and get some guys swinging the bat a little bit better down the stretch,” Fox said. “The games are going to be close so it always comes down to a big hit or a big play in the tournament generally.”
Baseball is a peculiar game. While one game does not make or break a season, it can open the floodgates for a team or player to catch fire at the plate. The Heels hope the lopsided win over the Eagles is a step towards more consistent hitting as the regular season winds down.
“Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come,” Emanuel said.