Silencing the Bats

Silencing the Bats

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Kent Emanuel put on his seemingly impenetrable postseason cape once again on Saturday, dismantling Towson's lethal bats for much of the night en route to an 8-5 victory for No. 1 national seed North Carolina.

No. 3 seed Towson entered Chapel Hill Regional's winners' bracket averaging 9.0 runs per game over the last three weeks, including 10.8 runs per game in postseason play.

Emanuel was unfazed by those statistics early, plowing through the Tigers' bats and facing the minimum through five innings. Two singles – one in the third; the other in the fourth – were erased with Emaneul's ninth and 10th pickoffs of the season.

"The kid had a lot of weapons to use and he used them when you wouldn't expect it, which is the art of pitching," Towson head coach Mike Gottlieb told reporters during his postgame press conference.

Towson's only recourse was to wait Emanuel out. The Tigers first scratched in the sixth on Pat Fitzgerald's RBI single to right field, and then added another run in the seventh on Brendan Butler's RBI single up the middle.

For the second straight evening at Boshamer Stadium, the Tar Heels encountered adversity in the eighth inning. UNC head coach Mike Fox had hoped to ride Emanuel through the eighth, but the control that had baffled the Tigers early leaked around the edges, resulting in three hits, a walk and a hit by pitch that ended the ace's night.

"He made a couple of bad pitches there at the end, but you've got to give Towson credit," Fox said. "Those kids stepped up there and when he made a mistake, they put the ball in play."

Gottlieb offered unique insight into his view of Emanuel's outing.

"The first half of the game he had great command of three pitches," Gottlieb said. "He never gave us a fastball when you might think a fastball's coming. He struck out Wertz in a key situation with a changeup away. I'm sure Kurt was looking fastball; he's a good fastball hitter.

"Late in the game, Emanuel lost a little bit of his command. It was hot and humid and we were able to start to put a dent in their lead, but obviously, too little, too late."

Emanuel (7.2 IP, 9 hits, 5 ER, 8 K) didn't necessarily agree with that verdict.

"I think the last three innings I just didn't make the big pitches that I'm usually able to make," he said.

There's a legitimate case to be made that Fox and pitching coach Scott Forbes had a little too lengthy of a leash on Emanuel in the eighth, but it's hard to argue with evidence supporting their decision. He's worked through the eighth inning in 10 starts this season.

And let's not forget his impeccable postseason resume. If Emanuel's eighth inning proves anything, it's that he's human when June rolls around.

To put Emanuel's NCAA Tournament dominance in perspective, look no further than the most decorated Tar Heel pitchers of the Mike Fox era – Andrew Miller and Alex White.

Miller's resume includes Baseball America's 2006 National Player of the Year and the 2006 Roger Clemens Award as the nation's top pitcher. White matched his predecessor two years later with All-America and ACC Pitcher of the Year honors.

During his career, Miller (2-2, 3 ND) allowed 22 earned runs on 36 hits in 40.0 innings in NCAA Tournament play. White (6-0, 3 ND) had more success in June, giving up 16 earned runs on 39 hits in 51.1 innings pitched. The Greenville, N.C. product notched three wins during the 2008 College World Series, two coming in relief.

While Emanuel hasn't matched White's heroics in Omaha thus far, the Woodstock, Ga. native's overall postseason statistics are undoubtedly more impressive. The junior southpaw (4-0, ND) has allowed just seven earned runs on 25 hits in 38.2 career innings in NCAA Tournament play, good for a 1.65 ERA.

 

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