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February 15, 2013

Emanuel prevails in pitcher's duel

CHAPEL HILL--- Despite unseasonably warm temperatures, North Carolina's bats were cold in its season opener Friday afternoon at Boshamer Stadium against Seton Hall.

But the Diamond Heels had Kent Emanuel on the mound, and the left-hander pitched like a true ace in leading UNC to a slim 1-0 victory to pick up its 15th straight Opening Day win under head coach Mike Fox.

Emanuel went the distance in a four-hit shutout, keeping UNC in a game in which the Tar Heel bats reflected the rust of a long offseason.

The game was a classic pitcher's duel, with Emanuel and Seton Hall's Jon Prosinski matching each other pitch-by-pitch through five-plus innings before Carolina finally broke through in the bottom of the sixth for the game's only run.

Seton Hall's opening batter of the game, center fielder Zack Granite, reached base on a fielding error by freshman second baseman Landon Lassiter, who was making his first appearance for the Tar Heels.

From there Emanuel got 14 consecutive Pirate batters out and took a no-hitter two outs into the fifth inning, when third baseman Kyle Grimm plugged one through the hole between shortstop and third for Seton Hall's first hit.

After five innings of being perplexed by Prosinski, Carolina finally got something going offensively in the bottom of the sixth, as freshman Skye Bolt, making his debut in a UNC uniform, bounced a clean single through the right side and reached second on a Brian Holberton walk---the first walk allowed up to that point by Prosinski.

Following a sacrifice bunt by catcher Matt Roberts, which moved Bolt to third and Holberton to second, UNC leadoff man Chaz Frank lofted a fly ball to short center field.

Seton Hall's Zack Granite made the play in center and came up throwing, nailing a strike to catcher Dillon Hamlin.

Bolt, streaking down the line, slid under Hamlin's high tag, giving Carolina a 1-0 lead.

Emanuel maintained his control of the game in the seventh, allowing Seton Hall's second hit to shortstop Giuseppe Papaccio, but promptly picking him off and striking out Pirates cleanup man Sal Annunziata to end the threat.

Seton Hall didn't get a single runner in scoring position until the eighth, when Scott Kalamar singled and was sacrificed to second by Grimm.

But Emanuel forced John Beaubein into a comebacker to the mound for the second out, and then got Hamlin to strike out after Kalamar had reached third on a wild pitch.

Prosinski gave way to Pirates lefty reliever Greg Terhune in the bottom half of the eighth, and he promptly save up a single to Parks Jordan before getting out of the inning.

Having thrown under a hundred pitches through eight innings, Emanuel returned to the mound for the top of the ninth, only to watch Chris Selden line a single up the middle for Seton Hall to lead off the frame.

The Tar Heels had multiple relievers throwing in the bullpen as Emanuel bore down and coaxed a sacrifice bunt out of Granite, but Cody Stubbs dropped Colin Moran's throw and everybody was safe.

Another sacrifice bunt, this one by Genovese, moved Selden to third and Granite to second for Pappacio, who worked a 2-0 count before Emanuel came back and picked up two strikes.

With the crowd rising to its feet, Emanuel threw a nasty offspeed pitch on the inside corner that caught Pappacio looking for the second out.

Annunziata was Seton Hall's last hope, and the Pirates first baseman bounced a high grounder right at the mound. Emanuel needed every inch of his 6-4 frame to come down with the ball, and his throw to first secured the season-opening triumph.

Stay tuned to Tar Heel Illustrated for much more from Chapel Hill.


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