CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Right-hander Jimmy Messer earned his first victory of the season leading No. 11 North Carolina over St. John’s 8-2 Wednesday at Boshamer Stadium. Ben Bunting and Tommy Coyle paced the Tar Heels offensively with three hits and two RBI. Carolina improves to 11-2 overall, while St. John’s fall to 7-3 on the season.
Messer (1-0) earned his third career victory hurling 5.2 innings while allowing only two runs on six hits and striking out three. Chris Munnelly, R.C. Orlan and Cody Penny were sound in relief allowing no runs in 3.1 innings. The Red Storm left 12 runners on base while registering nine hits.
Sean Hagan (1-1) suffers the loss after laboring in the first inning. Eddie Medina, Kevin Kilpatrick, Stephen Rivera and Ryan Cole all pitched in relief for the Red Storm.
Offensively six different Tar Heels recorded at least one hit. Bunting and Coyle each went 3-for-5 at the plate, while Ryan Graepel and Brian Goodwin each extended their hit streaks to seven and eight games, respectively. Jesse Wierzbicki went 2-for-5 with two RBI. Levi Michael posted the Heels’ only extra base hit, a triple down the right field line.
The Tar Heels scored six runs on five hits in the first inning. Bunting and Coyle each ripped singles up the middle and advanced on a sacrifice bunt from Michael. Walks issued to Graepel and Goodwin preceded a two-RBI single from Wierzbicki giving the Heels a 3-0 lead. Carolina added another run on an RBI base-on-balls from Stallings then a two-RBI single in Bunting’s second at-bat blew the score open to 6-0. Hagan labored allowing six runs on four hits and three walks, ending his day after one inning and 47 pitches.
Messer pitched well with the lead allowing only one run through his first five innings on the mound. An RBI groundout plated the first Red Storm run in the third.
Carolina responded in the bottom of the fourth after a leadoff triple off the bat of Michael was followed with an RBI sacrifice fly from Graepel to score the sophomore. Graepel tattooed a line drive in the right center gap that was corralled by Red Storm right fielder Joe Witkowski, but allowed Michael to score.
St. John’s cut into the Tar Heel lead in the top of the sixth, after a pair of hits and a walk loaded the base for the Red Storm. Messer walked in a run and then Munnelly entered the game to pitch, inheriting three base runners.
Munnelly ended the bases loaded threat with a quick groundout. The freshman wriggled out of a similar jam in the seventh inning. Three Red Storm singles loaded the bases, but Munnelly fanned one to record the first out of the frame. The freshman induced a groundball to third, and then Michael stepped on third base for the force out and fired across the diamond for an inning ending double play.
Orlan came on to pitch in the eighth and quickly retired the Red Storm hitters. The Tar Heels added some insurance runs in the bottom of the frame, as Graepel ripped an RBI single up the middle to score Coyle.
Carolina travels to Durham this weekend