CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Freshman Kent Emanuel was impressive in the first home start of his career Tuesday as the left-hander threw eight innings of one-run ball, while striking out nine in No. 17 North Carolina's 4-2 win over Charlotte (7-2). The top three batters in the lineup combined for six hits as the Tar Heels moved to 7-1 on the year. The Tar Heels will host Davidson in a mid-week tilt on Wednesday at 3 p.m.
Emanuel was dealing from the get-go as the freshman southpaw forced a ground out before getting back-to-back strikeouts to end the first.
Emanuel's offense provided some immediate help in the bottom half of the first. The first four batters tallied hits to start an early rally. Ben Bunting led off with a sharply lined single to right center before swiping second base. Tommy Coyle turned on a Chad Rothlin offering and ripped a double down the right field line easily scoring Bunting.
Hot-hitting Levi Michael followed with a warning-track double to right center to score Coyle from second before Colin Moran laced a single through the right side to put runners at the corners. Catcher Jacob Stallings would hit into a tailor-made double play to stop the hit streak but not before Michael scored to make it a 3-0 game after one.
Emanuel set the 49ers down in order again in the second as the Woodstock, Ga., native rang up two more batters.
Carolina loaded the bases in the second and put a pair of runners on in the third but were the victims of two double plays, including a near triple play to thwart any insurance runs for Emanuel.
The bottom of the third saw back-to-back walks to Michael and Moran before Stallings attempted a drag bunt but Micah Bryan sprang from the mound and made a diving catch. Bryan fired to second base to cut down Michael but Moran was narrowly able to dive into first beating the relay throw and stopping the triple play.
The Tar Heel bats may have been silented but Emanuel returned for the fourth looking even more dominant picking up a strike out and a pair of fly outs for his third 1-2-3 inning in the first four.
Emanuel did it again in the fifth and sixth innings as the freshman threw just 14 pitches en route to six outs, including his seventh strikeout of the contest.
Charlotte finally picked up its second hit of the contest to open the seventh as Shane Brown led off with a single to left but Emanuel earned his first collegiate pickoff as his move to first caught Brown leaning which allowed Jesse Wierzbicki throw to Michael at second base for the first out of the inning. Another punch out and an attempted bunt would end the seventh for Charlotte.
The Tar Heels finally tacked on an insurance run in the seventh when Levi Michael tripled to left field and scored when Stallings lined a shot to center field for a sacrifice fly making the score 4-0 in favor of Carolina.
Another 1-2-3 inning by Emanuel put him in line for the first complete game shutout by a freshman since Andy Gale in 2005.
Opening the ninth, Charlotte's Justin Seager, the younger brother of
Tar Heel All-America Kyle Seager, lifted a foul ball down the right-field line just out of the reach of Jeff Bouton before singling to center. A misplayed ball put runners at first and second with nobody out. A double by Cory Tilton would break up the shutout and end Emanuel's day as Charlotte cut the deficit to 4-2.
Sophomore Cody Penny would come out of the pen for Carolina looking for the final three outs of the contest. After issuing a walk to put runners at first and second Penny forced a 4-6-3 double play and then struck out Justin Wilson for his third save of the year.
The win was Emanuel's first of his career and the fourth straight decision for a Tar Heel starter.
Bunting, Coyle and Michael each tallied two hits on the day, while Chaz Frank chipped in three hits of his own. Michael extended his season-opening hit streak to eight games, while Tom Zengel has now tallied a hit in seven consecutive games.
Up next for Carolina is another mid-week tilt on Wednesday against Davidson at 3 p.m. Cody Stiles will get the start for Carolina.