Frank scores winning run for No. 1 Tar Heels to beat No. 12 Rice in ninth inning
HOUSTON -- No. 1 North Carolina claimed a 2-1 win against No. 12 Rice to open the Astros Foundation College Classic Friday in Houston, Texas.
The pitcher's duel more than lived up to its billing Friday afternoon as UNC's Kent Emanuel and Rice's Austin Kubitza surrendered just one run apiece.
Rice struck first in the bottom of the second inning when clean-up hitter Michael Aquino opened the frame with a shot into the left center field gap. Aquino would race around for a triple putting Emanuel into some early trouble. Emanuel forced a weak ground out to third before walking an Owl to put runners on the corners.
Centerfielder Leon Byrd dropped down a sacrifice squeeze bunt back to Emanuel. The left-hander attempted to barehand the ball and flip for the out at the plate but was unable to get a grip on the ball. Emanuel quickly turned and fired to first to get Byrd but allowed Aquino to score and give Rice a 1-0 advantage.
The score would remain that way as Rice starter Austin Kubitza kept the Tar Heels off balance all night long. Kubitza would rack up nine strikeouts on the afternoon before departing with two outs in the seventh inning.
Mike Zolk had opened the inning with a single through the middle before Brian Holberton placed a sacrifice bunt toward first base that Rice failed to field to put the first two on base. A Parks Jordan fly ball to center field moved Zolk to third before Kubitza unleashed a wild pitch to score Zolk and knot the game at 1-1.
Emanuel would escape trouble in the seventh after surrendering a two-out double thus ending his day. The Woodstock, Ga., native allowed just the one run on eight hits with five strikeouts over seven innings of work.
Carolina would strand a pair in the eighth and Trevor Kelley and Chris McCue would combine on a scoreless bottom half to bring the Tar Heels back to bat.
Brian Holberton notched his third hit of the afternoon to open the inning when he laced a single through the right side.
Freshman Korey Dunbar was unable to place a sacrifice bunt as Holberton was cut down at second but Chaz Frank delivered what appeared to be the game-winning hit.
Frank lined a double the opposite way over the left fielder's head. Dunbar raced around the bases from first but the relay from the shortstop would keep the game tied at 1-1.
Frank would advance to third on the relay throw and the advantageous senior did not hesitate when reliever Zech Lemond missed the target.
Lemond's pitch bounced away from catcher Geoff Perrott and Frank sprinted down the line and slid under the tag of Lemond to put UNC in front, 2-1.
Sophomore right-hander Luis Paula would earn his first career save with a scoreless ninth as the Tar Heels remain undefeated at 8-0.
Chris McCue earned the win out of the bullpen and improved to 2-0 on the year.