North Carolina’s offense wobbled again Monday, but that didn’t matter much.
Freshman left-hander Kent Emanuel pitched the first complete-game shutout at the College World Series in five years, a four-hitter for a 3-0 victory over Texas on Monday, to keep the Tar Heels in contention in Bracket One.
“Sensational performance is probably an understatement,” North Carolina coach Mike Fox said.
Jacob Stallings drove in two runs with a third-inning single, Ben Bunting capped a four-hit game with an RBI double and Emanuel made it stand before a TD Ameritrade Park crowd of 19,630.
North Carolina (51-15) survives to play in Wednesday’s 6 p.m. elimination game against the loser of Monday’s late game between Florida and Vanderbilt.
Emanuel (9-1) pitched the first complete-game shutout at the CWS since former Tar Heel Robert Woodard, now an assistant coach, shut out Clemson 2-0 in 2006. There were two other combined shutouts by Oregon State in that series, but no pitching staff has spun a scoreless game since.
“My fastball command is usually one of my strengths, and I had that today,” Emanuel said. “But I think my changeup was enough to keep them off-balance a little bit. I just wanted to use my confidence and use this stage as my motivation.”
Texas coach Augie Garrido saw his team produce only four singles and advance only one runner to second base in the first CWS shutout by a freshman since LSU’s Brett Laxton in 1993.
“It was a brilliantly pitched game by their pitcher,” Garrido said. “He got three pitches over (for strikes), and he used them in different counts. And he had terrific command from beginning to end.”
Emanuel was a 19th-round draft pick by Pittsburgh last year who elected to attend college. He also had a complete-game, 8-1 win over Miami (Fla.) in a regular-season game April 24.
He faced three batters over the minimum against Texas in a 126-pitch effort that included 89 strikes. He walked one and struck out five.
“My arm felt great the whole game,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of rest, and I think that helped.”
Texas shortstop Brandon Loy said Emanuel mixed his pitches early in counts and “kind of had us on our heels the entire game.”
“It wasn’t anything overpowering,” Loy said, “but he hit spots and he threw three pitches for strikes where he wanted to throw them. That makes it tough on hitters.”
Two of Texas’ first seven hitters had singles, but after that the Longhorns were 2 for 21.
“I thought his curveball and changeup command were what set this performance apart,” said Stallings, the Tar Heel catcher. “Usually he absolutely commands his fastball and throws it wherever he wants.
“(But) it seemed like they were on his fastball a little, especially with two strikes, so we started going to more breaking balls and offspeed pitches.”
The Tar Heels, who had stranded 16 baserunners in a 7-3 loss to Vanderbilt on Saturday, left nine on base Monday.
Stallings deposited a two-run, opposite-field single to right for the game’s first runs. The Tar Heels stranded eight runners through five innings.
“You just have to keep taking deep breaths there,” Fox said.
“Jacob got enough of that ball to drop it in there. That kind of let the air out of our dugout a little bit. We knew the way Kent was throwing it, that it might have been enough.”
Bunting’s RBI double made it 3-0 in the ninth.
The only Longhorn to reach second base was Mark Payton, in the fourth inning. But he became the second Texas player to get doubled off by an outfielder on a fly ball as he broke for third on a line drive to Seth Baldwin in right. Jonathan Walsh, going on a hit-and-run, was doubled off first base in the second inning by left fielder Chaz Frank.
“They were being aggressive, they got a read, and (the North Carolina outfielders’) athleticism got them to the ball when the runner didn’t think they were going to get there,” Garrido said.
“In hindsight, it doesn’t look very good, but in reality the player has the right to read the ball. Then, if they do make a mistake, then we all have a chance to overcome it.
“(But) the best we could have done today against that pitcher is tie.”
— Steven Pivovar