Pitching Depth Outweighs Struggles

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina pitcher Cody Stiles entered Tuesday's game against Winthrop as the starter with a 1.69 ERA and a flawless 3-0 record, but eight pitchers ended up being the magic number for the sixth-ranked Tar Heels in their 12-6 victory.

UNC head coach Mike Fox had seen enough. Less than three innings into the game, the 6-foot-2 sophomore had given up two runs on three hits and three walks. Tate Parrish was then brought in to relieve Stiles, but it evolved into a domino effect at the mound as it became pitcher by committee for the Tar Heels (27-4, 10-2 ACC).

"We don't mind using a lot of pitchers," Fox said. "We have [them] down there, and we've got to keep them fresh. It depends on how the game goes. Some of it was situational. We brought Tate Parrish in, in particular, the very first time to face Brett Thomas, because we were in a little bit of a jam, and then we brought in R.C. [Orlan] to face a lefty. At the end, Smitty [Andrew Smith] needs to get some work and Hobbs Johnson needs to get some work."

On Tuesday, the mass substitutions at the mound were due in large part to necessity, not situational strategy changes. The Tar Heels did not record a strikeout until Shane Taylor replaced Tate Parrish in the top of the fourth.

Strong performances at the plate from Seth Baldwin (2 for 3, 2 RBI, 3 runs, and a triple) and Tom Zengel (2 for 4, 3 RBI, 1 run, 1 triple, 1 stolen base and a walk) kept Carolina in control. The Tar Heels clung to an 8-6 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning when Zengel came to bat. The freshman from High Bridge, N.J. clipped the Eagles' wings with a two-run triple to give UNC a 10-6 advantage.

"Offensively we made them pay for the mistakes that they made," UNC pitcher Greg Holt said. "They walked a couple of guys, and we had some big swings of the bat. That overall led to the victory today."

Holt, the fifth hurler to toe the mound for the Tar Heels, threw three strikeouts in the one inning he pitched, but also gave up three hits and two walks. He's right in saying the big swings are what led to another Carolina victory.

Fox does not mind using that many pitchers because he has a deep arsenal to choose from, but what the skipper does not want is to have to use them in a revolving door scenario, which is how it spun against the Eagles.

"We did not pitch well tonight," Fox said. "Way too many walks, and we didn't throw enough first pitch strikes. That was why the game was three hours and 30 minutes long, which is not the way it's supposed to be. We have some talent, but they've got to go out and to continue to perform."

North Carolina usually rotates more pitchers on weeknight games to give pitchers outside of the weekend rotation more experience, but this many is a rarity. Eight pitchers combined to throw 10 strikeouts, while giving up six runs on 10 hits and seven walks. That effort is not going to cut it as the Tar Heels travel to Tallahassee to face Florida State this weekend in an important ACC series.

Despite the lackluster effort from the mound, Fox said he is encouraged by the fact that he can reach that deep and a little deeper into his bullpen, especially as his team gets closer to the postseason.

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