Patience at the Plate

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- North Carolina entered the weekend with the top on base percentage in the country and this facet of the offense was on full display for both games in the doubleheader sweep of Duke on Saturday.

UNC's .426 on-base mark isn't an isolated statistic. Consider that, since 2000, only 13 teams nationally have finished a year with a positive walk-to-strikeout ratio. The 2013 Tar Heels are ahead of all of them through 40 games at +60 (236 walks, 176 strikeouts). The closest team to this rate of success was a +35 by Arizona State in 2003.

North Carolina led Duke 2-0 after the first inning of both contests on Saturday. These runs, which proved to be the deciding scores in each case, came from the team's simple philosophy: stay patient and find the pitch you want.

"It's something we talk about all the time - just looking for a pitch; if you don't get it then let it go," Cody Stubbs explained. The Waynesville, N.C. senior is a testament to that approach, considering he is batting .359 and reached base four times on Saturday by "just staying relaxed as I possibly can."

In game one, Chaz Frank opened the game by earning a walk after getting ahead in the count 3-1. After Frank, there were two hit batters and a walk, plus a wild pitch. UNC scored its two runs in that opening frame without a hit.

In game two, Frank sent a Duke offering off the wall for a double. From there, a single, hit batter and walk plated the two runs.

"We didn't swing the bat all that great today but you've got to try to manufacture runs some way and if the other team opens the door for you then you better take advantage of it," UNC head coach Mike Fox said.

Taking pitches and earning walks is not a new phenomena for this program, but it was an important theme for the Tar Heels on Saturday.

"It's just ball strike recognition," Fox said. "We feel like that's been a key to our offense. We'll take walks."

This doesn't sound like the aggressive approach one would think would be needed for UNC to possess the largest scoring margin in the country (+6.3). But it has. For that matter, UNC is the only school in the country above +4.8.

"I was saying a couple of days ago how I think our offense is really the difference between last year and this year," said junior pitcher Kent Emanuel. "Last year we didn't put up 14 runs against midweek teams like we do this year."

With such unparalleled numbers, it's no wonder this offensive approach has helped produce the best start in ACC history.

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