After last night's utterly inexplicable performance at the plate by the Tar Heels there is really one clear mission tonight.
Score runs until Florida Atlantic brings a position player in to pitch.
Anything less than that opens the door to all sorts of shenanigans the Tar Heels would rather avoid. After all, this is the #1 overall seed playing in a winner-take-all game in the regional. All the pressure rest squarely on the shoulders of the team wearing Carolina blue. FAU, which would love to play next weekend in Columbia, SC, is essentially operating beyond expectations. The Owls were the looser team on Sunday night while it was clear the Tar Heels were feeling the heat a little. Couple that with the admission from senior CF Chaz Frank than maybe UNC didn't take FAU seriously enough, it was the perfect recipe for what happened.
Bearing that in mind, I would be surprised if the Tar Heels' focus wasn't a tad different tonight. It also will be extremely important for North Carolina(especially Colin Moran and Skye Bolt) to cash in on the first scoring opportunity that arises. If not, there is a good chance the "here we go again" level of tightness will increase exponentially.
Mike Fox will hand the ball to senior pitcher Chris Munnelly who normally starts midweek games. Munnelly is 6-0 on the season with a 2.36 ERA in 53.1 IP. Munnelly's last outing was three shutout innings in getting the win over NC State in the 18-inning ACC Tournament game. His last start was on May 20th versus FSU where he went 4.0 innings giving up three hits and one earned run. FAU will counter with Jeremy Strawn who is 5-3 on the season with a 3.28 ERA. This will be Strawn's second start of the regional. On Friday, he threw 82 pitches over five innings and gave up five earned runs taking the loss in the Owls' tournament opener.
And therein lies the theoretical advantage for UNC. The Heels are sending their fourth starter to the mound while the Owls will be forced to use a starter who will go out there on two days rest. In theory, the Tar Heels should be able to get to Strawn early and force FAU to use its bullpen which is also somewhat exercised since this is the fifth game of the regional.
Then again, the number of times in the past 24 hours I've heard people say they've never seen a team only score two runs with runners on base in every inning pretty much means theory is probably out the window.