Emanuel improves Draft stock, UNC stays alive

Emanuel improves Draft stock, UNC stays alive

Emanuel improves Draft stock, UNC stays alive
OMAHA, Neb. -- A year ago, Kent Emanuel had the choice of signing with the Pittsburgh Pirates as a 19th-round Draft pick, or heading to the University of North Carolina with the 2013 First-Year Player Draft on his distant radar screen.

Emanuel took the college route and there haven't been many speed bumps for the freshman left-hander thus far. Emanuel landed on college baseball's biggest stage with a flourish on Monday, delivering a four-hit complete-game shutout as the Tar Heels stayed alive in the College World Series with a 3-0 victory over Texas, sending the Longhorns home.

If you want to see a complete game shutout in the CWS, it's advisable to check out a Tar Heel game. Emanuel's gem was the first complete shutout since North Carolina's Robert Woodard accomplished the feat against Clemson on June 18, 2006. The last freshman to throw a complete-game in the CWS prior to Emanuel was Brett Laxton of LSU against Wichita State on June 12, 1993.

Among those who saluted Emanuel afterwards was North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams, who knows a thing or two about postseason success. Emanuel is now 3-0 with a 0.39 ERA in three NCAA Tournament games.

It was the pinpoint control of his changeup that Emanuel cited as the key to his day of glory against the Longhorns.

"My fastball command is usually one of my strengths and I had that today as well," Emanuel said. "But it was my changeup that allowed me to keep them off-balance the whole game."

With the Texas hitters often getting out in front and putting the ball in play weakly, Emanuel sailed merrily along. The Woodstock, Ga., product wound up throwing 126 pitches, but showed no signs of wobbling in the ninth when he set down the Longhorns in order.

North Carolina coach Mike Fox praised the work ethic and unemotional demeanor that Emanuel has shown all season. Emanuel is now 9-1 and hopeful he'll get more opportunities as the Tar Heels try to work their way back from an opening-round loss to Vanderbilt.

"He has been able to handle the rigors of college baseball," Fox said. "He's very committed and he has had some pretty good examples to follow. He was pretty good before he got to North Carolina and we're happy to have him."

It was a day for the entire North Carolina battery to shine.

Tar Heel catcher Jacob Stallings provided the big blow with a two-out, two-run single in the third inning. That game-winning hit served as a belated Father's Day present for Kevin Stallings, the Vanderbilt men's basketball coach who has been in Omaha taking in the tournament.

Stallings mentioned that a couple of his teammates blasted shots that might have been home runs if a strong wind hadn't been blowing in. But Stallings' looping hit to right made it all a moot point.

"That's probably why my ball dropped, because the wind was blowing in," Stallings said.

North Carolina (51-15) earned the opportunity to play another elimination game on Wednesday at 6 p.m. CT. The Longhorns (49-19) became the first team to bow out of the College World Series, after an opening day loss to Vanderbilt.

"It was a brilliantly pitched game by [Emanuel]," said Texas coach Augie Garrido. "He got three pitches over and had command from beginning to end. The best we could have done was tie with no runs, because that's what their pitcher and defense gave them. We got outplayed twice [in the tournament] and that's the bottom line."

Emanuel's complete game was his second of the season. He also went the distance against Miami on April 24.

As a high school senior, the 6-foot-4, 188-pound Emanuel helped his team reach the Georgia state playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time in school history. Pro ball was a consideration, but Emanuel decided the right path for him was college ball at North Carolina.

"Hopefully, I'll get a chance to do pro ball as well," Emanuel said.

If Emanuel's Monday start is any indication, that shouldn't be an issue.

Monday's second game between Florida and Vanderbilt was suspended in the bottom of the sixth inning due to rain and high winds with the Gators leading, 3-1. The game will resume Tuesday at 10:06 a.m. ET.

Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.