Ryan Wilkins has been lights out for the Pack this season in both bullpen and starting roles, but if he has a weakness it is that he is far less effective against left-handed hitters than against righties. Number one ranked North Carolina has lefties in four of the first five spots in the batting order, and those port-side swingers combined to go 3-for-4 off Wilkins to chase him from the game in the top of the first inning. The big blow was Colin Moran's home run that staked the Tar Heels to a 3-0 lead before Wilkins recorded an out.
If the #6 Pack (33-11, 14-8) were deflated by falling into an early hole, Tar Heel ace Kent Emanuel made sure they stayed that way. Emanuel (9-1) fanned nine and allowed just one run over eight innings, pitching the Heels (41-3, 19-2) to a 7-1 win and a 1-0 lead in the best of three series from Doak Field in Raleigh. The loss put an end to the Pack's 15-game win streak.
Wilkins (5-2) wound up surrendering five hits and recording just one out. He was charged with three earned runs. The home run was Moran's 11th of the season.
If there was a silver lining for the Pack, it was the yeoman's work of D.J. Thomas out of the pen. Thomas not only ate innings to save the rest of the pen from getting used up after Wilkins's short outing, he also pitched well, allowing three runs, only one of which was earned, in five and two third innings. On Tuesday, Wilmington's Kelly Secrest shutout the Heels for five and two third innings. Both of those gentlemen are lefties and thus more likely to neutralize Carolina's lineup. In Carlos Rodon and Brad Stone, the Pack with have two lefty starters to close the series. Lefty bullpen mates Grant Sasser and Travis Orwig will also be available.
Even if the Pack lefties slow down a Carolina attack that averages nearly nine runs a game, it won't matter if the team doesn't hit. Trea Turner, Jake Fincher, and Tarran Senay, the 1-2-4 hitters, combined to go 0-for-12. Turner did walk twice and steal his 19th and 20th bases of the season, but he was stranded both times. The Pack left 12 on for the game.
Brett Austin and Bryan Adametz had solid games for the Pack. Both had a pair of hits, Austin nabbed two runners trying to steal, and Adametz scored the Pack's lone run.
Game two of the sold out series is slated for Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. It will be broadcast on ESPN3. Game three, which will air on ESPNU, starts at 7:00 p.m. Sunday.