CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) -- Kent Emanuel pitched into the eighth inning, and Michael Russell drove in three runs as No. 1 national seed North Carolina beat Towson 8-5 on Saturday night in the Chapel Hill regional.
The Tar Heels (54-8) led 5-0 in the sixth before the third-seeded Tigers (30-29) rallied with three runs in the eighth off Emanuel. Two of those came on a bases-loaded single by Kurt Wentz, helping the Tigers pull within 7-5 before UNC reliever Trent Thornton forced Brendan Butler to fly out to end the inning.
"I'm sure we are all are excited to win," UNC head coach Mike Fox said. "Nothing's easy obviously at this stage of this season. A great pitching performance by Kent and we just kept hanging in there."
UNC added an insurance run on Skye Bolt's sacrifice fly in the ninth, then Thornton ended it by forcing Hunter Bennett to fly out for his eighth save of the year.
Emanuel (11-3) struck out eight in 7 2-3 innings, while Towson's Brandon Gonnella (4-5) allowed 11 hits and seven runs in 7 2-3 innings.
Carolina took a 1-0 lead in the second behind the eighth home run of the year for Cody Stubbs before pushing to the lead to 5-0 by the 6th.
The Tar Heels added a pair of runs in the fourth behind a two-run two-out single by Michael Russell before adding a single run in the fifth on a Chaz Frank sacrifice fly and a Brian Holberton RBI double.
Towson meets Florida Atlantic in an elimination game Sunday with the winner facing North Carolina at 6 p.m.