CHAPEL HILL --- Korey Dunbar smacked his first career home run and Trent Thornton tossed 7.2 scoreless innings for his third win of the year as No. 17 North Carolina beat North Florida 3-0 in the series opener Friday at Boshamer Stadium. Chris McCue got the final four outs of the game for his third save in as many chances as the Tar Heels improved to 5-3 with their fourth win in a row.
Starting for the first time after missing the opening six games of 2014 with mono, Dunbar got Carolina on the board with a two-run shot in the second. Tom Zengel reached on a leadoff single before the sophomore catcher from Charleston, W.Va., lifted a 2-2 pitch from UNF starter David Trexler over the left field wall to give the Tar Heels a 2-0 lead.
That would be more than enough for Thornton, who has allowed just three earned runs in 20.1 innings and lowered his ERA to 1.33 with Friday's outing. North Florida (4-4) did not have a baserunner advance past second until the sixth, when Thornton got Trent Higginbothem to fly out with runners on the corners and two out.
Carolina added a run in the fifth with a two-out RBI from Michael Russell. Wood Myers reached on a one-out single and advanced to third on a stolen base and a balk. After Skye Bolt struck out, Landon Lassiter walked and stole second before Russell drove in his team-high seventh run of the season to make it 3-0.
Thornton cruised through the seventh and got two quick outs in the eighth before giving up a single to Drew Weeks that ended his day after 97 pitches. After Zach Rice allowed a single to Donnie Dewees that brought the tying run to the plate, McCue came on and struck out Higgenbothem to end the threat.
The Ospreys loaded the bases in the ninth with a bloop single and a pair of walks, but McCue got Patrick Ervin to ground the first pitch to Russell, who made a nice play on a spinning, in-between hop to end it.
Weeks led North Florida with three hits, and Jamie Cardwell tossed two scoreless innings of relief for the visitors from Jacksonville.
Carolina will send Benton Moss to the hill in Saturday's game two, while UNF counters with junior righty Evan Incinelli. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m. and tickets are available at the Boshamer box office and on GoHeels.com.