CHAPEL HILL --- Joe Dudek's first career grand slam highlighted a 6-run first and No. 15 North Carolina opened Atlantic Coast Conference play with a 9-5 win over league newcomer Pittsburgh Saturday afternoon at Boshamer Stadium. Trent Thornton went 6.2 innings for his fourth win of the year and Chris McCue got the final four outs for his fifth save in as many chances.
Carolina (9-3, 1-0 ACC) sent nine men to the plate in the first in support of Thornton. Wood Myers led off the frame with a single, Landon Lassiter followed that with a single of his own and Michael Russell walked to load the bases with no one out. After a Skye Bolt sac fly and a Parks Jordan HBP plated a pair of runs, Dudek smoked a 3-1 pitch from Matt Wotherspoon into the trees in right to give the Tar Heels a 6-0 lead.
The Tar Heels added single runs in the second and fourth before Thornton ran into trouble in the fifth thanks in part to an on-field delay. With a runner on first and Pitt's Eric Hess at the plate, home plate umpire A.J. Lostaglio was hit by a foul tip and eventually had to leave the game.
After a 15-minute delay, Thornton struggled to find the strike zone. The sophomore standout, who had walked just two batters in 20.1 innings entering Saturday, walked four Panthers and allowed a 2-run single to Casey Roche to make it 8-4. Thornton got out of the inning in unconventional fashion when Roche overran second and Boo Vazquez was thrown out at home trying to score during the rundown.
Carolina added another insurance run in the sixth on a Jordan fielder's choice before going to its bullpen in the seventh. After Thornton got two quick outs, Pitt got back-to-back singles from Roche and Jordan Frabasilio. Reilly Hovis hit the only batter he faced before Zach Rice struck out Steven Shelinsky Jr. with the bases loaded to end the threat.
Pitt (4-6, 0-1 ACC) had the tying run on deck in both the eighth and the ninth but McCue was able to shut the door both times. The Charlotte, N.C., junior finished his fifth save - all of the 4-plus-out variety - by getting Matt Johnson to bunt back to him and Caleb Parry to pop up to first, stranding runners on second and third.
Bolt finished a very productive day 3 for 3 with three RBIs, while Tyler Ramirez also had three hits. Fabasilio had four hits to lead Pitt, while Panther starter Wotherspoon fell to 2-2 on the year after allowing eight earned runs and 12 hits in 4.2 innings.
Carolina and Pitt continued the series with a second game later Saturday.