TALENT DRAIN

Jul. 07, 2013 @ 12:20 AM

Every morning during baseball season, North Carolina coach Mike Fox has the same routine. He wakes up, makes a cup of coffee, goes to his computer and visits MILB.com, the official website for minor league baseball. From there, he clicks on every former Tar Heel and sees how they performed the previous night.

The number of pages he visits is about to increase by seven. All four UNC juniors who were taken in the recent MLB draft have decided not to come back to school – ACC player of the year Colin Moran, ACC pitcher of the year Kent Emanuel, cleanup hitter Brian Holberton and Sunday starter Hobbs Johnson.

They will be joined in the professional ranks by three seniors – leadoff hitter Chaz Frank, midweek starter Chris Munnelly and first baseman Cody Stubbs, who led the team with a .366 average.

That seven-player group includes the pitchers who made eight of UNC’s 11 starts in the NCAA Tournament and four of the first five hitters in the batting order during the Tar Heels’ run through the College World Series, which ended in the baseball equivalent of the semifinals.

“We’ve lost more than seven players before,” Fox said. “But in terms of production, what these seven have done, it’s a lot. But it is what it is. We want our juniors to have great years because if they have great years we’re going to have a good season, and if the byproduct of that is them getting drafted and leaving, that’s just the nature of it.”

Moran, who led the country with a school-record 91 RBIs, was the sixth overall pick in the recent MLB Draft by Miami. Emanuel, who went 28-10 in his career, was the first pick in the third round by Houston.

Holberton, who had three of UNC’s four home runs in the postseason, was taken in the ninth round -- also by Houston -- and Johnson, who finished his career with 81⁄3 shutout innings against N.C. State in a College World Series elimination game, went off the board in the 14th round to Milwaukee.

 

Fox said he wasn’t surprised that all the drafted players are leaving.

“We recruit as if we’re going to lose every junior and senior year on our team,” Fox said. “We expect every junior we have to sign. It’s not the money. It’s chasing that dream.”

The Tar Heels do have some important pieces returning from the team that won a school-record 59 games.

Pitcher Trent Thornton, outfielder Skye Bolt and designated hitter Landon Lassiter all received freshman all-America recognition from the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, while Saturday starter Benton Moss was dominant early before struggling in the postseason.

Still, it will require some major reloading for UNC to make it back to Omaha next year for the seventh time in nine seasons.

“Are we going to be as good?” Fox said. “If I had to say, probably not. I don’t know that we have a guy that can come in and drive in 90 runs next year. But I’ve been surprised before. It’s the fun part of coaching.”