NCAA Baseball: North Carolina 12, Kansas 1
By Aaron Beard
CHAPEL HILL ó Garrett Gore hadn’t shown much pop at the plate this season ó until Sunday.
Gore hit a grand slam to highlight a seven-run third inning and followed with another homer two innings later to help North Carolina beat Kansas 12-1 to win its NCAA regional. The slam was the first career postseason homer for Gore, who had three home runs this season and seven for his career before Sunday.
Gore was a small part of a dominant performance for the Tar Heels (45-16), who had no trouble advancing to this week’s super regionals. North Carolina, the No. 4 national seed in pursuit of a fourth straight trip to the College World Series, got a strong effort on the mound from starter Adam Warren and key hits from Kyle Seager and Dustin Ackley to overwhelm the Jayhawks (39-24).
The win improved the Tar Heels to 12-0 at home in NCAA regional play over the past four seasons. And they could be sticking around Boshamer Stadium for the next round, too, though the NCAA won’t announce super regional sites until Monday night.
The Tar Heels won their three games in the regional by a combined score of 31-8.
“You can tell with the NCAA tournament ó I think it is with most every team ó you dial it up a notch,” North Carolina coach Mike Fox said. “And our guys were really locked in this weekend.”
Gore finished with three hits and a career-high five RBIs, while Ackley had three hits and his 21st home run of the season. Ackley earned regional MVP honors, going 10-for-14 at the plate with five RBIs in the regional games.
Kansas (39-24) ó which had beaten Coastal Carolina in an elimination game earlier Sunday ó never had an answer on the mound or at the plate. The Jayhawks managed just five hits against Warren (8-2), who struck out eight batters in 6 2-3 innings.
After surrendering a leadoff single, Warren retired the next 10 batters. By the time Kansas got its second hit, North Carolina’s batters had put the game out of reach.
Seager got the Tar Heels on the board in the third inning with a two-run single. Then, after Ryan Graepel’s RBI single, Gore smacked the first pitch from reliever Brett Bollman ó who had just replaced ineffective reliever-turned-starter Travis Blankenship ó over the centerfield wall for a grand slam that made it 7-0.
“I’ve hit some way better than that that didn’t even come close to going out,” Gore said. “It went over and I don’t even remember running (the bases).”
Two innings later, Gore again jumped on the first pitch from Bollman, knocking this one into the scoreboard in left center to make it 8-0.
Tony Thompson hit a solo home run in the ninth for Kansas’ only run. Blankenship (3-2) took the loss, allowing six runs and five hits in 2 2-3 innings.
“We were obviously excited about getting to the championship game,” Kansas coach Ritch Price said. “It’s a big step for us and I think it’s one of those things where we’re still trying to grow and mature as a team. I think we’ll be better for the experience here.”