NCAA Baseball: North Carolina 9, East Carolina 3
By Aaron Beard
CHAPEL HILL ó Mike Fox just couldn’t help himself.
Moments after North Carolina defeated East Carolina 9-3 to clinch a fourth straight College World Series trip, the 53-year-old coach ran to his wife’s front-row seat and climbed up the protective net in front of the stands to give her a celebratory kiss.
“I tried to enjoy this win more than I ever have here, just to kind of let loose,” Fox said. “I want to be respectful of the other team and not act like a kid, but I felt like a kid today when it was over. You can’t ever take this for granted.”
The Tar Heels (47-16) had plenty to celebrate after Sunday’s sweep of their best-of-three super regional series against their instate rival. Their pitchers dominated a lineup in which every hitter was batting at least .300, and they piled up 30 hits over two games to provide more than enough run support.
That performance made them the first Atlantic Coast Conference team to reach Omaha for four straight seasons.
“I said after the first year, the second and the third ó we may never go back again, and we might not,” Fox said. “The journey we’ve been on has been pretty amazing.”
Dustin Ackley hit a three-run homer to lead the offense Sunday, while Adam Warren took a shutout into the eighth inning against the Pirates (46-20). North Carolina, the No. 4 national seed, won Saturday’s opener 10-1 and has outscored opponents 50-12 in the NCAA regionals and super regionals.
“That’s what every college player wants to do, is to make it to Omaha,” said junior Mike Cavasinni, who had an RBI single in the Tar Heels’ five-run sixth inning. “We’re just living the dream right now.”
East Carolina had been a frequent NCAA participant and was in its third super regional, though coach Billy Godwin believed his team was ready to reach its first College World Series. But the Tar Heels never let the Pirates get close to that goal.
“I think you fail before you succeed sometimes,” Godwin said. “Sometimes I say to a player, ‘Failure is your best feature.’ It hurts. It stings, but I think that’s an important part of growing and maturing as a team and as a program.”
A day after Alex White struck out 12 in 81/3 innings, Warren (9-2) allowed eight hits and three runs through 7 1/3.
“I just had to go out there and throw strikes,” the senior said. “I tried not to let it get in my head that this is my last start in this stadium. Obviously, the sixth inning really helped me as far as pounding the zone and let our defense help me out.”
Meanwhile, eight Tar Heels had a hit, while Cavasinni, Mark Fleury and Garrett Gore combined for eight hits near the bottom of the order.
Kyle Seager had a two-run single in the third for a 2-0 lead. Then, after Cavasinni’s RBI, Ackley hit a line drive over the left-field wall that scored Seth Baldwin and Ben Bunting to push the lead to 7-0 in the sixth. North Carolina added an RBI sacrifice flyout from Baldwin an inning later, while Gore had a solo homer to straightaway center in the ninth.
There weren’t many highlights for the Pirates, though Trent Whitehead had two hits to set the program’s single-season record with 105.
With the win, UNC also became the first ACC school to reach the College World Series, a bowl game and the men’s basketball Final Four in the same season.
Second ACC team in: Virginia