The Tar Heels are heading back to Omaha.
On Sunday night, Chad Flack relived his heroic performance in Tuscaloosa last season, crushing a tiebreaking two-run home run in the top of the seventh inning to help Carolina to a dramatic 9-4 win.
With the victory, the Tar Heels claimed their second straight Super Regional title, advanced to Omaha for the College World Series – and in the best way possible sent out Boshamer Stadium, which after 35 years is in line for extensive renovations.
The Tar Heels returned to Boshamer for the decisive game three in the 2007 NCAA Chapel Hill Super Regional after losing earlier in the day to South Carolina 8-6.
Play in game two had been suspended in the middle of the seventh inning Saturday because of rain. South Carolina had held an 8-5 lead over No. 3 national seed North Carolina
Throughout the three-game series, Carolina supplied an array of theatrics, coming back from a six-run deficit to beat South Carolina 9-6 in the opener on Friday.
“We knew from the past that until you get 27 outs, the game’s never over,” third baseman Chad Flack said.
The Tar Heels (53-12) – who won the Chapel Hill Regional after consecutive ninth-inning bursts against East Carolina and Western Carolina – got things started in game one’s sixth inning against the Gamecocks, scoring each of their runs with two outs to move within one win of their second straight College World Series.
“These kids know the situation,” said Coach Mike Fox ’78. Trailing by six runs “deflates you, but you know there’s some game to play, and you have to keep fighting. You can’t let it get you down. The game’s still not over yet.”
The Heels played in their second super regional in as many years. After last weekend’s regional results, Fox told The Associated Press: “We were looking for a spark, and the kids keep believing. You can’t stop until that 27th out.”
Winning in dramatic fashion is nothing new for this squad. Down to their last out in last year’s super regional, UNC came from behind to beat 2006 No. 4 national seed Alabama on Flack’s two-out, two-run homer. The walk-off win sent the Heels to Omaha for the College World Series, a feat this year’s squad would like to duplicate.
This year, instead of going on the road, UNC hosted its first-ever super regional. UNC has earned its sixth trip to the College World Series and the first back-to-back trips to Rosenblatt Stadium in program history. The Heels had faced South Carolina four times in the past six postseasons.
Josh Horton was named Most Valuable Player of the All-Regional Team. It was déjà vu for the All-American shortstop, who earned MVP honors at last week’s ACC tournament for his late-inning heroics in the Heels’ 3-2 victory over Wake Forest.
Horton was joined on the all-tournament team by two of Carolina’s walking wounded, outfielder Reid Fronk and pitcher Rob Wooten. Fronk went 3-for-5 and scored two runs in Monday’s win despite gashing his head while celebrating Saturday’s come-from-behind victory over the Pirates. He played with five stitches in his head. Wooten, who broke a tooth during the on-field festivities, pitched 3 1/3 innings in relief and got the win against the Catamounts. He wore a protective mouthpiece and ran his record to 5-1 on the season.
Clemson was the only other school from the ACC to punch a ticket to the super regional but were eliminated by Mississippi State in back-to-back losses over the weekend.
Virginia could have been the third team from the conference to advance, but the Cavaliers were beaten by Oregon State 7-3 in the final game of the Charlottesville, Va., regional.
Seven ACC schools were alive at the start of the action, but No. 6 national seed Florida State, Virginia, N.C. State, Wake Forest and Miami (Fla.) did not make the super regional round. Florida State and Virginia both hosted regional action, but neither team was able to use home field to their advantage.
The regional play action was not kind to the top-eight national seeds. Five of the top teams fell, including No. 1 Vanderbilt and No. 4 Texas, two schools considered favorites to win it all. Only No. 3 national seed Carolina, No. 2 Rice and No. 5 Arizona State won their regionals, the smallest number of top seeds to advance to the super regional since the NCAA bracket expanded in 1999.
– Daniel David ’07
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