Big Bats Lift Heels to Regional Title

The Carolina baseball team will host East Carolina in an NCAA Super Regional in Boshamer beginning Saturday after making a statement last weekend in the NCAA Regionals.

And the statement is that UNC is still one of the top teams in the country.

The Tar Heels opened the Regional tournament with a win against Dartmouth, 5-2. Matt Harvey was strong on the mound, and slugger Dustin Ackley was a star at the plate. Ackley was 3-for-5 with two RBIs and became UNC’s career base hit leader, passing the previous record of 328 hits held by undergraduate assistant coach Chad Flack ’08.

Brian Moran pitched 2 1/3 innings for the save while striking out five.

UNC’s next game was a rematch with Coastal Carolina, which had earned a win at Boshamer earlier this year. The Tar Heels more than avenged that loss with a 14-5 drubbing of the Chanticleers.

Levi Michael, Ben Bunting and Kyle Seager each drove in three runs, and reliever Colin Bates secured the win with 3 1/3 scoreless innings out of the bullpen.

Carolina had two games to close out the tournament in the double elimination contest but needed only one, beating Kansas 12-1 to win a Regional title for the fourth straight year.

Garrett Gore hit two home runs, one a grand slam in a seven-run third inning, and had five RBIs to lead the Tar Heels. Ackley also added a home run, his 21st of the year. Senior Mike McKee singled in his only career postseason at bat.

Adam Warren didn’t allow a run in 6 2/3 innings while striking out eight. Relievers Nate Striz, Logan Munson and Patrick Johnson combined to allow just one run out of the bullpen.

Coach Mike Fox ’78 said he was pleased with the way his team performed in this tournament, especially the championship game.

“We’re very excited to have won another Regional. Certainly my hat’s off to the other three teams in this Regional and the sensational seasons they’ve had. We played extremely well today,” Fox said Sunday. “Probably the most satisfying was our three seniors, of course – Garrett [Gore] and Adam [Warren] and Mike McKee contributed, and I thought that was even more special.”

Gore also expressed excitement about advancing to another round of the NCAA tournament but also kept it in perspective.

“This is the reason why I came to school at The University of North Carolina – not only to get a great education but to try to make it to Omaha and try to play in these big games,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to do it and to do it with a special group of guys.”

East Carolina won its NCAA Greenville (N.C.) Regional  over South Carolina on Monday. UNC and ECU will play the best-of-three Super Regional series beginning Saturday at 1 p.m.

– Beth Mechum

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