It was a record-setting College World Series for the UNC baseball team, but this year ended just as the three before it – falling short of the elusive national championship title.
First baseman and second pick in the MLB draft Dustin Ackley had a headline-grabbing season and final tournament, where he tied the record for most hits in a game at five and now is the sole holder of the record of most hits ever in the College World Series with 28 over the past three years.
Garret Gore ’09 now holds the record for most College World Series games played by an athlete at 21 games.
Gore would have liked to play a couple more, but the Tar Heels bowed out with a 1-2 record by losing both of their games to Arizona State.
After a blistering Regional and Super Regional tournaments – the Super Regional played at Boshamer Stadium, where the Tar Heels didn’t lose a game and outscored their opponents 50-12 – the Tar Heels’ bats cooled for the opening game against ASU.
Alex White, conference pitcher of the year and 15th overall MLB draft pick, pitched a gem of a game against the Sun Devils going nine innings, striking out 12 and giving up one earned run. The problem was ASU pitcher Josh Spence was just as dominant, and neither factored into the decision as the game went into extra innings without them tied at 1-1.
Happy to be rid of White, the Sun Devils busted it open in the 11th off a home run by Kole Calhoun, helped by a defensive miscue by Gore in right field, scoring four in the top of the 11th. UNC came back with only one run in the bottom of the 11th, and the team found itself in a familiar place – on the brink of elimination.
The Tar Heel bats finally came alive against Southern Mississippi in the second game of the CWS, an elimination game, and every single Carolina batter got at least one hit. Ackley got five, and the Tar Heels went on to beat the Golden Eagles 12-5 with notable pitching by All-Senior All-America team member Adam Warren.
Carolina then faced ASU again for the third game, another elimination game, and from the start the Tar Heels looked better than the first meeting. Spence pitched again for the Sun Devils, and UNC Coach Mike Fox ’78 used two safety squeezes from freshman Jacob Stallings to manufacture runs off the pitching by Spence.
Matt Harvey, though showing signs of control problems, kept the Sun Devils off the board until the fifth inning, when he walked two batters to load the bases. Brian Moran came in for relief, and in deja vu fashion for all Tar Heels fans, gave up another home run to Calhoun, tying the game 4-4 in one swing.
The wheels came off for UNC in the seventh, when there were three Tar Heel pitching changes and 13 Sun Devil batters came to the plate. By the time the dust of that inning had cleared, ASU was up 12-4 and Carolina was unable to come back, eventually losing 12-5.
Carolina ended the season with a 48-18 record.
UNC’s Super Regional win also marked the first time in ACC history that a member school played in a football bowl game, the men’s basketball Final Four and the baseball College World Series in the same season.
Carolina is second in this year’s Learfield Sports NACDA Directors Cup, the all-sport competition that ranks NCAA Tournament performances for men’s and women’s sports across the country.
The Tar Heels also won the women’s soccer national championship and played in the men’s soccer and women’s lacrosse national championship games.
– Beth Mechum
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