June 8, 2008
UNC Accepts Coastal’s Gifts
Tar Heels eye return to
By Keith Parsons
Keith Parsons is a former
sports writer for The Associated Press in Atlanta and Raleigh,
N.C. He counts covering North Carolina’s run to the 2005 NCAA
basketball championship as perhaps the highlight of his
journalism career. He gave up full-time writing in 2006 to enter
the world of banking.
CARY, N.C. -
Everything seemed to go against Coastal Carolina, from two close
plays at first base in the first inning to a pair of pitchers
tossed from the game for arguing balls and strikes in the
In between, there were five
errors by a normally reliable middle infield and no extra base
hits by its powerful offense.
That hardly gave the Chanticleers
much chance against Alex White and North Carolina.
White, the pitcher of the year in the Atlantic Coast Conference,
pitched seven strong innings in brutally hot conditions, and
Seth Williams had a solo home run among his three hits as the
Tar Heels beat Coastal Carolina 9-4 Saturday in the opening game
of this NCAA Super Regional.
Kyle Shelton and Tim Federowicz
added two hits apiece for North Carolina (50-12), which can
advance to the College World Series for the third consecutive
year with a victory Sunday in the best-of-three series. Game 2
is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.
Williams, Shelton and Kyle Seager each drove in two runs, and
the Tar Heels didn’t commit any errors.
“The strength of our team all
year long has been pitching and defense,” UNC coach Mike Fox
said. “I thought that was the case today.”
With the Chanticleers seemingly
falling apart in the triple-digit heat, White (10-3) was steady
during his 105-pitch outing. He allowed three runs on eight hits
and struck out six, surrendering only one walk while North
Carolina took control early, then left after giving up
back-to-back singles to start the eighth.
Brian Moran and Rob Wooten
finished out the dominating performance.
“It helps out a whole lot when
you’ve been here before and other teams haven’t,” Shelton said.
Perhaps that would explain
Coastal Carolina’s poor effort. Shortstop Tyler Bortnick booted
a grounder by Dustin Ackley to lead off the first, and one out
later, Tim Fedroff beat out a dribbler to Bortnick to put the
Tar Heels in scoring position.
Both Ackley and Fedroff were
called safe on bang-bang plays, much to the chagrin of the
Chanticleers faithful, who berated umpire Steve Mattingly with
criticism from a location behind the first-base dugout.
Seager followed with a long drive
off the wall in right to score two runs, and North Carolina was
on its way. And, by the same token, so was Coastal Carolina.
“You’ve got to keep your head up,
you’ve got to deal with it,” Chanticleers center fielder David
Sappelt said. “Maybe it was too much for us.”
Bortnick added another error in
the seventh when he threw wildly toward second on a force play
to let the final two runs score for the Tar Heels. Second
baseman Rico Noel actually fared worse than his double-play
partner, finishing with three errors.
The first helped lead to North
Carolina’s third run when he bobbled a roller hit by Mark Fleury
to leave runners at first and second. Starting pitcher Bobby
Gagg (6-3) made the next blunder, whirling to make a pickoff
throw to first with no one covering and allowing Federowicz to
score from second.
Gagg eventually departed the game
after giving up consecutive doubles to start the fifth and was
replaced by Joey Haug. Then both left the playing field three
innings later for arguing balls and strikes from the dugout, and
they were forced to make the long walk down the right-field line
to the exit.
“They were in the wrong,” Coastal
Carolina coach Gary Gilmore said. “The emotions of competing and
being a kid, it just got the best of them. We’ll handle it.”
Unfortunately, the Chanticleers
couldn’t handle White. But few have. His ERA actually rose
slightly to 2.75, even though none of his teammates was
“Throwing strikes, pounding the
zone, getting ahead of guys,” said Williams, who enjoyed the
show from his position in the outfield. “Pretty special today
watching that from centerfield.”
Now the Tar Heels need to do it
again for a return trip to Omaha, Neb., where they’ve lost in
the championship game the past two seasons.
“It’s a great feeling, but we
still have to win one more game to get there,” White said.
“We’ve got to play well.”