June 9, 2008

2008 Super Regionals

Tar Heels Reach Omaha Again

UNC completes sweep of Coastal Carolina


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. - Another dominating performance on the mound, another explosive day at the plate, another solid effort in the field.

Another trip to the College World Series for North Carolina.

“It never gets old,” Tar Heels reliever Rob Wooten said. “We worked so hard for this all year long. We’ve got some unfinished business to take care of.”

And for the first time in three seasons, Oregon State won’t be in the way.

The Tar Heels finished off Coastal Carolina early with a six-run second, then cruised to a 14-4 victory Sunday to sweep the best-of-three NCAA Super Regional played at the USA Baseball Training Complex outside of Raleigh.

Adam Warren (9-1) didn’t allow his first hit until two were out in the fifth inning, leaving the Chanticleers with little hope of rallying from that early deficit. He lasted six innings during another 100-degree day and gave up two hits during his 99-pitch outing.
Warren’s career record in three years is a gaudy 22-1.

“It’s always easier when the offense scores six in the second,” said Warren, who was selected by the Cleveland Indians in the 36th round of Major League Baseball Player Draft earlier in the week. “You know you can just throw strikes and give the fielders a chance to make plays.”

This facility served as North Carolina’s home field all season while its on-campus stadium was renovated, and with the 16th victory in the past 17 games, the Tar Heels might not want to go home.

“It’s pretty much a home-field advantage when we play here now,” Wooten said. “We’ve got a great ballpark right here. We’re just lucky, very lucky.”

North Carolina (51-12) is the second Atlantic Coast Conference school to advance to the World Series three consecutive times, joining Florida State. The first two trips ended with losses to Oregon State in the final series, but with the Beavers not a part of the tournament this season, perhaps things will be a bit easier for the Tar Heels.

It certainly was against the Chanticleers (50-14), who were making their first appearance in the final 16. They continued to be hampered by shoddy defense - three more errors raised their two-game total to nine - and ineffective pitching, with starter Nick McCauley (10-3) going only two innings.

“It’s a very difficult matchup for us,” Coastal Carolina coach Gary Gilmore said. “I said all along, if we can be in the ball game until the fifth inning, we’d have a chance. We haven’t made it that far.”

A misplay in the field that wasn’t ruled an error helped open up the second for North Carolina. With one run already in, coach Mike Fox called for a hit-and-run with runners on first and second. Ryan Graepel whiffed on the pitch, and the throw to third from catcher Dock Doyle easily beat Chad Flack to the bag.

Unfortunately for the Chanticleers, third baseman Scott Woodward dropped the ball, and Flack was safe. Garrett Gore moved up to second on the play, and one out later, lead-off hitter Dustin Ackley drove both of them in with a single to right.

Kyle Shelton singled before Tim Fedroff and Tim Federowicz followed with back-to-back doubles, and the Tar Heels led 6-0. With Warren going strong, that was plenty.
Coastal Carolina didn’t get a hit until second baseman Kyle Seager lost a routine popup in the sun, and the first solid hit came on Doyle’s single to center in the sixth. Warren struck out three and had four walks.

“They kept us off-balance today,” Chanticleers center fielder David Sappelt said. “We got kind of frustrated and ended up having to swing at pitches that they kept changing up to keep us off-balance.”

It was 12-0 before Coastal Carolina got on the board, with Tyler Bortnick’s single bringing in two runs and a double by Sappelt driving in two more.

Despite the loss, Gilmore was able to look at what his team accomplished this season.

“What these kids are doing, at a really small school, a mid-major, I couldn’t be more proud,” he said. “We simply weren’t good enough. We have work to do to bridge the gap, particularly on the pitching mound.”

The Chanticleers likely will be without Doyle next season. The red-shirt junior was a fifth-round pick of the New York Mets in the draft, and he plans on signing a contract.

“Honestly, this team has given me great motivation to come back, but my whole goal this year was to get to a Super Regional and set the bar another level,” he said. “I just think it’s time to move on.”

The Tar Heels are moving on, too, hoping this trip to Omaha is slightly more successful than the other two.

“If we just play like we did all year, I think we’ll be all right,” Ackley said.