June 6, 2009

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Game 1: North Carolina 10, East Carolina 1


White Leaves Lasting Impression

By Sean Ryan

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder


Sean Ryan is a co-founder of CollegeBaseballInsider.com who works in public relations for a living and also coaches high school baseball. He was a three-year starter at third base and two-time captain for the University of Richmond Spiders.


CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – With one out in the ninth, North Carolina coach Mike Fox strolled to the pitcher’s mound at pristine Boshamer Stadium. His ace pitcher, junior Alex White (right), had just struck out his 12th East Carolina batter, a career best.


“I felt like I needed to give Alex his due with the career he’s had,” Fox said.


Fox and catcher Mark Fleury arrived at the mound at the same time. After a few seconds, Fox sent Fleury back to the dish and spent a special moment alone with White, the right-hander who likely was toeing the rubber for the last time at home and is expected to be selected as one of the top 10 picks in this week’s Major League Draft.


Fox summoned Nate Striz from the pen and jogged off the field, leaving White all alone to wait for Striz, as the North Carolina crowd stood and cheered. The applause continued as Striz came in. East Carolina fans, well aware that White hails from their hometown of Greenville, joined in. Tar Heels shortstop Ryan Graepel and second baseman Levi Michael removed their gloves and began clapping.


When White left the mound, the Tar Heels’ faithful exploded.


“It’s possibly my last start right here, who knows?” White said. “It was just great with the crowd. It was an emotional moment, and I enjoyed it.”


“It was really emotional for me,” UNC third baseman Kyle Seager said. “I know how hard this guy works and what a competitor he is. To see him come off the mound when he did and see the whole stadium embracing him…I was pretty emotional.”


White wasn't dominant Saturday in a 10-1 win over the Pirates, who scratched for nine hits. But he showed the grit and stuff that North Carolina fans have grown to expect, the explosiveness and competitive nature that scouts love. He allowed a second-inning homer to Brandon Henderson then struck out seven of the next 13 hitters, prompting ECU coach Billy Godwin to say, "Once he settled in, he may have beaten the Yankees today."

In short, he gave the Tar Heels exactly what they needed against the potent Pirates in winning for the first time since April 24.


“Our guys feed off of him,” Fox said. “He’s tough, a competitor, he doesn’t back down and he wants the ball. Whether or not he feels good, he wants to be out there. That’s part of the quality of a good leader.”


And on Saturday, White led the Tar Heels one step closer to an incredible fourth straight trip to the College World Series in Omaha.


“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “I enjoyed every moment of it.”


(photo courtesy of UNC Media Relations Office)