Pirates drop heartbreaker to Tar Heels
By By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina still has East Carolina’s number.
The Tar Heels have won eight straight against the Pirates. None hurts more than this one.
Dustin Ackley’s RBI single capped a three-run comeback in the bottom of the ninth, sending the Pirates to an 11-10 heartbreaking defeat at Boshamer Stadium.
Saturday’s loss on a cloudy, wet day in the NCAA Chapel Hill Regional means the No. 2 seed Pirates (40-22) will now have to win three straight, including two in a row over the No. 3-ranked Tar Heels (50-12), in order to advance to the Super Regionals.
The Pirates will look to keep their postseason hopes alive in today’s 1 p.m. elimination game with the No. 3 seed Western Carolina Catamounts (41-19), who ended Jacksonville’s season earlier Saturday with a 7-0 win. ECU took a 9-8 win over Western Carolina in the first round of the regionals.
Sophomore Josh Dowdy will likely start for the Pirates.
The winner of the ECU-Western Carolina game faces North Carolina at 5 p.m. If the Heels win, they will be crowned regional champions and advance to the Super Regionals. A loss by the Tar Heels will mean a seventh and deciding game Monday at 1 p.m.
The Tar Heels moved a win away from advancing with the thrilling comeback.
A solo home run by Kyle Roller and an RBI double by Corey Kemp off UNC All-American closer Andrew Carignan in the top of the eighth gave the Pirates the 10-8 lead.
ECU closer Shane Mathews looked to close the door on the Tar Heels in the bottom of the ninth, one day after shutting down the Catamounts to pick up the save.
However, the junior had trouble with his command and the Tar Heels took advantage.
Pinch hitter Mike Cavasinni led off the ninth by drawing a walk. Seth Williams then walked on four pitches. Cavasinni later raced home on a wild pitch. Reid Fronk’s third hit of the game scored Williams with the tying run. After Tim Fedroff slapped a hit, Ackley, the ACC Freshman of the Year and an All-American, laced a single into center that scored Fronk with the game-winner.
The game was filled with drama throughout the contest. The teams combined for a wild third inning that saw nine runners cross home plate, not to mention UNC assistant coach Scott Forbes get tossed after a heated argument with the umpires.
Godwin got tossed himself in the eighth inning after arguing with the second base umpire, who had ruled a runner out for leaving too early on fly ball.
Trailing 1-0, the Pirates scored five times in the third. Batts, who had extended his hitting streak to a school-record tying 28 games (matching Steve Sides, 1987) with a single in the second, delivered the big blow with a bases-loaded clearing double. Jamie Ray’s single, which gave him a 14-game hitting streak, scored Batts to give the Pirates a 5-1 lead.
UNC took advantage of two ECU answers in the bottom half, scoring four runs despite getting just one hit to tie it at 5-5. Josh Horton hit a two-run double in the inning.
The Pirates knocked out UNC starter Alex White with a pair of runs in the sixth, including an RBI double by Ray, to go up 7-5. The former D.H. Conley High School standout allowed the seven run on eight hits in five innings.
The Tar Heels answered with three runs in the bottom half, thanks in part to two errors by defensive replacement Dale Mollenhauer. The junior had been out with a broken hand.
Tim Fedroff hit an RBI triple and later scored on a Mollenhauer throwing error. Horton’s RBI single gave UNC an 8-7 lead. That helped end the day for ECU starter Dustin Sasser, who allowed seven runs (three earned) on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings.
Harrison Eldridge’s RBI single in the seventh tied the game at 8-8.
Roller’s homer, his 11th of the season, and Kemp’s RBI double in the eighth gave ECU the 10-8 lead.
Jason Neitz, who allowed an unearned run on four hits in 2 1/3 innings, kept the Pirates in the lead until the ninth.
However, Mathews (4-4) couldn’t hold onto it.
Rob Wooten (4-1), who pitched a scoreless ninth for the Heels, earned the win.
Ryan Wood had three hits for ECU.
Fronk and Tim Fedroff had three apiece for the Heels.
Catamounts 7, Dolphins 0
Drew Saberhagen kept Western Carolina’s season alive in a 7-0 win over Jacksonville, eliminating the Dolphins from the tournament.
Saberhagen (9-1) scattered seven hits and struck out five in eight innings of work.
Tyler Johnson closed it out for the Catamounts.
Kenny Smith, Jonathan Greene and John Ingram homered for the No. 3 seed Catamounts, who took a 2-0 lead in the first inning and never looked back. Western Carolina (41-19) pounded out 13 hits in the victory.
Steven Strausbaugh was a home run shy of hitting for the cycle as he finished with a single, double and triple. Greene, Nick Liles and Barrett Shaft had two hits apiece.
Matt Gardner (7-6) suffered the loss after giving up six runs (four earned) on eight hits in six innings.
Mike McCallister and John Tiner each had two hits for the No. 4 seed Dolphins (34-28).