White extra super in Super Regional victory|Tar Heels are a big hit against Pirates

Published 12:43 am Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sports Editor

CHAPEL HILL — Alex White walked off the mound to a standing ovation at Boshamer Stadium. It was certainly well deserved.
The North Carolina Tar Heels’ ace baffled East Carolina’s batters all game. White fanned a career-high 13 batters and came within two outs of a complete game in No. 5 UNC’s 10-1 win over the No. 14 Pirates in Saturday’s Super Regional.
“I found the strike zone late and put my fastball where I wanted to,” said White (8-4), who scattered nine hits in 8 1/3 innings. “Obviously, when you can do that, and throw a secondary pitch behind that, you’re going to have a good day.”
It may have been built up as matchup pitting ECU’s lethal hitting against UNC’s superb pitching. Well, the Tar Heels proved that they can put the stick on the ball as well.
Every starter in the UNC lineup joined in on the team’s 17-hit attack. As a club, the Tar Heels struck out just once.
“They have a very good offensive club,” ECU coach Billy Godwin said. “I knew coming in they were very good offensively.”
The win, coming in front of a record-crowd of 4,316 fans at Boshamer Stadium, gave No. 4 national seed UNC (46-16) a leg up over ECU (46-19) in the best-of-three Super Regionals series.
The Pirates will now have to beat the Heels twice to get to Omaha. ECU hasn’t won in Chapel Hill since taking a 7-5 victory on April 27, 1994.
“I just reminded my players a week ago this time we were in the same situation,” Godwin said. “We have some experience playing in elimination games and that’s where we’re at. We have to come out and play well (today). I have a lot of faith in these guys.”
The Tar Heels, in pursuit of their fourth straight trip to the College World Series, exploded in the sixth. UNC sent 12 batters to the plate, collected seven hits — including two by Levi Michael, and chased ECU starter Seth Maness (9-5) in the process.
“Certainly a good way to start,” UNC coach Mike Fox said.
“I thought the story of the game certainly was Alex (White), of course keeping East Carolina at bay a little before we had the big inning.”
Six straight batters reached base to start the sixth. Ryan Graepel (1-for-3), a former standout at J.H. Rose, started the uprising with a leadoff single. Michael (3-for-4) followed with a double. Garrett Gore’s bloop single into right scored both runners for a 4-1 advantage.
“I think that was the hit of the game,” Fox said.
After Mike Cavasinni’s (2-for-4) infield hit, Seth Baldwin (2-for-3) reached on Ryan Wood’s fielding error at second, allowing Gore to score for a 5-1 lead. That ended the day for Maness, who allowed seven runs (six earned) on 13 hits in five innings.
“That’s part of the game,” Maness said. “Sometimes you make good pitches, they just get hits. The strung them together well and it paid off.”
UNC leadoff batter Ben Bunting reached on a bunt single off ECU reliever Patrick Somers (3 runs, 4 hits, 2 2/3 innings), which loaded the bases for Dustin Ackley (1-for-4). The likely top-two pick in next week’s Major League Baseball draft hit a sac fly that scored Cavasinni. Mark Fleury’s (2-for-4) RBI single into right made it 7-1. Michael slapped a two-run single, his second hit of the inning, to cap the outburst.
The Pirates, playing in their third Super Regionals in school history, took a 1-0 lead in the second. Brandon Henderson’s (2-for-4) leadoff shot, his 13th of the year, gave ECU the early lead.
The was the lone run the Pirates would get off White.
“He’s one of the best pitchers in the nation,” Godwin said. “When he has his fastball and he’s down in the zone, and he’s throwing on the black (of the plate), he’s going to beat anybody. Heck, once he settled in, he may have beaten the Yankees today.”
ECU threatened throughout the game, getting a runner to third base in three innings, while also getting a runner to second in three other innings. However, White came up with clutch strikeouts or got the Pirates to hit into easy groundouts to keep them off the scoreboard.
“(White) has a very good fastball and he was working it all day,” Henderson said. “We had a few opportunities, but we couldn’t cash in on them. To his credit, he got out of all those jams.”
Baldwin and Kyle Seager (4-for-5) collected RBI singles in the third inning to give UNC a 2-1 lead.
Seager’s solo shot in the eighth made it 10-1 to cap the scoring.
“Hopefully, we’re clicking a little bit (offensively),” Seager said. “We’re playing some small-ball, too, and executing a little better down the stretch.”
ECU reliever Britton Cole retired the only batter he faced in the eighth. The senior and Chocowinity product got Graepel to fly out to former Washington Pam Pack star Trent Whitehead (0-for-3, 2 walks) for the out. It was the eighth putout of the game for Whitehead, ECU’s centerfielder.
The teams meet again today at noon in a game televised on ESPN. Freshman All-American Kevin Brandt (9-1, 3.52 ERA) will start for the Pirates. Senior Adam Warren (8-2, 3.19 ERA) will throw for the Heels.
If a third game is necessary, it will be played Monday at either 1 or 7 p.m. and be aired on ESPN or ESPN2.
The winner advances to the College World Series in Omaha.