North Carolina came back from a one run deficit to score two runs in the top of the ninth, then held on in the bottom of the inning to defeat Western Carolina, 6-5, and advance to the Super Regionals. Josh Horton, who had the two run single that drove in the eventual winning runs, was named tournament MVP (he was 5 for 12 overall). Rob Wooten (5-1), who pitched in all three games of the tournament for UNC, got the win with 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief. Andrew Carignan pitched the ninth inning to pick up his fourteenth save.
After Reid Fronk struck out, Holland walked Tim Fedroff and Dustin Ackley. Tim Federowicz has just flied out to RF, but both runners advanced. So we have two out with runners and 2nd and 3rd, and Josh Horton at the plate. He struck out with the bases loaded in the seventh. Chris Masters, a lefthander who pitched well in relief against East Carolina last night, has come on to try and shut the door on North Carolina and force another game.
Western Carolina could manage only a single in both the bottom of the seventh and eighth innings.
UNC got Seth Williams on base in the eighth. He singled with two out and the ball got past left fielder Jonathan Greene. Williams kept going and ran through a stop sign by Coach Mike Fox and wound up at third. Greg Holland got Garrett Gore on a check-swing third strike, so UNC will have only one more chance.
We head to the ninth with Fronk/Fedroff/Ackley up for UNC.
There was a pitching change for Western Carolina that I must have slept through. Tyler Sexton, who started the Friday game against East Carolina came on in relief of Tyler Johnson to start the fifth. After giving up a leadoff double to Reid Fronk that eventually led to a run, he retired 8 in a row. However, Fronk and Fedroff had two out sngles in the seventh and Sexton walked Ackley and was replaced by Greg Holland with the bases loaded.
Tim Federowicz greeted Holland with a single through the left side of the infield to score Fronk and pull UNC to within one run at 5-4. Holland struck out Josh Horton with the bases loaded to prevent further damage.
UNC picked up a run in the fifth on a leadoff double by Reid Fronk, who eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Dustin Ackley. That drew the Tar Heels to within 4-3.
But Western Carolina has answered right back off Luke Putkonen, when Blake Murphy led off with a solo HR to right-center field to re-establish a 2 run lead. The Catamounts got two more on base but UNC brought in Rob Wooten with two out and he stopped the bleeding. Wooten has pitched in all three UNC games in this regional.
UNC went down in order in the sixth, and Tyler Johson is now in a groove on the mound for WCU.
In the middle of the sixth, it's 5-3 Western Carolina.
Just got a call from a friend at the Austin Regional, and it sounds like the Longhorns are on the verge of going down and out.
UNC could do nothing in the 4th with a single by Seth Williams.
The WCU bats have come out this inning. Steven Strausbaugh was hit by a pitch to start the inning and Kenny Smith and Jonathan Greene followed with singles, the latter driving in the first Catamount run. John Ingram then hit a hard smash down the third base line that Chad Flack fielded initially. It looked like he was going to be able to step on third and then throw to first for the double play, but he dropped the ball and everyone was safe. Then Nick Liles hit a line drive double down the right field line to drive in two. A groundout by Donnie Wilson drove in ingram and finished the scoring for Western Carolina.
They have life with a 4-2 lead heading into the 5th. Tyler Johnson has settled in after a shaky start and is doing a good job for WCU. He'll face the top of the order in the fifth.
UNC added a run in the third on consecutive singles by Garrett Gore and Reid Fronk and a sacrifice fly by Tim Fedroff.
WCU got a leadoff single by Brent Greer, but he was erased on a 6-4-3 DP off the bat of leadoff hitter Barrett Shaft. Blake Murphy was caught looking to end the inning. I've not been to a WCU home game, but Shaft surely uses the theme from the movie "Shaft" for his at-bat song. That's a no-brainer. Any Western Carolina fans who know?
Wow, is it hot! Still, I'd rather boil in the sun than face the threat of rain. I just hope my fingertips don't get scorched on my keyboard.
Western Carolina threatened with a two out double by Steven Strausbaugh and walk to Kenny Smith, but Jonathan Greene flied out to centerfielder Seth Williams to end the inning. Williams made a nice diving catch to rob Greene of a hit.
UNC catcher Tim Federowicz somehow busted his chin in the inning, but after a brief delay for a bandage got right back behind the plate.
The seats are not quite full yet, but a lot of fans are standing up under the shaded walkway to avoid the heat and sun.
The rains of yesterday are a distant memory, as today it is expected to be 88 degrees and mostly sunny. It's already steaming here. Eric Sorenson would love it.
North Carolina is the visiting team for this game, needing just one win to take the Regional title. They'll pitch Luke Putkonen (7-1, 4.23). Western Carolina is the official home team for this game and will start Tyler Johnson (3-3, 6.04). Coach Todd Raleigh said last night that he may use a potpourri of pitching to get through this game, and he hopes a second game.
Western Carolina has advanced in the Chapel Hill Regional to face host and #3 national seed North Carolina. The Catamounts eliminated East Carolina with a 9-5 victory. Brock Thornburg (4-2) got the win with 5 1/2 innings of relief for starter Corey Martin. Chris Masters closed it out with 2 1/3 innings of perfect ball, including four strikeouts, to post his first save. Josh Dowdy (5-2) took the loss for East Carolina.
"It's a gratifying win," said Catamounts Coach Todd Raleigh. He said he is unsure of who will start tomorrow's game against the Tar Heels, but that just about any of his pitchers could be called into action. Drew Saberhagen, who threw 117 pitches in eight innings last night, told Raleigh he can pitch tomorrow, and even scribbled his name on the lineup card tonight in volunteering to pitch if needed
The game took only 2:43 to play, and the official attendance was 2,235. That was obviously the paid attendance, as there were probably half that number in the stands due to the inclement weather and long rain delay.
Western Carolina added two more in their eighth thanks to a hit batter, walk, single, and groundout. In pulling out all the stops, ECU brought in Friday night starter T.J. Hose in relief for the first time all season. He shut down the scoring after hitting a batter.
Chris Masters retired ECU in order in the top of the eighth, with two strikeouts. He got Corey Kemp, who hit a 3 run jack off him on Friday, to pop out to short to end the ECU half of the inning.
The Pirates are hoping for some ninth inning magic themselves tonight.
9-5 heading to the ninth with the top of the order due up.
ECU threatened in the seventh when Ryan Tousley singled and Jamie Ray walked, but with two outs WCU Coach Todd Raleigh brought in reliever Chris Masters, who got Kyle Roller to ground out to shortstop on a very close play at first base.
WCU could manage only a harmless single by Jonathan Greene. John Ingram came up with two outs needing a double to hit for the cycle, but flied out to centerfield.
Steven Strausbaugh singled to lead off the 5th for WCU and scored on a triple off the centerfield wall by John Ingram. Centerfielder Harrison Eldridge almost made the play, but the ball hit off the wall just over his head.
Ingram is 3 for 3 today and a double away from hitting for the cycle.
ECU scored one run in the fourth to make it 6-5. Jake Dean had a one out single, moved to third on a double by Corey Kemp (now 5 for 8 in the regional), and scored on a passed ball by Western Carolina catcher Blake Murphy.
The Catamounts went down in order in their half of the inning.
The start of the inning was delayed when the second base umpire came sprinting into the first base dugout and disappeared for a few minutes. Apparently nature called.
Still cloudy, but the rain has stayed away. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
East Carolina tied things at 4-4 in the top of the third when Stephen Batts led off with a double and scored on a single by Jamie Ray.
Western Carolina came right back in the bottom of the inning when Jonathan Greene singled and John Ingram deposited a Josh Dowdy pitch into the netting in left field to make it 6-4. The ball still hasn't come down- literally. It got stuck in the netting about thirty feet up.
Western Carolina wound up with 4 runs in the bottom of the second to take a 4-3 lead. Josh Dowdy hit two batters and walked a third before 9-hole hitter Brent Greer delivered a three run double. ECU right fielder Ryan Tousley had to slog through the puddles in right field to chase it down.
I just learned a scoring rule that I didn't know. John Ingram hit a ground ball to second base that hit runner Jonathan Greene on the foot. Greene was ruled out and Ingram awarded first base. I would think that should be scored a fielder's choice due to runner's interference, but Ingram was given a hit on the play. At least according to GameTracker, so I'll have to believe that's the correct ruling. Anyone know for sure?
Kenny Smith led off the bottom of the second to get Western Carolina on the board. It's 3-1 ECU with one out and runners at first and second for the Catamounts.
A large contingent of UNC players is watching the game and checking out their opponent for tomorrow. Robert Woodard, Garrett Gore, Dustin Ackley, and Reid Fronk are among them. Fronk seems none the worse for wear after cutting his head in the post-game celebration last night, an injury that required five stitches.
UNC pitching Coach Scott Forbes is also in attendance, and much calmer than when we last saw him last night getting thrown out for arguing balls and strikes. Head coach Mike Fox said in the post-game press conference that he jokingly refers to Forbes as "Captain Dynamite" for his fiery demeanor.
Singles by Kyle Roller and Drew Schieber preceeded an RBI double by Corey Kemp, so ECU is up 3-0 with one out in the second and runners on second and third. WCU Coach Todd Raleigh has just lifted Corey Martin in favor of Brock Thornburgh. Martin gave up six hits in 1 1/3 innings with 3 runs in so far.
Roller is now 6 for 10 in the regional, Kemp 4 for 7.
East Carolina struck for two runs right off the bat. Harrison Eldridge hit the first pitch of the game from Corey Martin for a double. Two batters later, Stephen Batts knocked a 2-run homer off the netting in left field. Batts continues his hot hitting after going 3 for 5 last night with 3 RBI. He now has a school-record 29 game hitting streak.
2-0 ECU heading to the bottom of the first.
The weather and continued threat of rain has kept the crowd down. Right now the stands are about 1/2 to 2/3 full.
The elimination game between East Carolina and Western Carolina will get underway shortly. This game was supposed to start at 1 pm today but has been pushed back by heavy rains. The skies still look threatening, but it's not raining at the moment. Despite the earlier downpour, the field looks to be in good shape, save for a couple of muddy/soggy areas in front of the dugouts.
ECU is coming off a painful loss to North Carolina, who scored three in the bottom of the ninth last night to win 11-10. WCU won an elimination game yesterday by taking out Jacksonville 7-0.
Josh Dowdy (5-1, 2.97) will try to extend the season for the Pirates from Greenville, while Corey Martin (5-3, 4.81) will attempt to do the same for Western Carolina Catamounts from Cullowhee. Both are sophomores.
Today's elimination game between East Carolina and Western Carolina was set for 1 pm, but heavy rains in the area have pushed it back to 7 pm, providing we get no more rain. That's an iffy proposition, because the forecast has been calling for heavier rain as the day goes on.
A decision will be made at 5 pm today as to whether this game will be played. If it does go through as hoped, it will be the only game of the day, and the winner will play North Carolina tomorrow. Another game would be played after that if UNC loses. If tonight's game doesn't happen...... well who knows what the schedule will be?
Chapel Hill: Crazy Finish, Stitches, and Broken Teeth
After East Carolina hammered UNC closer Andrew Carignan for two runs on three hits in the eighth, the inning ended on yet another controversial play. Corey Kemp, who had doubled, moved to third on a flyout to right field. However, UNC appealed at second and Kemp was ruled to have left early, ending the ECU threat. East Carolina Coach Billy Godwin was tossed out by crew chief Ken Eldridge when he took his hat off and tossed it.
UNC could manage nothing but a lone single in the bottom of the eighth, and East Carolina could do no more in the ninth against UNC reliever Rob Wooten.
Following Roller's leadoff HR, a single by Drew Schieber and double by Corey Kemp made it 10-8 ECU. The inning ended when Kemp advanced to 3rd on a flyout to right, but was ruled as having left second base early. ECU Coach Billy Godwin got tossed for arguing the call.
10-8 ECU going to the bottom of the 8th.
Rain picking up, so this may be my last post for awhile.
East Carolina has tied it at 8 in the middle of the seventh. A leadoff double by Corey Kemp and RBI single by Harrison Eldridge accounted for the run. ECU left 2 runners on base. Tim Federowicz is now pitching for UNC.
Jason Neitz is on the hill for East Carolina.
The rain has held off- still just occasional drops.
Back to back one out singles by UNC (Williams, Gore) have the Tar Heels threatening again.
In a back and forth game, UNC has regained the lead at 8-7 after six with a 2 out rally. Reid Fronk singled and scored on a triple down the RF line by Tim Fedroff. Dale Mollenhauer then committed 2 straight errors at shortstop. He's the Pirates' regular SS but hasn't been playing lately due to a hand injury. He came on in the 6th and fielded one chance flawlessly before the errors. The go-ahead run came on a hit and run single by Josh Horton to score Dustin Ackley.
Rain drops have started and the doppler radar looks bad, so this one probably won't go much longer.
Following all the anxiety with Coach Forbes, UNC found a big answer. After loading the bases, Josh Horton doubled to drive in 2 runs. Walks to Chad Flack and Seth Williams brought in another run, and Garrett Gore hit into a fielder's choice to tie it at 5 apiece when ECU couldn't complete the 6-4-3 double play.
Horton's double was the only hit of the inning, as UNC was aided by two errors and three walks.
After a scoreless 2nd inning, East Carolina has come up big in the third. They loaded the bases on singles by Jake Dean, Harrison Eldridge and Ryan Wood. P Alex White walked Ryan Tousley after pitching around him, and the UNC coaching staff was hot at home plate umpire Scott Inman for squeezing White. Stephen Batts had a huge double to clear the runners off the bases, then Jamie Ray followed with a double to bring in Batts and make it 5-1.
UNC Coach Mike Fox had some angry words for Inman between innings.
As is often the case when these two meet, the crowd is loud and contentious and every call is met by howls from one side or the other.
UNC pitching Coach Scott Forbes appears to have just been thrown out of the game. He went ballistic when Inman called a strike on UNC's Dustin Ackley and yelled from the bench (but didn't enter the field). Second base umpire Ken Eldridge (no known relation to ECU centerfielder Harrison Eldridge) motioned to the dugout and apparently threw Forbes out of the game. Forbes ran angrily out to confront Eldridge but was held back by the other umpires.
Following that exchange, ECU has committed 2 errors and UNC has the bases juiced and no one out.
As you might guess, the crowd is really riled up now.
UNC starter Alex White put East Carolina down in order in the first, and his teammates responded with a run in the bottom of the inning.
Reid Fronk led off with a single, advanced to second on a groundout, went to third on an infield single by Dustin Ackley, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Tim Federowicz. Josh Horton was called out on strikes to end the inning.
ECU first baseman Stephen Batts made a nice play to rob Tim Fedroff of a double down the line, and has just led off the second inning with a single.
Game 2 of day 2 is minutes away. East Carolina, fresh off a 9-8 come-from-behind victory over Western Carolina, will be the visiting team. North Carolina, which shut down Jacksonville 6-0, will be the home team. Dustin Sasser (5-4, 3.44 in 16 starts) will go for ECU and freshman Alex White (6-4, 3.35 in 14 starts) will go for UNC.
East Carolina has a few lineup changes from last night. 2B Stephen Batts shifts to first base, 3B Drew Schieber moves over to second base, and Jake Dean will play third base. Brandon Henderson was at first base last night and is out of the starting lineup today. Corey Kemp, whose big 3 run HR in the 6th inning changed the momentum against Western Carolina, will catch today in place of David Forbes.
The temperature is pleasant but the skies are gray and we may well be visited by rain before this game is done.
Game 1 attendance today was 2,085 and the game took only 2 hours and 26 minutes.
In today's first game, Western Carolina eliminated Jacksonville with a 7-0 victory. Drew Saberhagen got the win to go 9-1 on the year. He threw 117 pitches in 8 innings.
WCU Coach Todd Raleigh said, "Drew Saberhagen was phenomenal." When asked the difference between losing last night and winning today, he said, "We pitched a lot better." As for tomorrow's chances against either North Carolina or East Carolina, "We're a hard team to beat."
Saberhagen, who lives in California, said of his teammates, "This is my family out here." He explained how today's win allowed him to extend that feeling. He felt that he was not very sharp in the bullpen before the game (a sentiment Coach Raleigh echoed), but once the game started everything came together for him.
Jacksonville still hasn't been able to break through against WCU starter Drew Saberhagen. The Catamounts added two in the sixth. John Ingram had a solo home run, then Donnie Wilson singled and scored when Brent Greer hit a deep fly ball that CF John Tiner couldn't haul in.
JU got two on base in the bottom of the inning (error and then a single by Pete Clifford) but Ryan McArdle grounded out to third to end the inning.
Carson Andrew has come on in the seventh in relief of JU starter Matt Gardner (6 IP, 8 H, 6R, 0 BB, 2K).
Saberhagen has allowed 5 hits, 0 runs, 0 BB, 4K in six innings.
Neither team scored in the 4th or 5th, so Jacksonville has now gone 14 innings of regional play without a run. Both starting pitchers are still in the game. Western Carolina DH Barrett Shaft is the regular centerfielder but is DH because of a bad ankle. Despite that, he's gone 6 for 8 in the first two games here.
Jacksonville has been on the bad end of a couple of close plays at first base, and their contingent has been vocal in their displeasure.
The stands are about half full for this game. It's still cloudy, but no rain yet.
Western Carolina has added to its lead and is up 4-0 going into the bottom of the third. Nick Liles singled in the 2nd and moved to second when LF Pete Clifford booted the ball, advanced to third on a groundout, and scored when Brent Greer reached on an error by SS Matt Lopez. Things could have been much worse for JU, but Clifford went up and robbed Blake Murphy of a three run homer.
Jacksonville could get nothing going in the second, despite an error charged to WCU third baseman Nick Liles on a ground ball. The Catamounts' fans weren't happy that Liles got tagged with an error on the tough play. One of them looked up at the pressbox and yelled out angrily to the official scorer, "You make that play!".
WCU tacked on another run in the top of the third when Jonathan Greene hit a solo homer.
Western Carolina drew first blood and leads Jacksonville 2-0 after one inning.
Blake Murphy was hit by a pitch and scored on a stand-up triple off the centerfield wall by Steven Strausbaugh. Kennny Smith then grounded out to second base to score Strausbaugh. 2B Logan James made a nice play to get Smith, diving to his right and recovering in time to throw him out at first.
Mike McCallister doubled off the wall in left-center for Jacksonville but broke too early trying to steal third and was thrown out by pitcher Drew Saberhagen.
The first elimination game is about to get going from Chapel Hill. Western Carolina is the visiting team; The Catamounts lost a heartbreaker last night (9-8) to East Carolina despite collecting 16 hits. Jacksonville was shut out (6-0) behind a strong pitching job from UNC's Robert Woodard.
WCU will go with the same starting line-up as yesterday, and will throw Drew Saberhagen (8-1, 3.10).
Jacksonville has made 2 changes to its starting lineup. Ben Kerr, who had a pinch hit single in the ninth inning last night, will replace Thomas LePage at third base and the number 5 spot in the batting order. John Tiner replaces Kevin Ferreira in centerfield and the 7 hole. Matt Gardner (7-5, 3.82) will pitch for the Dolphins.
The original weather forecast called for sunny and hot all weekend, but now we're expecting rain later this afternoon and evening and there is an 80% chance of rain Sunday. That could play havoc with the end of the tournament. Right now it's overcast and 78 degrees, but still rather humid.
UNC won the second game of the Chapel Hill Regional, 6-0 over Jacksonville. Robert Woodard went 8 innings and gave up 7 hits and no runs, while tossing 123 pitches. He picked up his 10th win of the season, and is now 33-5 for his career. This was the third straight year he has started the first game of a regional, and was reminiscent of last year's College World Series, when he pitched a complete game shutout against Clemson. Rob Wooten closed out the game by striking out 3 Dolphins in the top of the ninth to preserve the win.
In the post-game press conference, Jacksonville Coach Terry Alexander was very gracious in the loss, praising UNC starter Woodard for his masterful performance. He talked about how UNC was extremely confident and how his team allowed them to be too comfortable by escaping numerous jams. He felt that although his team had 8 hits, they were not timely hits and thus they had a lot of rallies fall short.
Jacksonville scratched three hits off Woodard in the 6th and 7th innings, but left all three runners stranded and are still scoreless in Chapel Hill. Woodard continues to pitch well and is still working on a shutout. It's getting to be Andrew Carignan time- it will be interesting to see if Mike Fox lets Woodard go all the way or brings in his closer to try and shut the door on the Dolphins.
Of the Tar Heels eight hits, five have been doubles.
UNC has extended its lead to 4-0 after five innings. Seth Williams led off the Carolina 5th with a double that CF Kevin Ferreira took a bad angle on. Garrett Gore then hit a hard chopper to second that took a bad hop over the head of Logan James for a single. Williams scored on the play.
Through 5 innings, Robert Woodard has given up three hits and no runs. After the shaky second inning, JU starter Matt Davis has pitched well. He's given up six hits total through 5 innings.
Both Jacksonville and North Carolina have been held scoreless in the 3rd and 4th innings, so the Tar Heels still lead 3-0. Jacksonville has only managed 2 hits off Robert Woodard. UNC hasn't had a hit since the last of the three straight doubles back in the second.
UNC struck quickly in the bottom of the 2nd inning. A lead-off single by Tim Federowicz was followed by 3 consecutive doubles (Josh Horton, Chad Flack, Kyle Seager) off Matt Davis to put the Heels up 3-0.
The official attendance for the first game was 2,235 and should be surpassed for this game. Thankfully, the sun is setting and the grandstands are mainly in the shade now. I don't feel the sting of an early sunburn, so thank you Coppertone.
UNC basketball star Tyler Hansbrough was strolling outside the stadium before the start of this game. I've seen him and several other hoopsters (along with Coach Roy Williams) at several baseball games this year.
Game 2 from the Chapel Hill Regional is underway. Robert Woodard (9-2, 3.29) is the starter for UNC and Matt Davis (4-1, 3.12) takes the ball for Jacksonville.
Both teams went down in order in the first, but the Dolphins are threatening in the 2nd with the bases loaded following and two out. Woodard's former middle school chess partner is at the plate for Jacksonville (Logan James).
Western Carolina Coach Todd Raleigh stated in the post-game press conference that he didn't second guess himself for taking out starter Tyler Sexton. Sexton had pitched five innings and struck out seven batters and WCU led 8-4 until reliever Chris Masters gave up a 3 run HR to pinch hitter Corey Kemp. Raleigh explained that Sexton had just come off a long inning and had already thrown 100 pitches.
Kemp explained that he always tries to stay in the game, even if he isn't starting, and that allowed him to come out cold and knock the 3 run jack that got the Pirates back in the game.
Tomorrow's starters are scheduled to be Drew Saberhagen for Western Carolina in their elimination game, and Dustin Sasser for ECU in their winner's bracket game.
Western Carolina couldn't get a run in the 7th despite a single by Barrett Shaft and Blake Murphy reaching on an error by ECU right fielder Ryan Tousley.
The Pirates loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning and got Corey Kemp back to the plate. He had homered in the sixth to account for ECU's 5th, 6th, and 7th runs. This time, however, he could only manage a fly ball to RF and Steven Strausbaugh pulled it in to leave three stranded.
ECU's Corey Kemp had a pinch hit 3 run home run in the bottom of the 6th off reliever Chris Masters to pull the Pirates to within one, 8-7. Kemp's no-doubt-about-it shot scored Brandon Henderson and Drew Schieber.
We've had 15 total runs and 24 total hits through 6 innings.
It's a good-sized crowd for this game, but things will get a lot more snug as the local UNC fans start to arrive for game two, when UNC takes on Jacksonville.
The angry bee hasn't yet re-appeared, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that he doesn't.
Bailey Daniels held Western Carolina in check in the 4th and 5th innings, and Ryan Tousley continued his hot hitting with a solo HR in the bottom of the 5th to bring ECU to within 1 of Western Carolina.
But the Catamounts have come right back in the top of the 6th frame. Singles by Barrett Shaft, Steven Strausbaugh, Kenny Smith, and Jonathan Greene have accounted for 3 more runs. It could have been worse, had ECU centerfielder Harrison Eldridge not made a great catch when he went vertical at the wall to rob Blake Murphy of home run. The Catamounts are still batting with 1 out and the bases loaded. ECU has just gone to Josh Ruhlman, its 4th pitcher of the game (following Hose, Bailey Daniels, and Brett Butts. 8-4 Western Carolina in the sixth.
Tyler Sexton has allowed 4 runs and 7 hits over 5 innings to ECU, but has struck out seven.
Western Carolina added a run in both the 2nd and 3rd innings and have chased ECU starter T.J. Hose. Donnie Wilson led off the second and eventually scored on a single by Blake Murphy, who later was thrown out at the plate to end the inning after a single by Steven Strausbaugh.
Brandon Henderson started off the ECU 2nd when he appeared to get hit on the arm. He started trotting to first base but was brought back by home plate umpire Ken Eldridge, who felt that Henderson had not been hit. After a lengthy discussion with the ECU coaches and an inspection of Henderson's arm, Eldridge finally awarded him first base. This drew the ire of WCU coach Todd Raleigh, who continued his discussion with Eldridge later in the inning after a trip to the mound. Tyler Sexton recovered to strike out the side and keep any more runs off the board.
WCU added its run in the third when Kenny Smith led off with a double and scored on a fielder's choice by Nick Liles.
The Pirates have pulled to within 5-3 when they scored on a single by Henderson to drive in Jamie Ray, who had reached base on an error. Henderson tried to advance to second on a would-be wild pitch , but Kyle Roller hadn't broken from second. Henderson was caught in a rundown to end the inning.
ECU starter T.J. Hose lasted only 2 innings, giving up 5 runs on 6 hits. WCU's Kenny Smith has shown that he's the real deal, with an RBI single in the first and double and run scored in the third.
Western Carolina leads 3-2 after 1 inning. Here's how things started for ECU starter T.J. Hose: single, walk, wild pitch, hit batter, RBI single, hit batter. A double play and flyout mercifully aided Hose, and his mates picked him up in the bottom half of the inning. Ryan Tousley doubled off the wall in right-center to score Stephen Batts, then Jamie Ray singled to drive in Tousley to keep the game tight.
A huge bee has invaded the press area, so if I don't have any more posts it's because I've been stung and am in the emergency room at UNC Hospitals getting epinephrine. At least they'll have AC.
Game one of the Chapel Hill Regional is about to get underway as Western Carolina takes on Eastern Carolina. The schools share the same colors, so there is more purple and gold in the stands at Boshamer Stadium than a fall Saturday night at LSU's Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge. The Catamounts of Western Carolina hail from Cullowhee, so many of their fans are carrying signs that read, " 'Whee Believe ".
Temperatures are expected to be in the upper 80s and mostly sunny, so it's going to be a warm, warm day. My spot on the press table is out in the direct sun, so it's a good thing I slathered on the sunscreen. A quick trip up to the pressbox to get a lineup sheet was just enough to make me jealous of those sitting in the air conditioned seats. I have already downed a bottle of Powerade and a bottle of water before the game even begaan
Tyler Sexton (4.34, 8-3) will take the hill for Western Carolina while T.J. Hose (3.59, 6-5) gets the nod for the Pirates of East Carolina.
Game 1: EAST CAROLINA PIRATES (39-21) versus WESTERN CAROLINA CATAMOUNTS (40-18)
This game will match relative upstart Western Carolina against frequent NCAA tournament participant East Carolina. The Catamounts from the western end of the state will use their hard-hitting offense against the more pitching-oriented guys from the eastern end of the state. The Catamounts have pounded out 81 home runs and have five players with 11 or more round-trippers. The pitching is less impressive, with a team ERA of 4.82 and 607 hits allowed in 515 innings. The Pirates have a more palatable team ERA of 3.83 but have only hit .286 compared to WCU's .322 team average. The Pirates won the only contest this year between the two, with a 3-2 victory back in March in the Keith LeClair Classic.
WESTERN CAROLINA CATAMOUNTS (Cullowhee, NC)
NCAA Tournament Appearances: 11
Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2003 Wilson, NC Regional (2-2)
At-large bid from Southern Conference; tied College of Charleston with best regular season conference record (20-7)
Results against Regional rivals: Lost 3-2 to East Carolina
Team Notes: The Catamounts beat such heavies as Georgia Tech, NC State, Clemson, and Ohio State during the 2007 season. They won 8 straight before losing their final 3 games, including both games in the Southern Conference Tournament (Citadel, Georgia Southern).
Last at-large bid was in 1994, when they were led by future East Carolina coach Keith LeClair in the Knoxville Regional. Current Coach Todd Raleigh was an assistant at both ECU and WCU under LeClair, who sadly passed away last July from ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease).
UNC fans likely won't extend the same love to WCU second baseman Kenny Smith that they did to the former Tar Heel and NBA star of the same name. This Kenny leads the boys from Cullowhee in batting average, home runs, RBI, and stolen bases. He is a transfer from UNC-Wilmington who competed with the Seahawks in last year's Chapel Hill Regional.
Pitcher Drew Saberhagen transferred to Western Carolina from the lovely shores of Malibu at Pepperdine, and is the son of former major league star Bret Saberhagen.
Team Stats/Leaders: BA .322, 81 HR, 67/93 SB ----- ERA 4.82, 515 IP, 607 H, 41 HR
2B Kenny Smith .396-18-79, 14 SB ------ Drew Saberhagen 8-1, 3.10
C Blake Murphy .377-15-63 ------------- Tyler Sexton 8-3, 4.34
OF Barrett Shaft .373-3-29 --------------- Greg Holland 4-3, 3.46, 10 saves, 31 appearances
3B Nick Liles .343-2-38;
1B John Ingram .330-11-61, 10 SB
OF Jonathan Greene .321-13-53
OF Steven Strausbaugh .285-12-52
EAST CAROLINA PIRATES (Greenville, NC)
NCAA Tournament Appearances: 22
Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2005 Tempe Regional (0-2)
At-large bid from Conference USA; runner up to Rice Owls in both regular season (14-9) and the tournament
Results against Regional rivals: Beat Western Carolina 3-2, lost to UNC 10-0 and 5-1
Team Notes: ECU is making its 8th NCAA tournament appearance in 9 years after missing last year. Although the Pirates had been hoping to host a regional themselves, their fans travel well and will bring a large and loud contingent to Chapel Hill- if they can find tickets. If not, they may be re-creating The Jungle along the outfield fence at Boshamer Stadium. UNC sold out the regional in one day, with Vanderbilt being the only other school to do so.
Team Stats/Leaders: BA .286, 64 HR, 83/109 SB ----- ERA 3.83, 534 IP, 522 H, 36 HR
SS Dale Mollenhauer .329-3-26, 9 SB ------------Josh Dowdy 5-1, 2.97
2B/SS Ryan Wood .317-5-23, 14 SB ------------ Dustin Sasser 5-4, 3.44
1B Stephen Batts .316-5-51, 12 SB -------------- T.J. Hose 6-5, 3.59
CF Harrison Eldridge .300-5-27, 14 SB ---------- Shane Matthews 4-3, 4.05, 13 saves, 37 app
RF Ryan Tousley .294-10-48, 10 SB ------------ Jason Neitz 4-2, 2.81, 33 appearances
GAME 2: JACKSONVILLE DOLPHINS (34-26) versus NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS (48-12)
The second game of this regional will pit host and #3 national seed North Carolina against Jacksonville from the Atlantic Sun Conference. The Tar Heels came within a whisker of winning the national title last season but shaky defensive play cost them the big prize to Oregon State. The Heels have had another stellar season despite subpar years from two of last year's biggest sluggers, Chad Flack and Benji Johnson. Flack is hitting .249-6-39 after huge freshman and sophomore seasons (.384-13-68 in 2006, .335-15-49 in 2005). Johnson is at .259-6-26 after banging 14 HR and driving home 44 runs in 2006. Freshman first baseman Dustin Ackley has led the way this year with a team-best .437 BA and 63 RBI. The top four starting pitchers have gone 32-7, and Robert Woodard became UNC's all-team leader in victories with a win against Georgia Tech.
The Dolphins finished fourth in the Atlantic Sun but managed to take the conference title to earn an automatic bid. They have been fiends on the basepaths, with 88 stolen bases to overcome a relatively modest .287 team BA and 35 home runs.
JACKSONVILLE DOLPHINS (Jacksonville, Fl)
NCAA Tournament Appearances: 12 (second in a row)
Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2006 Athens Regional (1-2)
Automatic bid after winning Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament; 4th place (15-12) in regular season
Results against Regional rivals: none
Team Notes: The Dolphins had wins over Florida State, Florida, and Stetson during the 2007 season. Pitcher Matt Dobbins went 12-0 in the regular season last year (12-2 overall), but has been hampered by back injuries this year and is now pitching out of the bullpen. Another pitching Matt (Davis) is starting after missing the first 23 games following elbow surgery. First baseman Ryan McArdle is a Florida State transfer.
This regional will mark a reunion of former North Carolina chess champions. Jacksonville 2B Logan James and UNC pitcher Robert Woodard won the state chess championship in middle school.
Team Stats/Leaders: BA .287, 35 HR, 88/112 SB ----- ERA 4.37, 529 IP, 596 H, 35 HR
LF Pete Clifford .359-14-59, 21 SB ------------ Justin Young 5-5, 3.33
DH Chuck Opachich .335-0-27, 16 SB -------- Matt Gardner 7-5, 3.82
1B Ryan McArdle .326-6-51 -------------------- Matt Davis 4-1, 3.12, 6 saves
RF Mike McCallister .293-5-46, 14 SB --------- Matt Dobbins 3-2, 3.68
CF Kevin Ferreira .278-0-19, 16 SB
NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS (Chapel Hill, NC)
NCAA Tournament Appearances: 22 (sixth straight)
Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2006 (CWS runner up, 3-0 Chapel Hill Regional, 2-0 Tuscaloosa Super Regional)
Automatic bid after winning ACC Tournament (first time since 1990); won Coastal Division and 2nd overall in ACC (21-9)
Results against Regional rivals: beat ECU 10-0, 5-1
Team Notes: This post-season will mark the end of the current version of Boshamer Stadium. As soon as the last game is played at Boshamer, the contractors will start renovating the stadium to greatly expand seating capacity and modernize the facility. Among the contributors to the project were Yankees' owner George Steinbrenner, who donated a cool million bucks (his daughter graduated from UNC). The new stadium won't be ready until at least May of 2008, so the Tar Heels will play the 2008 season in nearby Cary, NC at the new Team USA training facility.
Team Stats/Leaders: BA .320, 64 HR, 43/63 SB ----- ERA 3.17, 542 IP, 485 H, 32 HR
1B Dustin Ackley .437-7-63, 10 SB ----------- Adam Warren 10-0, 2.09
RF Tim Fedroff .359-4-33 ---------------------- Robert Woodard 9-2, 3.29
C Tim Federowicz .349-4-58 ---------------- Alex White 6-4, 3.35
SS Josh Horton .329-8-43 --------------------- Luke Putkonen 7-1, 4.23
LF Reid Fronk .322-11-50 --------------------- Andrew Carignan 1-1, 1.20, 13 saves