Heels Begin ACC Title Quest

Back-to-back winners of the Coastal Division and winners of 10 of its last 11 games, No. 2 seed North Carolina will begin its quest to redeem for a 16-year run of ACC Tournament frustration when it faces No. 7 Georgia Tech at 1 p.m. today at the Baseball Grounds in Jacksonville, Fla.

The Tar Heels, 45-11 and ranked either third or fourth nationally depending on the poll, haven't reached the ACC title game on Sunday since 1990. That was the last year Carolina took home the trophy, upping its total to four including a three-year championship run from 1982 through 1984.

"We just have to get a win down there," said Mike Fox, 7-16 as a coach in ACC Tournament play. "We obviously haven't had the right philosophy. We need to change it, because our philosophy in the past hasn't worked."

UNC has dropped five straight tourney games dating back to 2004, including a pair to NC State and Florida State last season before coming to within a whisker of winning the College World Series in Omaha three weeks later.

Their remarkable run for a national title last June culminated in the Tar Heels' best record ever (54-15), and their 45 wins so far this season is tied for the third most in the nation behind only Vanderbilt and FSU.

This year marks the sixth consecutive season UNC has won 40 or more games – a school record.

Once again Carolina boasts one of the best pitching staffs in the country, has consistently pounded the ball all season offensively and has been stellar in the field. The Tar Heels are the only ACC team to rank in the league's top two in ERA, batting average and fielding percentage.

Meanwhile, Georgia Tech (31-23) enters the competition having dropped six of seven games, including a three-game sweep at the hands of the Seminoles this past weekend.

From the top to the bottom of the order, nine Tar Heels have driven in at least 25 runs on the year, and six have 35-plus RBI.

First baseman Dustin Ackley, the ACC Freshman of the Year, leads the nation with a 101 hits and his .443 batting average is tops in the conference and fourth-best in the county. Joined by fellow table setter catcher Tim Federowicz, the two have combined for 117 RBI this season.

Third baseman Chad Flack is currently ninth on UNC's all-time list with 36 HRs. Left fielder Reid Fronk has brought the most lumber to the plate with a team-high 11 homers, including eight in his last 11 games.

Right-hander Adam Warren (10-0) will get the starting nod against the Yellow Jackets. He joins a short list of famed alums Andrew Miller and Scott Bankhead, as the only Tar Heel pitchers to start a season unbeaten with 10-plus wins.

Behind closer Andrew Carignan (1.35), who has 11 saves, Carolina has lost just once this season when leading after six innings.

In a move designed to ease the burden on teams' pitching staffs, the ACC replaced its traditional double-elimination format with a round-robin format divided into a pair of four-team pools. The two winners of each bracket will meet in a single championship game Sunday at 1 p.m., with the winner capturing the ACC's automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.

The Division `A' bracket will consist of No. 1 seed Florida State, No. 4 seed Clemson, No. 5 seed Miami and No. 8 seed Wake Forest. The Division `B' bracket includes No. 2 seed North Carolina, No. 3 seed Virginia, No. 6 seed NC State and No. 7 seed Georgia Tech.

The Tar Heels play the Wolfpack on Thurs. at 7 p.m. and Virginia on Saturday at 1 p.m.


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