HEELS ARE ACC CHAMPS!

Inside Carolina tracks the Tar Heel baseball team's postseason run ...

5/27: UNC 3, Wake Forest 2

Starter Luke Putkonen allowed just three hits over 6.2 innings and struck out five to lead the Tar Heels 2007 ACC Championship on Sunday.

"We needed a good pitching performance and we got it," Mike Fox said just before getting a Gatorade bath by his team.

The win came in spite of UNC losing a sixth consecutive tournament game in their opener against Georgia Tech on Wednesday. But Carolina bounced back to close out the weekend with wins over NC State, Virginia and Wake Forest.

"This team has been a resilient bunch that has bounced back tough off losses all season," Fox told the AP. "I'm overjoyed on behalf of our players to win an ACC championship. It's been a long drought for the University of North Carolina.

"It's a pretty special day for us. The ACC Championship is a big deal because this league is so, so very good in baseball."

The Tar Heels scored the winning run when Dustin Ackley opened the eighth inning with a walk. Two batters later, MVP Josh Horton drove a line shot all the way to the right field wall to score Ackley, as Horton cruised into third with a triple.

"I was just looking to make contact," Horton said.

Andrew Carignan held the Deacons scoreless in the final two innings to pick up his 13th save of the year.

The Tar Heels (48-12) also learned officially that they will host next week's NCAA Regional at Boshamer Stadium in Chapel Hill. And they will likely be awarded one of the tournament's top eight seeds when the pairings are officially announced at 12:30 p.m. on Monday.

"That's what we've worked for all season," Horton said. "This feels real good."

The conference could send as many as eight teams to the NCAA Tournament. ... Discuss

5/26: UNC 5, Virginia 0

North Carolina advances to the ACC Tournament championship game for the first time since its last title in 1990 with a 5-0 win over third-seeded Virginia on Saturday.

"That's a long time ago isn't it?" Mike Fox said. "We're just excited to bounce back here. Now we can take a deep breath and see what happens tomorrow."

Rookie Alex White (6-4) gave up just two hits in seven shutout innings as Carolina got loose for two runs in the sixth and three more in the eighth.

"I just tried to play the park," White said. "The wind has been blowing in hard all week. We just wanted to pound the zone and make them hit it out of the park. I felt good. I felt like I finally had my stuff for once. I just wanted to throw strikes and let my defense play behind me.

"I've always loved to throw in tight games," he said. "When I finish it off, it's a great feeling. We got a break with Georgia Tech losing in the second round. We knew we had to come out and take care of our business."

Cavs' closer Casey Lambert made only his fourth start of his four-year collegiate career and was effective scattering four hits over seven innings. But it wasn't enough, as UNC's Andrew Carignan came in and picked up his team-high 12th save on the season with two strikeouts in two shutout innings.

"This was two really good pitchers going at it out there today," Fox said. "I thought that was one of Alex's best outing this season. He's a big time pitcher for us. And he needed it; we made the most out of our eight hits today."

The Tar Heels (47-12) will play Wake Forest (33-26) on Sunday at 1 p.m. ... Discuss

5/25: UNC 14, NC State 5

Resuscitated by black jerseys and Virginia's win over Georgia Tech earlier on Thursday, Coastal Division champion North Carolina raced past lame duck participant NC State to set up a de facto ACC Tournament semifinal match-up with Virginia at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

The second-seeded Tar Heels (46-12) bounced back from their loss to the Yellow Jackets on Wednesday to throttle the rival Wolfpack, which had been eliminated from title contention prior to the game via the Cavs' win.

A three-hour rain delay prolonged the post-mortem for State, as UNC ace Robert Woodard scattered nine hits over 7.2 innings and picked up the win with the help of 19-hit bat support from his teammates.

"I'm proud of our kids; they we're ready to play," Mike Fox said after the game. "It took the monkey off our back a little bit."

In a game that didn't finish until 1:17 a.m. Friday morning, UNC jumped out to the early lead, and thanks to a four-run fifth inning, ended any drama early in snapping a six-game losing streak in the conference tourney dating back to 2004.

"This is exciting," Fox said. "I'm glad we have tomorrow off. This is where we wanted to be, and I'm just happy we got a big win tonight."

Carolina has now won 11 of its last 13 in hopes of making homestands out of the two upcoming NCAA sub-regionals... Discuss

5/23: GT 8, UNC 4

Carolina suffered a sixth straight conference tournament loss by way of Georgia Tech on Wednesday. The Yellow Jackets came from behind to snap the Tar Heels' five-game winning streak.

Carolina pitching surrendered 11 hits as Tech chased unbeaten starter Adam Warren after just 4.1 innings. Meanwhile with a stiff wind blowing in all afternoon, UNC was never able to play long ball.

The Tar Heels (45-12) retook the lead 3-1 in the bottom of the fourth on RBI singles by Chad Flack and Tim Fedroff. But the Yellow Jackets scored once in the top of the fifth, and later they exploded for four runs in the seventh to put the game out of reach.

It was only the second time this year Carolina has lost when it led after six innings.

"We just got out-played today," UNC coach Mike Fox said. "Hats off to Georgia Tech, they just beat us. They pitched better than we did, they hit better than we did and they played defense better than we did. So we'll regroup and come back to play tomorrow.

"Of all the days for our pitcher not to find the strike zone, today was not the day," he continued. "If there is ever a day to throw strikes, today is the day. If this wasn't a pitchers day with the wind blowing in, I don't know what would be."

In other action, No. 4 Clemson defeated No. 5 Miami 5-4 in 13 innings, and No. 1 Florida State beat No. 8 Wake Forest 11-2.

To keep hope alive for a shot at the title, the Heels need a win when they face No. 6 NC State on Thursday at 7 p.m. on FSN South. The Wolfpack fell 6-1 to Virginia on Wednesday... Discuss

5/23: The No. 2-seeded Tar Heels open ACC Tournament play today against No. 7 Georgia Tech. The first pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. and will be televised by FSN South. On the mound for UNC will be RHP Adam Warren (10-0, 1.93)... Heels Begin ACC Title Quest

5/22: On the way to Jacksonville, head coach Mike Fox spoke to Inside Carolina's Andy Britt regarding the ACC Tourney and his team's positioning for another run at a College World Series title ... Q&A with Mike Fox

5/21: There's a new format this year for the ACC Tournament. 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.

Here's the full schedule ...

34th Annual ACC Baseball Championship
Jacksonville, Fla.
May 23-27, 2007

Wednesday, May 23 G1: #3 Virginia vs. #6 NC State 10:00 a.m. G2: #2 North Carolina vs. #7 Georgia Tech 1:00 p.m. G3: #4 Clemson vs. #5 Miami 4:00 p.m. G4: #1 Florida State vs. #8 Wake Forest 7:00 p.m.

Thursday, May 24 G5: #3 Virginia vs. #7 Georgia Tech 4:00 p.m. G6: #2 North Carolina vs. #6 NC State 7:00 p.m.

Friday, May 25 G7: #4 Clemson vs. #8 Wake Forest 4:00 p.m. G8: #1 Florida State vs. #5 Miami 7:00 p.m.

Saturday, May 26 G9: #6 NC State vs. #7 Georgia Tech 10:00 a.m. G10: #2 North Carolina vs. #3 Virginia 1:00 p.m. G11: #1 Florida State vs. #4 Clemson 4:00 p.m. G12: #5 Miami vs. #8 Wake Forest 7:00 p.m.

Sunday, May 27 Championship Game 1:00 p.m.


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