It was the most runs Carolina had allowed in an NCAA Tournament game and still won, since taking an 11-9 decision over Memphis in the 1978 South Regional final at Auburn.
UNC (50-12) came within three outs of having to win three straight elimination games in order to advance to next weekend's Super Regional; and thus, keep hope alive for a return trip to Omaha and the College World Series in two weeks.
In front of a packed house littered with purple and gold amongst a sea of light blue, the Pirates took a 10-8 lead into the bottom of the eighth following Kyle Roller's solo homer and an RBI double by Corey Kemp.
To close things out, ECU called on right-handed fire baller Shane Mathews on to attempt his 15th save of the season. Trouble was, when Mathews finally found the strike zone, the Tar Heels had two runners in scoring position with one out.
"I felt great in the bullpen, but some days you just struggle," Mathews said. "I thought I was going to be able to throw well. It definitely was not the atmosphere and I guess it was just a mental thing, I just didn't have it."
Consecutive run-scoring singles by Fronk, Tim Fedroff and Ackley touched off fireworks to a roaring home crowd ovation.
"I knew he was coming with a fastball," Ackley said. "Once I hit it, I just saw it go up the middle…and that was game."
The exciting win catapulted Carolina to within just one win on Sunday from advancing to host its first ever Super Regional next weekend.
But the raucous activity in the stands was matched only by the "mosh pit" occurring simultaneously at home plate. No one is really certain what happened next. But following the Tar Heels' wild celebratory fracas, Fronk had to be whisked away via golf cart to get five stitches for a bloody head apparently the result of a collision with winning pitcher Ron Wooten's tooth.
Both Fronk and Wooten, who pitched a shutout ninth, were unavailable for comment after the game. Wooten suffered a broken tooth, but both should be ready to go Sunday, when the Tar Heels face the winner of the ECU-WCU rematch at 1 p.m.
Wooten improved to 4-1 on the season, and he has now struck out five of the last eight batters he's faced in the regional.
Before allowing five Pirate runs in the third, the Tar Heels' pitching staff had tossed 11 scoreless innings to open the NCAA Tournament. White allowed a career-high seven runs on a career-high tying nine hits over five-plus innings.
"I'm from Greenville so it was a little more exciting, but the regional definitely outweighs that in the category of excitement," White said. "I felt like I threw well. [My teammates] picked me up all night, and I thank them for it."
Horton went 2-for-5 with two runs scored with three RBI, Federoff was 3-for-5 with two runs scored and an RBI, and Ackley was 3-for-6 with three runs scored.
"When you're down like that, you have to dig a little bit deeper," Horton said. "We got a little bit of help from them, but we had some guys have some really good at-bats. Hopefully, tomorrow we can score some runs without having to respond."
Both UNC pitching coach Scott Forbes (arguing balls and strikes) and ECU head coach Billy Godwin (throwing his hat in disgust over a player called out for not tagging up before leaving second base) were ejected in the contest.
"You have to stay focused on the task at hand and not get caught up in the atmosphere," Godwin said. "I thought our kids did a good job, but we did some things during the course of that game that you can't do to beat a team like North Carolina."