Heels Fall in ACC Tournament Opener

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Alex White lived up to his billing as the ACC's Pitcher of the Year in Wednesday's conference tournament opener against Virginia, but North Carolina's bullpen was unable to finish what the sophomore started as the Tar Heels fell to the Cavaliers, 8-7, in 11 innings.

After spotting sixth-seeded Virginia (37-19) a 3-0 lead in its first two innings, White settled down and held his opponents scoreless through seven, totaling 11 strikeouts and just one earned run on a staggering 111 pitch count.

"[White] did what he needed to -- He got us into the 7th," UNC head coach Mike Fox said. "Normally our bullpen has been good about holding leads and we just didn't do it tonight."

But the Cavaliers rallied from a 4-3 deficit in the top of the ninth inning to take a 5-4 lead in what would be a back-and-forth battle for the remaining three innings. Virginia's John Barr scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch in the top of the 11th inning, and then made a diving catch to end the game, stranding three Tar Heels on base.

"We just couldn't get anybody to come in and close the door," Fox said. "We walked the leadoff guy in extra innings and that's just a killer when you let them walk to first base. They're going to put pressure on you then, obviously to bunt, and you've got to make some big pitches. You've got to give them credit. They came up with some big swings of the bat when they needed to with people on base."

Rob Wooten, Brian Moran and Colin Bates combined to pitch the final four innings for third-seeded North Carolina (45-11), and promptly allowed five hits and four earned runs, while walking four Cavaliers. The Tar Heels walked eight batters total, compared to just two for their opponents.

But White was not about to put the weight of this loss on the shoulders of his bullpen.

"It happens – our bullpen is great," White said. "Those guys will be back just like they were in the regular season for the next game. It was just one of those funny nights where things didn't go our way. We tried to fight back and get those runs at the end, but it just didn't fall our way."

Seniors Chad Flack (3-of-6) and Seth Williams (2-of-5) belted solo home runs, while junior Tim Federowicz (2-of-5) added two runs batted in of his own, as well as scoring a run on a balk in the bottom of the second inning.

Sophomores Dustin Ackley (2-of-5) and Tim Fedroff (2-of-6) also knocked in runs for the Tar Heels, who enter Friday night's contest with Wake Forest in need of a victory to keep them in contention for a shot at the championship game on Sunday afternoon.

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