The Tar Heels set a new NCAA Tournament club record, scoring 16 runs. The previous record was 15 runs achieved three times, most recently against Maine in 2006. Dustin Ackley and Tim Fedroff both paced the Heels with four base hits each. Fedroff drove in six runs and scored once. Ackley again paced the Tar Heel offense from his leadoff spot, hitting safely in his first four trips to the plate; scoring four runs and knocking in three.
"We got some big hits by Dustin and Tim and they've done it for us all year," said UNC head coach Mike Fox.
Seth Williams hit his second career NCAA postseason home run and No. 32 of his career. The Tar Heels posted a season-high 11 extra base hits; nine of which were doubles. That is the most doubles hit in a game in recorded UNC baseball history. Their 157 doubles for the season eclipsed the previous season record of 152 set in 2002.
"Any time you come up to the plate with runners on base you try to produce," Ackley said postgame. "Especially in a regional, you have to come up in clutch situations. We try to be as patient as we can. If we see a pitch we can hit we want to be aggressive, but we don't want to get in a hole."
Mount St. Mary's also set a record for most runs by a Northeast Conference school in the NCAA tournament.
Struggles in the Bullpen
Carolina was cruising along behind starting pitcher Matt Harvey and went to the bullpen with an 8-1 lead after three innings. Tyler Trice came into the game in the top of the fourth and gave up two earned runs and was followed by Patrick Johnson, who allowed four earned runs in his third of an inning pitched. Nate Stritz then came in and allowed three of the four batters he faced to reach base -- loading the bases for stopper Rob Wooten to clean up the mess (which he did). The following inning, Wooten gave up two walks, a hit and an earned run. Logan Munson and Rob Catapano followed up with scoreless frames in the eighth and ninth innings.
"We trust our bullpen and [their struggles] are just one of those things," Fox said. "Tyler is usually just a one-inning guy and we tried to stretch him to two innings. Patrick [Johnson] has not pitched in a long time and we had to get him back out there in a game - when you don't have that rhythm sometimes it's tough."
In spite of the pitching struggles, Fox noted the positives that stemmed from pulling Harvey early and giving six relievers work. "We used a lot of guys tonight, which is a good thing," he laughed. "We got a lot of guys' feet wet by pitching in a regional and we didn't tax any of them. … [Harvey] will be able to come back, that was one of the reasons we got him out. He probably could have thrown that fourth inning and gotten up to sixty [pitches], but now we have got him available whenever."
Harvey will be an option for relief pitching or to start the if-necessary Monday game.
Answering the Bell
The Heels responded to the Mountaineers' four-run comeback in the sixth inning by responding with four runs of their own in the bottom of the sixth, including a hit-and-run that Fedroff turned into a four-bagger. "Basically we were just trying to get something started," Fedroff said. "We know that top to bottom all of our lineup can produce and we tried to put pressure on them. I really tried not to do too much. I tried to hit the ball where it was pitched and not press..."
Fox added, "When it is time to execute every team has to step up and do it. We executed our hit and run for Timmy and just got a little lucky there. I think it is important when the other team gets back close like that, when you come back out and get back on offense you try to be more aggressive and dial it up a little bit -- which is what we tried to do there at the bottom of the sixth and fortunately it was able to work for us in a number of situations."
The rally also featured a risky squeeze play that worked to perfection. "It was a safety squeeze," Fox explained afterwards. "Dustin just tried to read the angle and bunt away from the pitcher and we fortunately got it out there just enough. It was the first one we called all year."
Next Up: UNC-Wilmington
The Seahawks advanced to Saturday's 5 p.m. game against UNC after a gritty performance against a determined Elon squad. Bradley Holt pitched eight and two thirds innings for the Seahawks; effectively saving their bullpen for extensive use later this weekend. The Seahawks were paced by their freshman Alex Hill, who was perfect at the plate – four hits, a run scored and an RBI.
UNCW recruits well in the Triangle region and has 28 players from the state of North Carolina on its roster. "I'm pretty excited," commented Hill. "My mom went to Carolina, my aunt went to Carolina … and my sister as well. I am pretty much a lifelong Carolina fan. I am pretty excited to get a chance to face them."
Also of note, Seahawks pitching coach Jason Howell is a UNC alumni and was the volunteer coach for the Tar Heels last season.
Fox will send ACC Pitcher of the Year Alex White to the mound for the Tar Heels on Saturday.
"Alex has pitched in some big games for us and this will be another one," Fox said. "We have confidence in Alex. He will need to be around the zone tomorrow and hopefully give us five or six innings. He is a competitor and holds runners well; fields his position well. He will bring some things to the table. I know Wilmington likes to run; that was one of our reasons to juggle our pitching. Alex does a good job holding the runners and doing the other little things that might be important for us out there."