Seniors Form Baseball's Backbone

CARY, N.C. – When North Carolina announced the 2005 baseball recruiting class in the fall of 2003, one baseball publication ranked the group 18th nationally. But with this senior class playing for a third-straight trip to the College World Series, numbers do not accurately reflect its importance to this program.


Mike Fox:

Dustin Ackley:

Alex White:

Tim Fedroff:

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Eight members of that original 13-man class have since departed Chapel Hill, as most are now playing professionally, including Andrew Carignan, Luke Putkonen, Josh Horton and Reid Fronk.

But the remaining six seniors – who representing the smallest class on the Tar Heel roster – form a solid foundation that has allowed this program to grow from within while also posting unbelievable numbers on the scoreboard as well as the win-loss column. The 2005 class registered its 201st win in a North Carolina uniform in Sunday's Regional-clinching victory over UNC Wilmington. The previous mark for the most wins by a UNC senior class was the 162 victories by the 2003 class.

Chad Flack, Kyle Shelton, Tyler Trice, Seth Williams and Mike Facchinei are the lone remaining pieces of that '05 class, with closer Rob Wooten serving as the lone red-shirt senior from the nation's top-ranked class in 2004.

"The class we brought in in '05 – Flack's class and Seth – they're the ones that turned this program around," head coach Mike Fox said earlier this week. "They're a corps of good kids that believed and got it done on the field. I've got to give them all of the credit, and even Josh Horton and Reid Fronk, those guys were here.

"They changed the program from the inside out with the attitude and just the belief that there's no reason that we can't celebrate on the field when these other teams are and that we can do it. You can say it all you want to, but if your players don't believe it and you don't have a corps of them in there that are trying to pull your team in the right direction, then you're fighting an uphill battle."

Flack is the headliner within that group, having recently established school records for career hits (321), at-bats (1031) and games played (260) and needing just one total base (515) and nine RBIs (206) to add two more career records to the UNC books.

The Forest City, N.C. product has elevated his game during his postseason career, batting .316 (42-133) with four homeruns and 24 RBI in 30 games, including two late game bombs to lift UNC to a Super Regional victory over Alabama in 2006.

Williams has been equally as impressive in the postseason, batting .350 (36-103) with two homeruns and 13 RBI in 29 games.

But those numbers don't tell the full story of this senior class. Flack is a media favorite during interview sessions such as the one held on Friday afternoon at the USA Baseball Complex. He just recently turned 22 years old, but he is a savvy veteran and sounds much more like a coach than the student-athlete that he really is.

"You just have to come out and play your 'A' game," said Flack when asked about Super Regional opponent Coastal Carolina. "You have to take it one pitch at a time and one inning at a time, and if you don't, somebody can jump up and bite you. They are a very good ball club, and we'll have to play very well to beat them."

His voice is steady and his eyes are confident, and it's obvious when talking to his younger teammates that Flack and his senior counterparts have been instrumental in this program's success.

"They're the reason we are where we are, I'd say," sophomore outfielder Tim Fedroff said. "It's definitely the leadership that we've had. It's a key to the team and it's really carries and spreads out throughout the team. The team chemistry is a lot better when you've got team leaders that will step up like they do, and it definitely shows on the field with the way everybody plays."

It should be noted to Fedroff is batting .402 (102-254) on the season with 12 homeruns and 67 RBIs, so his praise carries plenty of weight. The same can be said for his fellow classmate Dustin Ackley, who is batting .405 (100-247) on the season with seven homeruns and 47 RBI.

"Anytime that you have guys that have been here numerous times is big," Ackley said. "They know not to panic at any time and they can help us out a little bit more to know what to expect and things like that, so I think it's big to have that experience on your team."

North Carolina is only two wins away from a third consecutive appearance in Omaha, Neb. for the College World Series, and while the seniors have gotten this group of Tar Heels this far, those six individuals are going to have to continue to prove their worth both on the field and in the dugout for that opportunity to become to become a realization.

"It's a great credit to [the seniors] that we've been able to do this three years in a row," Fox said. "It's not an easy thing to do. It will never get old and we certainly will never take it for granted."

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