The storyline heading into this weekend was North Carolina's postseason experience versus Coastal Carolina's lack thereof, as the Chanticleers (50-13) are participating in their program's first NCAA Super Regional. That angle played out perfectly on both sides, with the Tar Heels (50-12) looking solid in all three phases of the game, while their opponents' battled themselves every bit as much as their opponents.
"It's do or die, so if you don't show up…," UNC senior Seth Williams said. "Especially now, you're going to get everybody's best. We've got to bring our best, so I guess ultimately it brings out the best in everybody."
White allowed three runs and eight hits through seven innings, but two of those runs came in the top of the eighth with the Chanticleers trailing 9-1. Over his last three starts, the Greenville, N.C. product has 25 strikeouts and has allowed only five earned runs in 23 innings for a 1.96 ERA.
"Getting ahead of hitters was again the key today," White said. "Just not walking guys and getting the first guy out every inning was my biggest key."
While the Tar Heel defense backing White was solid, the same cannot be said for the fielding behind Coastal Carolina starter Bobby Gagg (one earned run, six hits in four innings).
North Carolina struck quickly on Saturday as temperatures flirted with triple digits throughout the afternoon, building a 3-0 lead through two innings. Dustin Ackley (1-3, two runs) reached on an error in the game's first at-bat, and following a Tim Fedroff (1-5, one run) single, Kyle Seager (1-3, two RBI) broke out of his postseason slump with a line drive double off the right field wall to score both runners.
And after designated hitter Tim Federowicz (2-4, one run) singled to start the bottom of the second, back-to-back errors allowed the junior catcher to score the Tar Heels' third run of the day.
"They opened the door for us some, obviously early and then again late," Fox said. "Fortunately, we were able to take advantage of it some."
In all, Coastal Carolina's fielding futility assisted the Tar Heels in six of their runs. Chanticleers' shortstop Tyler Bortnick and second baseman Rico Noel combined for five of their team's six errors, all of which occurred on routine plays in the infield.
The heat paired with the lopsided loss proved too severe a combination for Gagg and the Chanticleers' first pitcher out of the dugout (Joey Haug), as both players were ejected in the bottom of the eighth inning – long after they had been replaced on the field – for arguing balls and strikes. Both have been suspended for four games per the NCAA Baseball Rule Book.
"Looking at it from the outfield, I felt like the more the errors and close calls were coming on in the heat, it was too much mentally for our guys," Coastal Carolina center fielder David Sappelt said. "But that's just something that we¹ve got to get better at and come back tomorrow and make an adjustment."
After the Chanticleers got on the board in the fourth when Dock Doyle (3-4, one RBI) scored on a wild pitch, North Carolina added a run in the fifth on a Kyle Shelton (2-5, two RBIs) double that scored Ackley. Williams (3-4, HR, two RBI) hit a solo homerun to left field and Shelton knocked in Ryan Graepel (0-3, two runs) with a single to give the Tar Heels two more runs in seventh.
Coastal Carolina's fielding issues showed up again in the bottom of the seventh, as the Tar Heels scored three unearned runs thanks in part to two Chanticleer errors, including one where Bortnick overthrew his second baseman from 20 feet away.
White finally showed signs of wearing down in the intense heat in the top of the eighth, but Brian Moran (one earned run, one hit and one walk in 1/3 innings) and Rob Wooten (three strikeouts and two walks in 1 and 2/3 innings) combined to close out Coastal Carolina after four hits and a walk led to a three-run eighth for the Conway, S.C. program.
North Carolina can clinch its third-straight trip to the College World Series with a win on Sunday. Game time is set for 1 p.m. on ESPN or ESPN2.