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The Greenville, N.C. product struggled for the second straight outing on Saturday, coughing up five earned runs and four hits in 4 2/3 innings against Coastal Carolina. But it wasn't known until the postgame press conference that the junior righty was dealing with an ill-placed blister on his right index finger, as well as suffering from a right hamstring strain that occurred during conditioning drills the previous Monday.
UNC head coach Mike Fox wasted little time during Tuesday's media session in letting everyone know that he had penciled in White (7-4, 4.42 ERA) as the starter for Saturday's Super Regional opener against East Carolina (46-18).
"We're just kind of monitoring him and watching him," Fox replied when asked about his junior's health. "He did a lot of jogging yesterday. He's going to be fine. He feels a lot better and his blister is healing up, so I think he will be fine."
White confirmed those statements, saying that he was moving around better with each passing day, including being able to get off the mound in stride with minimal hamstring pain. As for the blister, White indicated that he has been unable to lay off throwing completely.
"I can't do that – I've got to throw, I've got to keep my arm going," White said. "I've been able to throw this week. I long tossed yesterday and I long tossed today. It really hasn't bothered me much. It's healing like it should. We've still got three more days before Saturday, and I think it will be completely fine by then."
Adam Warren (8-2, 3.19 ERA) is slated to throw on Sunday, while Matt Harvey (7-2, 5.35) will be called upon if a deciding Game 3 takes place on Monday.
Done With Lefties – For Now
When East Carolina throws out its first pitch a little after noon on Saturday, there's a good chance that Seth Maness (9-2, 4.41 ERA) or Chris Heston (7-0, 3.89 ERA) will be on the mound. Those two pitchers share one trait that has become somewhat foreign to this North Carolina batting lineup – they're both right-handed.
The Tar Heels (45-16) have faced seven consecutive starting lefties – dating back to the regular season finale at Boston College – while surviving that campaign with a 5-2 record. With six left-handed batters in the lineup, the approach has been for opposing teams to throw lefties at UNC in hopes of tripping up the roster, but that's easier said than done.
"All I ever read about in the scouting reports is if you've got a good lefthander, match him up against North Carolina and you've got a really good chance to win," Kansas head coach Ritch Price told reporters following his team' s 12-1 loss to North Carolina on Sunday. "But I think you better run a really good lefthander out there – that would be my take on that."
Junior first baseman Dustin Ackley has been adamant that it doesn't matter what side the pitchers are throwing from, and the data backs up the All American. In its last two outings, UNC dotted Coastal Carolina's Cody Wheeler and Kansas' Travis Blankenship for a combined 12 earned runs, nine hits and seven walks in just 5 1/3 innings.
"We've seen lefties this whole postseason, so it's going to be a little different, but I think everybody will be excited about seeing a righty," third baseman Kyle Seager said. "We've got so many left-handed hitters in our lineup that that should help a little bit."
Fox tends to agree with Ackley, suggesting that good pitching outweighs what hand is delivering the baseball.
"We've kind of gotten used to [lefties], but their righties are good," Fox said. "Again, I think it's just how you pitch. They're going to have a plan against our guys; we're going to have a plan against theirs. Obviously, you've got to put the ball in the right spot."
Slowing a Hitting Machine
There's no doubting East Carolina's ability to hit the baseball – after all, the Pirates rank first nationally in hits (764), sixth in doubles (153), seventh in homeruns (107) and 13th in batting average (.341). But watching ECU put up 34 runs on the scoreboard when it needed them the most – in three consecutive elimination games in the Greenville, N.C. Regional – validates that offensive potential even more.
"It's definitely going to be a task for our pitchers," Ackley said on Tuesday. "They've got power, and on our field – homeruns can definitely be hit here. So it's definitely going to be tough for us."
White echoed those comments, saying, "They're a great hitting team. We have our hands full."
But hidden in the statistics are trends that could prove to be East Carolina's undoing, such as the Pirates owning a 8-12 record when scoring five or less runs or a 6-8 mark when its opponent doesn't commit an error.
In other words, back to the basics that have defined a Mike Fox-led program – strong pitching and solid defense.
"If you open the door for them – a couple of walks – you make some mistakes, they can get some guys up there that can score quickly for them," Fox said.
Just ask a South Carolina team that led the Pirates 9-6 heading into the 9th inning on Monday before walking two batters and setting up Devin Harris' three-run homer than forced the game into extra innings, which ECU eventually won 10-9 in the 10th.
2009 NCAA CHAPEL HILL SUPER REGIONAL SCHEDULE Saturday, June 6 - Game 1: noon (ESPNU) Sunday, June 7 - Game 2: noon (ESPN) Monday, June 8 - Game 3: 1 p.m. (ESPN) or 7 p.m. (ESPN2), if necessary