White delivered 81 strikes in his 128 total pitches, but early struggles followed by Brandon Henderson's solo blast off the left-field light pole in the second inning had the large contingent of East Carolina fans on hand believing that an upset was in the cards.
But that homerun had the adverse effect for the Pirates, settling the right-handed flamethrower down as he struck out 12 batters the rest of the way in dominating fashion.
"It's pretty easy – you've just got to get the next guy out," White told reporters during UNC's postgame press conference when asked about overcoming the homerun. "You've got to move on. I made a bad pitch, the guy hit it out of the park and there was nothing I could do about it from then on. All you can do as a pitcher is move on and throw strikes and get the next guy out."
That's easier said then done, however, especially for ECU starting pitcher Seth Maness (13 hits, seven runs in 5.0 innings). The sophomore righty gave up two runs on four hits in the third, thanks to a pair of Seth Baldwin and Kyle Seager RBI singles, before UNC blew the game wide open with seven runs in the sixth inning.
Seager (4-of-5) led a group of five Tar Heels that tallied multi-hit performances, while six different batters etched RBI in the box score. The junior third baseman also finalized the day's scoring with a solo homerun to right field in the eighth.
Henderson (2-of-4) joined DH Kyle Roller (2-of-3) as the only two on the East Carolina roster to post multi-hit games at Boshamer Stadium on Saturday. Eight Pirates totaled more strikeouts than hits on the afternoon, obviously frustrated by White's combination of precision and heat.
"He has a very good fastball, and he was working it all day," Henderson said. "He was throwing a very heavy fastball and he was keeping it down at the knees on the outside corner. We had a few opportunities, but we couldn't cash in on them."
ECU head coach Billy Godwin was blunter in his assessment, saying, "Heck, once he settled in, he may have beaten the Yankees today."
White became the winningest postseason pitcher in North Carolina school history with his sixth NCAA Tournament win.
Game 2 is schedule for a noon start on Sunday (ESPN), but North Carolina understands that the scoreboard begins once again at 0-0.
"It's nice to get the first one, but if you start celebrating too early, you'll be in trouble," UNC head coach Mike Fox said.
INSIDE THE GAME
Pirates Walking the Plank in the 6th Inning
When Devin Harris stepped to the plate in the top of the sixth, things were looking up for East Carolina. Trailing just 2-1, Kyle Roller and Brandon Henderson started the inning with back-to-back singles, putting the Pirates in prime position to add some runs to the scoreboard.
East Carolina head coach Billy Godwin took the aggressive approach, electing to have Harris – who leads the team with 61 strikeouts – to swing away instead of moving the runners to 2nd and 3rd with only one out. As if on cue, Harris struck out and Dustin Harrington ended the scoring threat with an easy double play.
That's when things got ugly.
The Tar Heels sent 12 batters to the plate in the bottom of the inning, tallying seven runs on seven hits. The first seven hitters reached base – thanks to two Pirate blunders – before Ackley recorded the first out with a sacrifice RBI fly to centerfield.
"It's part of the game," Maness said. "You make good pitches sometimes and they just get a hit. They strung together [hits] well and it paid off. They scored and had a big inning in the sixth… I was making good pitches, but they were just putting it in play."
Levi Michael (3-of-4, 2 RBI) provided a double down the right-field line in UNC's second at-bat, and then added a single in the same direction in his team's 11th opportunity. Five of his teammates also added hits.
"It was our day where we just hit some balls where they weren't," Fox said.
Damage with Two Outs
East Carolina entered the Chapel Hill Super Regional ranked first nationally in hits (794) and fourth in runs (561). But perhaps more impressive than those two statistics was the fact that the Pirates scored 227 of those runs (40.5 percent) with two outs.
The table was set early for ECU to duplicate that success against White, but the Greenville, N.C. product would have none of it. The Pirates left runners at third base in each of the first three innings before stranding Harris at second in the fourth.
"We had some big opportunities and we couldn't cash in," Henderson said. "We had a couple of chances with two outs and runners on and couldn't cash in. It was tough."
Those opportunities essentially vanished after the fourth inning, as the Pirates left just two men in scoring position the rest of the day.
Seager Back in Sync
Seager recently found himself in a mini-slump, starting with the ACC Tournament loss to Virginia on May 22nd. From his first at-bat against the Cavaliers through his third at-bat against Coastal Carolina last weekend, the junior third baseman batted .118 (2-of-17) with seven strikeouts while stranding six runners.
But thanks in part to the ebb and flow nature of baseball, Seager's bat has returned just in time for a final push to Omaha. The Kannapolis, N.C. product is hitting .538 (7-of-13) with a staggering 8 RBI since that downward trend.
"Well, I didn't know I was 2-for-17," Seager said, smiling. "… The coaches have been working really hard with me lately and kind of getting me back in the swing of things."