2007 College World Series Live Blog: UNC vs. Mississippi State

Tonight The North Carolina Tar Heels begin their run in the 2007 College World Series, against the resurgent powerhouse Mississippi State. I will provide a proper preview of the Tar Heels in the CWS tomorrow; if you absolutely must have a preview right now, to to College Baseball Blog.

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7:15 pm: Top of the first. Robert Woodard allowed a single against the leadoff hitter, but retired the side after that.

7:19 pm: Bottom of the first. UNC’s batting lineup: Fronk, Fedroff, Ackley, Federowicz, Horton, Flack, Williams, Johnson, Gore.

7:20 pm: Justin Pigott strikes out Reid Fronk to begin the inning.

7:21 pm: Tim Fedroff grounds out to second. Apparently, he’s a Yankees fan. Booo… it’s a good thing you’re playing for the Tar Heels.

7:22 pm: Dustin Ackley is safe at first off the error by the shortstop, but Tim Federowicz flies out to center to end the inning. The game is scoreless after one.

7:26 pm: The second inning has begun. The Bulldogs first baseman leads off with a single up the middle.

Woodard is a good pitcher, but I’m concerned for our starting pitchers this year. They have been shaky for the entire post season, and many times our ourr bullpen has had to bail out the team before the offense makes a comeback. We need the starters to perform well if we want to win the College World Series.

7:27 pm: Fedroff completely misses the catch, losing the baseball in the sun. Runners on second and third.

7:29 pm: Sneed hits another double that goes in the right-center gap, scoring the two guys on base easily. 2-0, Mississippi State early in the second.

7:32 pm: The Bulldogs continue to hit off of Woodard into deep right field. Fedroff catches it, but Sneed scores after tagging up at third. 3-0, Mississippi State, and only 1 out.

7:34 pm: After 2 outs, another line drive to right field, and another easy run by Mississippi State, and the Bulldogs, lead 4-0.

That will be it for Woodard, as Adam Warren will come out of the bullpen in his place. Woodard leaves after 7 hits and 4 earned runs on only 39 pitches.

7:40 pm: Warren gets out of the inning, but not before Mississippi State puts a huge dent in UNC’s plans. Boy, where have we seen this before?

7:44 pm: After Josh Horton leads off with a base hit, Flack grounds into a double play, and Williams grounds out to end the inning, essentially before it started. Pigott retires the side in 4 pitches. He is dominating, which is not a good sign for the Tar Heels.

7:51 pm: Warren gets the Heels out of the inning without hemorrhaging more runs. The Bulldogs still lead, 4-0 in the middle of the third.

Adam Warren has been our fourth option at starting pitcher. Even though he has a perfect 10-0 regular season record, he has not been used in the postseason until now.

7:58 pm: After Benji Johnson strikes out, Garrett Gore hits a double into right field, UNC’s first extra base hit of the game. The Heels now go back to the top of the order.

8:01 pm: Pigott walks Fronk to put runners on first and second with one out. Fedroff is up next.

8:03 pm: Fedroff flies out to right field, and Fronk is picked off at first by the catcher to end the inning. The Bulldogs lead 4-0 after 3. UNC cannot afford to make mistakes at this point in the game.

8:11 pm: Adam Warren retires the first two batters. Missisippi State hits a two out left field double, but Warren is able to strike out catcher Edward Easly and end the top of the fourth. The Bulldogs still have a 4-0 lead.

8:15 pm: Pigott walks Ackley to lead off the inning.

8:18 pm: Federowicz hits a a deep fly ball, but the center fielder, Jeffrey Rae, is there for the catch. One down.

8:20 pm: Horton hits a grounder between first and second base for another base hit. Horton is 2-2.

Wait a minute. Someon has the time to setup a website calling for the head of a college baseball manager? Now I’ve seen everything.

8:22 pm: Flack hits another single for the Tar Heels. Ackley comes in to score from second to finally put UNC on the board. 4-1, Mississippi State.

8:27 pm: After Seth Williams flies out, Benji Johnson hits a grounder that gets past the shortstop. Horton comes in to score from second. 4-2 Mississippi State. Could UNC make another big comeback?

8:29 pm: Garrett Gore ground out to end the inning, but the Heels cut the lead in half. It’s 4-2, inf favor of the Bulldogs after four innings.

8:34 pm: According to Barry Larkin, the sign that you’ve made it big as a town is when you have a Bass Pro Shops. Hmm… under that definition, Auburn, New York has made it big as a city.

Also, Dick’s Sporting Goods, a sponsor of the CWS, is not going to be happy about Larkins plugging their competitor.

8:36 pm: UNC turns the double play tpo end the inning. We’re at the game’s midway point, and UNC still trails 4-2.

8:41 pm: With one out, Fedroff gets an easy right field single…

8:43 pm: …but Ackley line drives right to the third baseman, who turns in an easy double play to end the fifth inning. The Bulldogs still lead 4-2 after five innings.

8:48 pm: Adam Warren’s line so far: 3.2 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 4 K, 1 BB.

8:54 pm: Warren gets out of the inning, still without allowing a run. 4-2, Bulldogs.

8:58 pm: After one out, Horton and Flack each get base hits. Seth Williams is up next.

9:00 pm: Seth hits a bullet at the third baseman, who mishandles the ball. Horton is able to score from second, cutting the deficit to 4-3.

TAR! HEELS! TAR! HEELS! TAR! HEELS!

…You know what? That sounded definitively less formidable at a baseball game.

9:03 pm: Benji Johnson misses getting a home run by thismuch, but he hits it off the wall and Flack comes in to score. Seth Williams is stopped at third, and the game is now tied at 4. UNC has come all the way back, and Pigott is gong to get pulled from the pitching mound.

WHOOOOOOOO!!!

It’s worth noting that the Heels ravaged the South Carolina bullpen, but it may be a different story against the Bulldogs. Runners on 2nd and 3rd, 1 out.

9:08 pm: The pitcher walks Gore to load the bases for Reid Fronk, possibly to force an inning-ending double play.

9:10 pm: Reid Fronk is hit by pitch, and Seth Williams scores from third. UNC leads, 5-4. A bizarre way to get out first lead of the game, but we’ll take it.

9:11 pm: Fedroff Flies out to deep left field, but Benji Johnson is able to tag up and score from third. It’s now 6-4 in favor of the Heels. What a turnaround.

9:12 pm: Dustin Ackley hits a line drive over the outstretched arms of the shortstop, bring Gore and Fronk in to score. With the 2 RBI single, Ackley ties the record for the most hits by a Tar Heel in a season, set by Chad Flack last season. UNC leads, 8-4.

9:14 pm: Federowicz, who led off the inning, gets a base hit that sends Ackley to third, and the Bulldogs must now dig deeper into their bullpen.

9:16 pm: Roy Williams is looking stylish is his “Carolina blue loose Under Armour semi-mock-turtleneck T-shirt”. There are so many oxymorons in that one piece of clothing, it’s scary, and yet he manages to look good in it.

9:18 pm: Horton flies out to right, and the inning mercifully comes to an end, but the Heels now have a 4 run lead heading into the 7th, with Adam Warren still pitching well.

9:21 pm: Correction: Warren has finished his day, and has been replaced in favor of Rob Wooten. He has pitched extremely well this postseason.

9:23 pm: Just when it looked like UNC’s lead was going to be safe, Wooten allows a deep home run from Edward Easley to cut the lead to 8-5, and the Bulldogs put another guy on base.

9:25 pm: UNC is able to get out of the inning and into the 7th inning stretch, still leading 8-5. The Heels’ now red-hot offense will get another chance to get more runs.

9:28 pm: Flack beats the throw from third to get the base hit and lead off the inning.

9:31 pm: Ricky Bowen has spent WAY too much time worrying about Flack at first base. He needs to worry about the batter.

9:33 pm: Williams walks, putting runners on first and second with nobody out.

9:35 pm: A wild pitch sends the runners to second and third, still with no one out. The Bulldogs are in serious trouble.

9:37 pm: Benji Johnson strikes out. For the Bulldogs, that’s about the best thing that could have happened in the at-bat.

9:38 pm: On the next pitch, Gore grounds to third, where Sneed manages to keep Flack at third and throw out Gore at first.

On the very next pitch, Reid Fronk grounds out to first, and Mississippi manages to escape the jam, still trailing the Heels 8-5. Crap. We could have finished them off, and we let them off the hook. Let’s see if coming up empty in the 7th comes back to haunt us.

9:42 pm: Sneed grounds out to Flack at third. We’re five outs away. Wooten is still on the mound, and Andrew Carignan is warming up.

9:43 pm: Jet Butler also grounds out, and UNC is now 4 outs away from their first win in the 2007 CWS.

9:44 pm: Wooten retires the side easily in the top of the 8th inning, and Carignan will close in the 9th. This game seems pretty much in hand at this point, but another run or two never hurts.

9:48 pm: Fedroff gets a base hit to lead off.

9:50 pm: Mississippi State skipper Ron Polk looks like a combination of Lou Pinniella and Bobby Bowden. Trust me, that is not a good thing.

9:54 pm: After striking out 2 batters, Horton flies out to end the 8th inning. UNC still leads 8-5, and now have a chance to close out the game in the 9th.

9:59 pm: Carignan easily disposes of the first two batters. Ed Easley, who hit the home run off of Wooten, is now the Bulldogs’ last hope.

10:01 pm: Easley strikes out! And Carolina manages the 8-5 win over Mississippi State. The Heels once again are bailed out by their bullpen after a bad performance by the starter, and the offense rallies late to get the win. North Carolina will now face Rice in Game 4 of Bracket A of the College World Series. The winner will have the upper hand in getting to the Championship Series.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Super Regional Day 2 Recap: Now THAT’S What I Call A 7th Inning Stretch!

Game2 of the Super Regional has thus far followed a similar script to Game 1. The Carolina starting pitcher, Alex White got shell shocked early and often, and had to be taken out early in favor of middle relief. While the entire Gamecock offense was performing well, Justin Smoak was outstanding, with two RBI, including a solo home run, and three runs scored. Meanwhile, the Carolina offense got very little accomplished in the early part of the game against the starting pitcher. Erik Himpy eventually had to be pulled however, and once again took advantage of South Carolina’s bullpen. Tim Federowicz hit a two RBI single in the top of the 7th to cut the lead to 8-5.

South Carolina did manage to get Josh Horton out (who is still hitless in this game), before the middle of the 7th inning, before the game was delayed due to an impending thunderstorm. Eventually the game was suspended until 2:30 pm today. So after a 17 hour 7th inning stretch (that must be some sort of record), we will finally get to see how this plays out. Sitting on that grassy hill known as “general admission” after a heavy rain will only make it that much more interesting.

Boshamer Super Regional Game 1: What A Comeback…

So there I am, In the general admission section of Boshamer Stadium. 90 degrees, 90% humidity. The sun has already set, so I’m not roasting. Instead, I’m left on a grassy hill to bathe in barbeque sauce and my own musk. An inning and a half before, our opponent had hit a grand slam off of our star pitcher to take a 6-0 lead, commencing one of the few times that 1,000 people yelling “COCKS!” in public was socially acceptable. The feeling at that moment was engulfing. It was asphyxiating, It had permeated everyone wearing blue that evening. It was an inescapable feeling of shock.

And I simply could not have been happier.

Absolutely epic. It was the bottom of the 7th inning. The Tar Heels had cut the deficit to 6-3 in the 6th, and now Carolina fans were witnessing an unstoppable comeback. 6 runs in the 7th inning. Everyone who had been sitting on the hill before were now standing, up, straining their voice beyond recognition. If you entered the stadium with the voice of a tenor, you left with the voice of a 3-pack-a-day smoker.  Watching UNC make the comeback for the 9-6 win over South Carolina was a level of happiness I had not felt since Tyler Hansbrough single handedly ruined J.J. Redick’s senior night 15 months ago.

You can find the analysis at Tar Heel Blue, for I am at a loss for words on the actual baseball details. I will say this: Josh Horton is simply unstoppable right now.

 

NCAA Baseball Regional Day Four Recap

North Carolina 6, Western Carolina 5Another dramatic 9th inning comeback by the Tar Heels. I rushed to this game from my class, and was welcomed in the same way the regional began: a scorching hot and humid day that sent many spectators for the shade of the pavilion in the back of the stadium. Heat aside, it was a near picture-perfect day for baseball.

The Tar Heels got off to an early start, scoring a run in each of the first two innings and ultimately taking a 3-0 lead in the middle of the 4th inning. But then the Catamount offense started clicking in the bottom of the fourth, as starting pitcher Luke Putkonen began to struggle. Two key mistakes, a HBP by Putkonen and a fielding error by 3rd baseman Chad Flack, led to an RBI single by Johnathan Greene and a 2 RBI double in left field by Nick Liles, respectively. Putkonen was able to eventually get out of the inning, but WCU took a 4-3 lead.

After Blake Murphy hit a solo home run and the Catamounts put another player on base, Putkonene was pulled from the game and replaced by  reliever Rob Wooten. He did an excellent job keeping the Tar Heels in the game, pitching 3.2 innings of relief without giving up a run.

The Tar Heels floundered offensively until the 7th inning, when UNC loaded the bases for Tim Federowicz, who hit a two-out RBI single to cut the deficit to 5-4. Unfortunately, Josh Horton Struck on the next at bat, stranding all three baserunners and relinquishing a golden opportunity late in the game.

The Tar Heels would get one last chance in the 9th inning. Mike Cavsinni (pinch running for Tim Fedroff) and Dustin Ackley were on second and third with two outs, and Western Carolina brought in pitcher Chris Masters to pitch to Horton. Josh hit a line drive into deep right center, bringing in the two runs to take a 6-5 lead and sending the Boshamer crowd wild. Andrew Carignan slammed the door in the bottom of the 9th, giving UNC the 6-5 win.

The Tar Heels wil host the Super Regional this weekend against South Carolina for the rights to go to Omaha for the College World Series. You can bet that I’ll be there.

NCAA Baseball Regional Day Three Recap: Cats Kick Some Pirate Booty

Whoa. I didn’t think that title through very well, did I?

Western Carolina 9, East Carolina 5Tropical Storm Barry finally caught up to us on Sunday. The rain forced the NCAA to delay the elimination game until 7:00 pm and the regional final game until Monday at 1pm. (On the flipside, that means one more day of baseball! WHOOOOO!!!) The weather became cold during the game, which I was completely unprepared for, especially considering that just two days earlier it was so hot outside that you could the metal bench seating as a stove top.

East Carolina jumped to an early start with 2 runs at the top of the 1st inning. But the Catamounts responded in the bottom of the second, as Brent Greer’s 3 RBI triple helped WCU get a 4-3 lead. The Pirate remained, close, but could not get any offense after the fourth inning. Already up 7-5, Western Carolina scored two more runs in the bottom of the 8th to seal the game.

(An interesting side note: very few home runs have been hit in this regional, but all of them have been hit by either ECU or WCU. Perhaps purple + yellow = hitting power. If so, the Lakers are in the wrong sport.)

Tomorrow-With the result of this game, WCU will move on to face the Tar Heels on Monday, and ECU is surprisingly eliminated before getting the chance to face UNC again. The Pirates are a consistently good baseball team, and even though Chapel Hill has been a great host, I have to say that East Carolina has the best fans of any team in this regional. The Pirates were very well represented in the stands all weekend, and their fans were the most vocal by far, through thick and thin. The remainder of this regional won’t be the same without the Pirate faithful.

Baseball Regional Day 2 Recap: HEEEELLLLL YEEEEAAAHHHH!!!

That was AWESOME! I’ll tell you about the Tar Heels, but first a recap of Game 1.

Western Carolina 7, Jacksonville 0I can’t say that I couldn’t foresee this happening. Jacksonville was clearly the weakest team in the field, but expected them to at least get some runs in this tournament. With the loss to the Catamounts they are eliminated, having produced 13 hits, 0 runs, and 4 errors. Western Carolina, was led by Steven Strasbaugh on offense (3-5, 1 R, 1 RBI) and by Drew Saberhagen, son of Bret Saberhagen (8 IP, 7 H, 0 ER, 5 K). With this win they will play on Sunday in a rematch with ECU for the right to play Carolina in Sunday’s night game. But on to the main event.

North Carolina 11, East Carolina 10This may have been the most exciting baseball game I’ve ever attended in person. East Carolina is a very good team. Whenever it looked like the Tar Heels would have some control over the game, the Pirate offense blasted the door back open. After the Tar Heels struck first blood, ECU scored five runs in the top of the third inning, including a bases clearing double by Stephen Batts, to take a 5-1 lead. The Pirates offense did a very good job at the plate, but the umpire in this game sucked royally. His bad calls went for and against both teams in the game, and there was likely not a single person in the stadium who thought the ump (whose name is Scott Inman) did a good job in this game. Having said that, we got lucky in this game. We scored 4 and 3 runs in the 3rd and 6th innings, respectively, and the Pirates defense had 2 key fielding errors in each.

Still, the offense did enough to give ECU a seemingly safe 10-8 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning and the middle of the order (Horton, Flack, etc.) retired in the 8th. Shane Mathews came in to pitch for reliever Jason Nietz, and Mike Cavasinni came in to pinch hit. Mathews walked the first two batters. Garret Gore then hit a sacrifice bunt, sending Kyle Shelton and Cavasinni to 2nd and 3rd base with one out. With Reid Fronk at-bat, Mathews threw a wild, pitch, allowing Cavasinni to score from third and cut the deficit to one. The crowd in Boshamer stadium roared to a level usually reserved for football and basketball games. Finally, Fronk singled on a grounder up the middle, scoring Shelton, tying the game. Then came the two star UNC freshmen, Tim Fedroff and Dustin Ackley. Fedroff hit a single to bring Fronk to second base, then Ackley’s line drive down the middle scored the winning run, sending the crowd completely insane, cheering nonstop for three solid minutes after Fronk reached home plate.

It was a fantastic game, and I am now officially hooked on college baseball. I will have a more detailed (and definitely more entertaining) recap of this game later in the week.

Tomorrow- Western Carolina and East Carolina face each other again, as the Cats try to avenge blowing a 4 run lead against the Pirates on Friday. The Tar Heels await the winner, who will have to beat UNC twice if they wish to advance into the Super Regionals next week.

Recap: NCAA Baseball Regional Day 1

Big day of games. This is actually the first time I’ve been able to see a college baseball tournament, and I can hardly think of a better way to spend a Friday in the summer. Just be prepared to battle the heat.

East Carolina 9, Western Carolina 8- I thought Western Carolina had this game. The Catamounts were holding on to a 5-4 lead when they scored 3 runs in the top of the 6th to make it 8-4 in their favor. But the Pirates (whose fan base outnubmered WCU’s by about 15 to 1) immediately responded with 3 runs of their own in the bottom of the sixth. WCU was able to get out of their jam in the seventh inning, but Jamie Ray’s outfield single in the 8th drove in two runs to give ECU the lead for good. After their big sixth inning, the Catamounts offense was shut down completely by the Pirates bullpen.

The comeback by ECU was thrilling, but it’s been a while since I’ve sat outside for three hours in the middle of a June day in North Carolina. 90 degrees, 90% humidity. Just lovely.

UNC 6, Jacksonville 0- Thankfully, the heat cooled off significantly for this game, which made it a lot more fun for the fans. The heat really got to one fan, whose heat exhaustion was severe enough to require medical attention. In Game 1, I would say the stands were only about 70% full, and considering the heat, I was surprised it was that much. For Game 2, every seat in Boshamer Stadium was occupied.

The Tar Heels went ahead early, as Josh Horton, Chad Flack, and Kyle Seager hit three consecutive RBI doubles in the bottom of the 2nd inning to attain a 3-0 lead. That was enough cushion for starting pitcher Robert Woodard, who continued his perfect record at home this season. He allowed seven hits in 8 innings, but no runs. After grounding out the final batter in the eighth inning, he left the field to a standing ovation by the Carolina faithful. Tim Federowicz drove in two more runs in the bottom of the 8th to seal the game. Timmah!
Saturday- West Carolina plays Jacksonville in the elimination day game, while ECU and Carolina play the evening with a berth in the regional’s final game at stake. Pitching for the Tar Heels will be freshman standout Alex White, who is from ECU’s town of Greenville, NC. That should bring a bit of intrigue to the game: the hometown hero, now playing for the enemy.

The next set of games should be a lot of fun, especially since I know more about the teams. I hope that Saturday’s weather is a little cooler, so I can pay more attention to the game and less attention to whether or not my face is going to melt. But I guess that’s what sunblock is for.