No. 1 Tar Heels Stay On Top
Feb. 23, 2009
Courtesy of North Carolina
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - No. 1 North Carolina continues its season-opening run through the Big South Conference this week when No. 18 Coastal Carolina and Liberty make appearances at Bryson Field at Boshamer Stadium. The Tar Heels (3-0) will host the Chanticleers (3-1) at 3 p.m. Tuesday and will welcome the Flames (3-1) at 3 p.m. Wednesday.
Sophomore right-handers Patrick Johnson and Bryant Gaines, who both posted scoreless relief appearances over the weekend against VMI, will make Carolina's midweek starts. Johnson will make his eighth career start against Coastal, while Gaines will make his first career start versus Liberty.
Tuesday will mark the 50th all-time meeting between the Tar Heels and Chanticleers with Carolina holding a 36-13 advantage. Coastal took the regular season meeting in 2008, but UNC bounced back to sweep the Cary Super Regional by a 23-8 margin en route to a third straight trip to the College World Series.
Coastal went 3-1 on its opening weekend with a pair of wins over No. 19 Kentucky. Lefty Keith Hessler (0-0, 9.00 ERA) is slated to start Tuesday's contest.
The Tar Heels have won all 13 meetings with Liberty but have not faced the Flames since a 10-4 win in 2003. Liberty also went 3-1 last weekend with its only loss against No. 6 Ole Miss. Right-hander Dustin Umberger (0-1, 9.00 ERA) will make the start Wednesday.
First-year Carolina assistant Scott Jackson was an assistant with the Flames a year ago before joining the Tar Heel staff.
Following the midweek action, UNC hosts Seton Hall for a three-game set beginning Friday.
Before closing the book's on last week's action, TarHeelBlue.com takes a look back at the week that was for the Diamond Heels:
NOTING THE VMI SERIES:
• The Tar Heels swept their seventh straight season-opening series last weekend with three victories over VMI.
• National player of the year candidate Dustin Ackley led Carolina to its series sweep of VMI with a .692 average (9-13), four runs, three doubles and two RBI. In Sunday's series finale, Ackley registered a career-best five hits, including two doubles, and matched a career high with four runs scored. His five-hit effort was the first by a Tar Heel since Mike Cavasinni logged five hits in the 2006 NCAA Tuscaloosa Super Regional. Ackley was 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI Friday and singled in Saturday's win. He posted a .923 slugging percentage and a .714 on-base mark for the weekend. Ackley has hit safely in 16 straight games dating to last season.
• Carolina's highly-regarded starters were each victorious last weekend with solid five-inning starts. Alex White struck out nine Friday to pick up his 20th career win. Adam Warren fanned six in five shutout innings Saturday to runs his career record to 23-2. Matt Harvey struck out 11 of the 19 batters he faced Sunday and retired 12 straight at one point en route to his win.
• White's victory gives Carolina a pair of 20-game winners on its staff for the first time since it had three in 2006 - Robert Woodard, Andrew Miller and Daniel Bard.
• The national leaders in strikeouts a year, UNC's pitching staff picked up where it left off last season with 44 strikeouts in 27 innings over the weekend. The Tar Heels fanned 17 in Friday's opener and had 15 Sunday.
• The Tar Heels' bullpen worked 12 shutout innings in the series win over VMI. Brian Moran, Ryan Leach and Nate Striz each made two scoreless appearances.
• Junior Mark Fleury drove in a team-best six runs over the weekend with three doubles and four runs scored. He went 5-for-10 at the plate in his first weekend as the Tar Heels' top catcher. Fleury tied his career high with three RBI both Friday and Sunday and also equaled a career-best with three hits in the opener.
• As a team, Carolina hit .398 over the weekend and five players with 10-plus at-bats hit .400 or better. Kyle Seager and Garrett Gore both handled position switches with ease, as Seager hit .462 in his first action as a full-time third baseman, and Gore batted .400 in his first weekend in right field.
• The Tar Heels were outstanding defensively with just one error all weekend for a .991 fielding percentage. The infield was perfect, as the lone miscue came on an errant throw on a pickoff attempt.
• Carolina drew 6,480 fans on the opening weekend of Bryson Field at Boshamer Stadium.