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Off the cuff: With the first game of the Super Regional on ESPNU, which is unavailable in most households, many of the media types at the USA Baseball Field in Cary weren't especially surprised that the crowd exceeded 3,100 on Saturday. But with temperatures reaching 105 on Sunday and with the game on regular ESPN, it was amazing that attendance was 3,255. Both UNC and Coastal Carolina had strong and knowledgeable contingencies.

The heat certainly didn't go to the fans' heads as they recognized when Chad Flack was coming to bat for what would probably be (and was) his last home at bat. The ovation nearly brought Flack to tears, he said, but he wanted to keep his head in the game. The fans knew exactly what Mike Fox was doing when he took Rob Wooten out with an out to go. Wooten got his goodbye ovation and a rarely used but respected reliever Tyler Trice got to get the last out. Carolina fans even recognized what the Coastal coaching staff was doing when they used a pinch runner late in the game to replace a senior playing his last college game. It all reminded me a bit of basketball senior days under Dean Smith.

Carolina now joins Florida State as the only teams in ACC history to make three straight trips to the College World Series. The Seminoles made three consecutive CWS appearances from 1994 to 1996
and then again from 1998 to 2000.

The Tar Heels played errorless ball against Coastal Carolina while the Chanticleers made nine errors in the two games. Experience had some to do with that. Coastal's Rico Noel, a freshman second baseman, made five of those errors even though he committed only 13 errors during the entire 62 previous games this season. The Heels hae committed just two errors in their five NCAA tournament games.

The Heels sent 10 men to the plate and got six hits during the six-run second inning Sunday. All-America players Dustin Ackley and Tim Fedroff each drove in two runs during the rally against Coastal Carolina starter Nick McCully, who lasted only two

The proper pronunciation of Chanticleers is SHON-ti-clear and it comes from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and is a proud and fierce rooster that dominates the barnyard.

I met Milo Hoffman, UNC class of '68, who became known by some as Mr. Tar Heel when he was moderator of a couple of Carolina online discussion groups. Milo says that the No. 1 reason people are more interested in baseball these days is that the team is consistently winning. But he also is quick to point out that most of the players and coaches are from North Carolina and that they are quality people in addition to being good players.

Milo says, "College baseball is getting better and better each year and college fans are 'discovering' the game. The kids are having fun playing the game, unlike most of the pros, and that fun atmosphere extends to the stands. The college players play for their school and want to win for their school...i.e., it is not a business like pro ball."

I met a number of Carolina fans who have been following the Heels all season (in person and by radio) but they welcome the bandwagon fans in hopes they get hooked - like watching Carolina basketball. It's a little tougher for baseball fans because not as many games are televised until NCAA tournament time. It takes some effort to go to the games but it is less expensive than either football or basketball.

I met Carolina fans who did not attend UNC - such as Frances Edwards, who drove up from South Carolina and who stayed with family to take in the games. And I met Carolina fans who did attend UNC - such as Morris "Big Daddy" Stanford '77, who went all the way to Omaha last year to watch the Heels and he's going again this year. Carolina baseball fans are loyal, dedicated... and growing.

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Photos by Clifton Barnes

Grand slam homer saves Tar Heels in the ninth

Also, check out my articles for the UNC alumni Web site on Carolina's 8-4 win over LSU and the 5-3 loss to Fresno State in the CWS.

Carolina in the College World Series once again

Tar Heels 14, Coastal Carolina 4

The North Carolina Tar Heels are going back to the College World Series in Omaha for the third year in a row. The Heels topped Coastal Carolina 14-4 Sunday behind a six-run second inning and six strong innings of pitching from Adam Warren. (6/8)

For the second day in a row, more than 3,000 fans endured 100-plus degree weather and for the second day in a row, the Tar Heels were hot against the Chanticleers. The Heels won in the first game of the best of three series on Saturday 9-4 as pitcher Alex White kept Coastal at bay for seven innings and Seth Williams homered.

Sunday's series clincher at the USA Baseball Field in Cary was an emotional one for the Heels, especially seniors such as pitcher Rob Wooten, who were part of two straight NCAA second place finishes.

"It never gets old. It is a great feeling, we are very fortunate to get back, but we have some unfinished business to take care of," said Wooten, who pitched two scoreless innings before giving way to seldom-used senior pitcher Tyler Trice who got the final out of the game.

"It is a pretty special day for our program, especially our six seniors,” UNC coach Mike Fox said. “We will be able to go back out there and finish things up this year.”

A sophomore and a pair of juniors were the heroes however on Sunday. Offensively, sophomore Dustin Ackley and junior Tim Federowicz led the way with three RBI each while defensively, junior Adam Warren (9-1) took a no-hitter into the fifth and ended up allowing only two hits.

“We just played probably one of our most complete games of the year today when we really needed it,” Fox said.

The Heels rapped out 17 hits and UNC pitchers combined for seven strikeouts. Only red-shirt freshman Colin Bates had trouble as he walked two and gave up two hits and four runs without recording an out in relief of Warren.

Coastal Carolina, who as Coach Fox said had a terrific season, committed nine errors in the two games and, for the most part, could not unleash its powerful offense against Carolina's pitchers.

Carolina moves to 51-12 while Coastal Carolina finishes at 50-14. The Heels will play LSU in the first game of the World Series tournament Sunday at 7 p.m. on ESPN. Six other eight regional winners will also converge on Omaha's Rosenblatt Stadium.

Box Score
Photo Gallery (all photos by Clifton Barnes)

Things just seemed to go right for the Heels including Seth Williams being called safe going into second base.

Other recent headlines:
UNC is one win away from third straight trip to the World Series
Carolina baseball advances to host Super Regional starting Saturday

Heels defeats UNC-Wilmington 7-3 with five-run inning

UNC's wins over Miami vault Heels to No. 1 in the nation
Carolina baseball reaches 40-game win mark
Tar Heels take two of three from Florida State

© 2008 CB3media Cary, NC

Adam Warren and Dustin Ackley chat to the media at the post-game news conference.