2007 ACC Baseball Championship: Tar Heels Edge Wake Forest, 3-2, For ACC Baseball Championship Crown
May 27, 2007
Three ACC teams will host NCAA Baseball Regionals:
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) - The baseball dry spell is over for North Carolina.
Tar Heels shortstop Josh Horton tripled home Dustin Ackley with the winning run in the eighth inning to give North Carolina a 3-2 win over Wake Forest Sunday in the title game of the ACC Baseball Championship.
The title broke an 18-year drought for North Carolina, which won its last title in 1990 when it beat North Carolina State.
The win capped a strong finish by the Tar Heels who lost a sixth consecutive tournament game in their opener against Georgia Tech on Wednesday, but rebounded to post three consecutive wins over North Carolina State, Virginia and Wake Forest.
"I'm overjoyed on behalf of our players to win an ACC championship. It's been a long drought for the University of North Carolina," said Tar Heels coach Mike Fox, "It's a pretty special day for us. The ACC Championship is a big deal because this league is so, so very good in baseball."
The Tar Heels (48-12, 21-9) pushed across the winning run when Ackley opened the eighth inning with a walk. Two batters later, Horton hit a change-up off Wake Forest reliever Josh Ellis and drove a line shot into right field. Evan Ocheltree made a diving attempt for the catch, but missed. The ball rolled to the wall with Ackley coming home and Horton winding up on third.
"I was just looking to make contact off him [Ellis]," said Horton, who was named the tournament's MVP. "I fouled off his fast ball and then was able to get the barrel [of the bat] on a change-up. I wasn't looking for any pitch, I was just trying to hit the ball, make something happen at that point."
Wake Forest (33-27, 14-16) scored the game's first run in the opening inning on a passed ball. Carolina tied the game in the fourth on a Chad Flack single after Garrett Gore had reached base on an error and advanced to second on Tim Federowicz' single.
The Tar Heels took a 2-1 lead in the seventh when Kyle Seager doubled and later scored on a ground out by Reid Fronk.
The Demon Deacons tied the game at 2-2 in the bottom half of the inning when Dustin Hood's two-out single scored Ocheltree who had singled and advanced to second on a wild pitch.
That set the stage for Horton's heroics in the top of the eighth. The win helped ease the disappointment the Tar Heels had experienced the past two years Horton said.
"The past two years we have used Jacksonville as a stepping stone," said the junior shortstop who ranks fifth in school history with a .360 career batting average. "We would go back to Chapel Hill afterwards in order to regroup, so this is definitely a different feeling from that.
"I really am tickled to death winning the championship as the team. All of the individual awards get pushed to the side. We worked really hard and it is a really good feeling to pick up these wins and the ACC championship.
Carolina starter Luke Putkonen went 6 2/3 innings and allowed two runs, one earned. Matt Danford (5-0) came in to get the final out in the seventh and was credited with the win. Andrew Carignan preserved the win with a scoreless eighth and ninth inning to gain his 13th save of the year.
Ellis (5-3) allowed the one hit and run over two innings and was tagged with the loss.
The win gives North Carolina an automatic berth in the NCAA regionals. The Tar Heels were one of 16 teams selected to host regional tournaments this weekend. Wake Forest will wait until Monday's announcement of at-large teams to see if their season will continue.
2007 Atlantic Coast Conference Baseball All-Tournament Team
Tournament Most Valuable Player - Josh Horton, North Carolina
*Denotes Unanimous Selection