UNC-ECU: White Shanghais Pirates in Opener of Super Regional
Come Tuesday, Alex White will start the process to becoming a very wealthy man, but the University of North Carolina right-hander is not concerned about becoming a top-10 pick in the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft.
The junior is focused on getting the Tar Heels to their fourth straight trip to Omaha, NE and the College World Series. White proved that Saturday, as he shut down the explosive East Carolina offense during the Heels' 10-1 romp in the opening game of a best-of-three Super Regional played at Bryson Field at Boshamer Stadium in Chapel Hill.
The Heels can punch their ticket to Omaha with a victory Sunday over the Pirates.
Although White was not dominating, falling behind hitters early, scattering nine hits and giving up a solo home run to Brandon Henderson that bounced off the light pole in left field to lead off the second inning, the right-hander recorded a career-high 12 strikeouts in eight-and-one-third innings, closing out what is probably his final start at newly remodeled Boshamer Stadium.
Facing a Pirates crew batting a collective .341 with all nine players in the starting lineup batting over .300, White struggled with his off-speed pitches and relied on his fastball to get out of jams.
Trailing 1-0 with runners on the corners with two outs in the third inning, White struck out Henderson to escape any further damage.
In the next frame, after the Heels scored two runs, White gave up a single to David Harris, who stole second base. However, the Heels' future millionaire struck out the next three batters, including two looking, to preserve the lead.
White, who eclipsed the 300-career strikeout mark, retired the Pirates in order for the first time in the fifth inning, and got out of a jam after giving up back-to-back singles to lead off the sixth stanza.
In the bottom of the frame, the Heels' bats came alive, as they scored seven runs to blast the game open.
The first six reached base and all came around to score. Highlighting the inning was a two-run single by senior Garret Gore and a two-run single by freshman Levi Michael to cap the scoring.
White, who had struggled with blisters on his pitching hand and a hamstring injury, had not won a decision since beating Maryland on April 24. He ended his outing Saturday by striking out Drew Schieber for the record-setting strikeout for the first out of the ninth inning.
White gave way to Nate Striz, who fanned the final two batters to end the game and move the Heels a win away from a return to Omaha.
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