Noles, Heels Roll While One Bad Inning Does Tech In

Todd CallahanContributor IMay 21, 2009

OMAHA, NE - JUNE 21:  First baseman Dustin Ackley #13 of the North Carolina Tar Heels celebrates with teammates after hitting a solo homer in the second inning to the give the Tar Heels a 1-0 lead over the Rice Owls in Game 13 of the NCAA College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium on June 21, 2007 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

On the opening day of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, the top team won, the top pitcher was run out of the game by a disastrous inning and the league's best hitter proved why he had garnered ACC Player of the Year award.

In arguably the best of the three games played Wednesday at Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, the defending tournament champion Miami Hurricanes sent 13 batters to the plate in the sixth inning to defeat Georgia Tech, 8-6.

The Yellow Jackets, who were eyeing a No. 1 seed before losing two of three at Duke to close the regular season, have now lost three in a row heading into Friday's must-win game with Boston College.

The Eagles dropped a 7-2 decision to Florida State, the top-seeded team in the tournament.

In Wednesday's nightcap, sixth-ranked North Carolina used a two-home run performance from reigning ACC Player of the Year Dustin Ackley to knock off rival Duke, 8-3. 

North Carolina, which edged Georgia Tech to win the regular season title in the Coastal Division, is off until Friday when the Tar Heels play Virginia at 8 p.m.

For Georgia Tech, which came into the tournament leading the nation in home runs, the loss to Miami was frustrating. The Jackets led until the sixth inning, but they left 13 on base and a comeback against Miami fell short.

It also didn't help the that ACC Pitcher of the Year Deck McGuire, who was undefeated heading into Wednesday's game, fell apart in the sixth inning.

The sophomore, who boasted a 10-0 regular season record, walked the leadoff batter before retiring the next 10 in a row.

He had a no-hitter going until the sixth inning when Jason Hagerty doubled to right field with one out. It was the beginning of the end for McGuire, who owned a 2-1 lead heading into the pivotal sixth inning.

Five of the next six Miami batters would reach base.

The lone out was a sacrifice fly by Nathan Melendres that gave the Hurricanes a 6-2 lead. The Canes would add two more runs in the frame, which was capped by an RBI double from Hagerty.

Tech began to chip away at the lead, as Tony Plagman took advantage of a two-out error in the bottom of the sixth inning for a two-run double to cut the Miami advantage to 8-4.

In the seventh inning, Jeff Rowland slapped a two-out single to center field that plated two runs and cut the lead to 8-6.

However, that was the end of the comeback, as Miami closer Kyle Bellamy, who leads the conference in saves, pitched the final two innings to shut down the Jackets.

Bellamy gave up a single and a walk to open the ninth inning, but he managed to get out of the jam and record his 16th save of the year.

The Miami wins sets up a rematch with Florida State, which lost two of three against the Hurricanes in early April in Coral Gables, Fla.

Sparking the Seminoles to their win over Boston College were Mike McGee and Jason Stidham, as both drove in two RBI apiece. McGee also scored three runs, and Stephen Cardullo also had two hits and scored twice.

The winner of Friday's Florida State/Miami game, which begins at 4 p.m., will be undefeated in pool play and have the inside track of earning a spot in Sunday's title game.

The Duke and North Carolina game was the lone contest in the other pool, which features Clemson and Virginia. Both those teams had the day off.

While Ackley provided the offense going 3-for-5 with two home runs and four RBI, pitcher Adam Warren held the Blue Devils silent for most of the game.

The senior, who had struggled toward the end of the regular season, had a five-hitter going into the ninth inning when he was relieved by Colin Bates.

Warren also got some assistance in the sixth inning from freshman second baseman Levi Michael that helped the Tar Heels get out of a jam.

Having allowed the Blue Devils to get on the board thanks to an RBI single by Matt Williams, who drove home Alex Hassan, who opened the inning with a double, Warren faced the conference's leading home-run hitter, Nate Freiman.

Freiman hit a blooper into center field for an apparent hit, but Michael made a diving catch for the out. Williams, who broke for second base, was doubled off first base, and Warren managed to get out of the inning.

Ackley hit a two-run home run to right field in the bottom of the sixth inning, and Kyle Seager, who went 3-for-3 and reached base on all five at-bats added an RBI double in the eighth inning to provide insurance.

Duke must win its remaining two pool games and hope the Tar Heels lose both games in order to reach the championship game. 

Clemson and Virginia open tournament play Friday at 8 p.m.

The winner will be tied with North Carolina for first place and will remain on track for the championship game. The loser falls into a tie with Duke for last place in the pool.