CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — The North Carolina defense turned a season-high four double plays to escape numerous Dartmouth scoring threats as the seventh-ranked Tar Heels knocked off the Big Green in the first game of the Chapel Hill Regional on Friday evening at Boshamer Stadium in front of 2,581 fans. Dustin Ackley rapped out three hits to lead the 13-hit attack for UNC (43-16), while junior Brett Gardner (Bellevue, Wash.) belted a solo homer for Dartmouth (27-17) in the losing cause.
“While we aren’t happy with the result, we are pleased with the way we competed this evening against one of the elite teams in the country,” said Big Green head coach Bob Whalen in the post-game press conference. “We certainly had our chances offensively, but North Carolina executed like great teams do and kept us in check.”
It was the Dartmouth defense, however, that started the twin-killing evening in the bottom of the first. The Tar Heels loaded the bases with one out on a Ben Bunting double, an Ackley infield single and a Ryan Graepel walk. But junior left-hander Robert Young (Cleburne, Texas) kept his composure and induced Levi Michael to ground into the inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.
North Carolina returned the favor in the top of the second after senior Mike Pagliarulo (Winchester, Mass.) reached on an error, senior Ray Allen (Longwood, Fla.) singled to center and junior Jim Wren (Granbury, Texas) walked to fill the bases with nobody out. It was Matt Harvey’s turn to wiggle out of trouble, getting a strikeout before getting a grounder to the second baseman Michael who flipped to second to start the double play.
Junior Robert Young pitched well against a potent Tar Heel team despite taking the loss.
In the bottom half of the second, UNC mounted another threat as Mark Fleury led off with a base hit. After a fly to center, Mike Cavasinni was hit by a pitch and Jacob Stallings bunted for a hit, loading the bases once again. Young nearly escaped for a second time, striking out Bunting and getting Ackley to hit a hard one-hopper back to the mound. But when Young knocked the ball down, he could not locate it on the ground, and Ackley beat it out for an RBI infield single. That would be all for the Tar Heels, though, as Young got the final out on a grounder to short.
The third frame brought more trouble for Young as North Carolina put runners on first and second with one gone. Garrett Gore delivered an RBI single to left on a hit-and-run, then took second on the throw to third. Young fell behind Cavasinni, who bunted the 3-1 pitch to score Fleury on the squeeze play, making it a 3-0 North Carolina lead.
In each of the next three innings, Harvey got double-play grounders to keep the Big Green off the board. Dartmouth had first and second with one out in both the fourth and sixth innings, only to have twin-killings foil a rally.
North Carolina tacked on a run in its half of the sixth. Young had retired eight straight Tar Heel hitters before Stallings singled with one out. After Bunting also singled, senior Johnathon Santopadre (Vacaville, Calif.) made a terrific stab on an Ackley grounder down the third-base line, stepping on third for the second out. But Kyle Seager came through for UNC with a solid single up the middle to score Bunting from second.
Dartmouth finally broke through in the seventh when Gardner lined a shot into the netting beyond the left-field fence for his fourth home run of the season. When senior Kyle Evans (Springfield, Mo.) followed with a single to right-center, Harvey was lifted in favor of Brian Moran. Santopadre greeted Moran with a ringing double into the right-center gap, and freshman Joe Sclafani (Palm City, Fla.) hit a sacrifice fly to score Evans and cut the deficit to two runs at 4-2.
Young (5-4) finished with a flourish, retiring the side in order in the seventh as he surrendered four runs on 11 hits and a pair of walks while striking out five.
In the eighth, the Tar Heels got an insurance run against junior reliever Ben Murray (Grants Pass, Ore.). Cavasinni led off with a single and moved up to second on a Stallings sacrifice bunt. Murray retired Bunting on a routine grounder to short, but Ackley served a fastball away into left field and hustled into second with an RBI double.
Moran, meanwhile, retired the final eight Dartmouth hitters — five on strikeouts — to finish up for his fourth save. Harvey improved to 7-2 on the season, tossing 6.1 innings while scattering nine hits and yielding just two runs with two walks and three punchouts.
Junior Nick Santomauro (North Caldwell, N.J.), Pagliarulo, Allen and Gardner each had two hits for the Big Green, while sophomore Jeff Onstott (Houston, Texas) had his 14-game hitting streak snapped.
Dartmouth next plays at 1 p.m. tomorrow against the third seed, Kansas (37-23), which lost to Coastal Carolina (47-14) in the first game of the day, 11-3. Freshman Kyle Hendricks (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.) will bring his Ivy League-leading six victories to the mound for the Big Green.
Junior Brett Gardner is congratulated by Kkyle Evans after his solo homer.
Freshman Joe Sclafani completes the double play in the first inning.
Coach Whalen talks to his troops before the game.