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Hot Heels cool down ECU

By Denny O'Brien

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CHAPEL HILL — Nothing could cloud the Carolina blue skies over Boshamer Stadium Tuesday night, not even a purple haze.  North Carolina struck early and often against cross-state rival East Carolina en route to an easy 10-1 non-conference victory.

Breathing Down the Neck

Home plate umpire Stan Johnson hovers over the shoulder of North Carolina catcher Chris Iannetta as East Carolina senior third baseman Bryant Ward gets set for a pitch during last night's game at Boshamer Stadium. The Tar Heels led from start to finish and won 10-1, avenging a 2-1 loss to the Pirates two weeks ago in Greenville.

Photos by Denny O'Brien

With the win, the 15th-ranked Tar Heels improved to 34-15 on the season, avenging an earlier loss to the Pirates.  East Carolina, ranked 14th nationally, fell to 33-11-1, ending its five-game winning streak.

"We didn't do anything particularly well tonight," assistant coach Kevin McMullan said.  "But, it's like what I shared with the guys -- when you have a long season, you've got to be able to flush it down the toilet, come back tomorrow (against UNC-W) and play a great baseball team."

The Tar Heels struck immediately off starter Jason Mandryk with a towering lead-off homer by Adam Greenberg, his 14th of the season.  First baseman Jeremy Cleveland connected later in the inning for a sacrifice fly to drive in Sean Farrell and give Carolina an early 2-0 lead.

The second inning didn't get much better, with the Heels plating six more on four hits, highlighted by Chris Maples' two-RBI double down the left field line.  Chris Mangum added a two-out, two-RBI single as the Heels sent 12 batters to the plate in the stanza.

Starter Jason Mandryk took the loss to drop his record to 5-2 on the season.  The senior right-hander lasted just 1 1/3 innings, yielding four runs on four hits, while issuing one walk and hitting another.  The Pirates got little relief from Ashley Capps and Jason Tourangeau, who combined for 2 2/3 innings, allowing six runs on six hits and eight walks.

Whitley Benson, making his first career start for Carolina, pitched six shutout innings to improve to 2-1.

"You have to tip your hats to North Carolina," McMullan said.  "They pitched pretty well, swung the bats early, and we didn't throw as many strikes as we needed to.  They swung the bats at the right time, and we could never catch up."

The Heels hammered out 11 hits on the evening, while the East Carolina was limited to just five.  Senior catcher Clayton McCullough paced the Pirates offensively with two hits in three trips to the plate. 

There will be little rest for the Pirates, who host rival UNC-Wilmington (34-11) tonight at Harrington Field.  The Seahawks are fresh off a 17-1 throttling over N.C. State last night.

"UNC-Wilmington is playing very good baseball," McMullan said.  "They're leading that conference (CAA).  We've got a great challenge ahead of us tomorrow, and we're excited about it.  It will give us a chance to bounce back quickly after not playing as well as we would have liked.

"I think this team has great character.  Our seniors have done a great job.  They don't like losing, but they know that there's another day tomorrow."

There will also be another day this weekend — actually, three of them — when Saint Louis comes to Greenville for a Friday-Saturday-Sunday Conference USA series.

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02/23/2007 02:05:56 AM

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