New Players Crucial In CWS Rematch

UNC freshman Dustin Ackley leads nation in hits, has .403 average and two homers in CWS


June 23, 2007

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - The rematch in the College World Series is all new to some key players on both sides.

For example, North Carolina's Alex White and Oregon State's Jorge Reyes are the starting pitchers, even though neither was here last year.

"It just shows the caliber of talent that is coming into college baseball," North Carolina coach Mike Fox said. "Freshmen play a big role on any team because you have guys leave for the draft and graduation. The younger guys have to step up and fill those holes."

Reyes had three wins in three postseason starts going into the CWS finals - including a 3-2 win in OSU's CWS opener against Cal State-Fullerton - with a 1.42 ERA over nine innings.

"I'm excited about starting Jorge," Oregon State coach Pat Casey said. "When you get this far down the road these kids are mentally pretty good and you feel like they have enough poise to handle the situation. He's the guy - it's his turn."

Several other freshmen have played key roles. North Carolina's Dustin Ackley leads the nation in hits, has a .403 average and has two homers and six RBIs in the CWS.

But his average in Omaha has dipped dramatically, to .238.

"This is a difficult game to play," Fox said. "This is all about confidence and some of those young guys, they're fragile a little bit."

White - who was taken as a high schooler in the 14th round of the draft last year by the Los Angeles Dodgers but decided to play for the Tar Heels anyway - was 6-6 with a 4.74 ERA before Saturday night. He lasted 1 1-3 innings and gave up six runs in a 14-4 loss to Rice in his first CWS start.

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CROWD FAVORITE: With North Carolina's campus in Chapel Hill 1,234 miles away and Oregon State's campus in Corvallis 1,673 miles away, Omaha would seem to be a truly neutral site for the CWS finals.

But judging by crowd reaction and amount of orange worn in the stands, Oregon State seems the local favorite.

"They play small ball, and they do all the little things right - that's why," said 25-year-old Blake Armanees of Kansas City, Mo. "I didn't go to Oregon State or anything thing like that. But I've watched them for the past few years, and they've been dead-set on doing the little things right."

Twelve-year-old A.J. Stacey of Omaha has been a Beaver fan for five years after switching allegiances from their biggest rival. He's an Oregon football fan, but the Beavers are his team on the diamond.

"Oregon wasn't doing very good in baseball, so I started watching Oregon State," he said. "I liked watching them play, and watching the underdogs win."

Stacey made his father, a die-hard Nebraska fan, wear an Oregon State T-shirt with his Cornhusker cap. He deferred all questions about Beaver fanhood to his son.

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SHORT HOPS: White made a great sliding catch on Mike Lissman's pop foul in the first inning. With the ball in the air between third and home, White slid between oncoming third baseman Chad Flack and hard-charging catcher Tim Federowicz to make a "snowcone" catch, with half the ball peaking out of the web of the glove. ... Oregon State scored in the middle of a double play in the third. With runners on the corners, Mitch Canham flew out to center field on a ball that looked to be in the gap. Jay Wong tagged from third and scored on the play, but Lissman, running on contact, was rounding third when the Tar Heels doubled him up at first. ... North Carolina would be the first national champion from the Atlantic Coast Conference since Wake Forest in 1955 if it won.

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