WVU falls to No.4 North Carolina in Game 1 of super regional

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Vance Honeycutt got the last upper cut and No. 4 North Carolina got some more late-inning heroics in the postseason Friday to beat West Virginia 8-6 in Game 1 of the super regional.
Honeycutt’s 425-foot blast in the bottom of the ninth inning broke a 6-6 tie and gave the Tar Heels (46-14) the early momentum in the best-of-three series.

“I was a little jumpy on the previous pitch,” said Honeycutt, who now has 25 home runs this season. “I just happened to get my pitch and jumped on it.”

It was a game that could be compared to a boxing match of sorts. It featured four lead changes and six home runs.

“I don’t know how much people were paying on StubHub for tickets before the game,” WVU head coach Randy Mazey said. “They got their money’s worth.”

It was billed as the classic underdog against the powerful favorite.

It was only a day before, after taking batting practice inside Boshamer Stadium, that WVU outfielder Sam White admitted the only people who would even consider picking the Mountaineers to win this series were the people of West Virginia.

The Tar Heels, playing at home, where they were 35-3 this season, seemingly had it all, including a sold-out crowd of 4,139 fans that included hundreds of UNC students who had sat outside the stadium for more than six hours before the game for standing room only tickets.

Yet this time the underdog struck the first blow, which came off West’s bat with a solo home run in the third inning to give WVU a 1-0 lead.

The Tar Heels countered with a thumping to the chin, the result of four runs with three coming on Parks Harber’s bases-loaded single that White misplayed out in left field.

From there it became a slugfest of sorts. The underdog continued to gain confidence, if not a sense of respect. The favorite never backed down.

West hit another bomb in the sixth inning, a 425-foot blast that not only sailed over the outfield netting that’s supposed to keep balls from leaving the stadium, but then landed somewhere in the school’s field hockey stadium.

The shot gave WVU (36-23) a 6-4 lead in the sixth.

For just a moment, West was the talk of the game, having coming into the game with just one hit over his last 32 at-bats.

“I’ve always tried to stay confident,” West said. “Just keep working and the coaches have been working with me on getting through the ball more.”

But now the game was in the ninth inning. North Carolina was just coming off winning its own regional championship with a walk-off win against Long Island and then a win in the 10th inning against LSU.
WVU starter Derek Clark had spent the evening as the battler who knew no ending.

His pitch count had continued to swell, now past 140 pitches, but he was Mazey’s choice to pitch the ninth.

“That was one of the most amazing and one of the best pitching performances I’ve seen in my 35 years in coaching,” Mazey said.

North Carolina’s Luke Stevenson led off the inning with a solo home run.

After Clark got his eighth strikeout, Alex Madera singled and Mazey had no choice but to take Clark out.
Aidan Major came in out from the bullpen. He struck out Colby Wilkerson, but then gave up the walk-off homer to Honeycutt.

“We thought about not pitching to (Honeycutt),” Mazey said. “(Casey) Cook was up next, and we thought Cook had a better chance to win the game with a single than Honeycutt had a chance to win it with a home run.”

The best-of-three regional continues at 8 p.m. today. WVU, which is playing in its first-ever super regional, needs a win to extend the series into Sunday.