Baseball Falls 6-3 to Charlotte in NCAA Opener
Updated: 6/1/2007 to add quotes, boxscore
BY TIM PEELER
COLUMBIA, S.C. Charlotte senior pitcher Adam Mills lowered his NCAA-leading earned run average by shutting down NC State’s offense for seven innings Friday afternoon, as the third-seeded 49ers took a 6-3 victory over the second-seeded Wolfpack in the opening game of the NCAA Columbia Regional at USC’s Sarge Frye Field.
Mills, who gave up two unearned runs in seven innings, got most of the support he needed before he ever took the mound, as Charlotte touched NC State starter Eric Surkamp for three first-inning runs.
“Adam Mills was everything he was billed to be,” said Wolfpack coach Elliott Avent. “He is what the word pitcher’ means. He commands both sides of the plate and keeps the ball down mostly. He didn’t give us anything to hit.
“I thought he was pretty much all he was cracked up to be.”
Mills, who gave up six hits and one walk while striking out one, hit his spots throughout the game, keeping the ball low.
“He had really good command,” said Wolfpack leadoff hitter Dallas Poulk. “He threw a lot of strikes. We got ourselves out a lot today.”
Meanwhile, Surkamp, the Wolfpack’s hard-luck lefthander, had given up only three first-inning runs in his first 15 starts before giving up a two-run double to Charlotte designated hitter Chris Taylor, who later scored on a throwing error by Wolfpack second baseman Dallas Poulk.
“I felt like I left some of my pitches up in the first inning,” Surkamp said. “I felt pretty good all day long, but they were swinging a good bit.”
The 49ers (48-10), who improved on the nation’s best winning percentage with the victory, added three more runs in the top of the sixth inning, thanks to a two-run homer by right fielder Spencer Steedley and an RBI single by lead-off hitter Aaron Bray. Mills had a comfortable 6-0 lead before the Wolfpack ever threatened.
“We have a lot of respect for NC State,” said Charlotte head coach Loren Hibbs. “I just thought that we were better than they were today.”
However, the Wolfpack was able take advantage of Mills’ fatigue as the game went along, scoring single runs in the sixth and seventh innings off Mills and adding another in the bottom of the eighth off closer Sam Pierce. But Matt Foard came in for the final 1 2/3 innings to record his third save of the season.
Sophomore Marcus Jones scored the Wolfpack’s first run of the game on a wild pitch by Mills in the sixth. Pat Ferguson scored the second run on a ground out by Drew Martin in the seventh. And Jones scored in the third on Ryan Pond’s RBI single in the eight.
However, the Wolfpack left four runners on base in those three innings, including two runners with one out in the bottom of the eighth. That inning ended with fly-ball outs by Ferguson and Jeremy Synan.
The 49ers loaded the bases with three walks in the top of the ninth, but Andrew Taylor got Alex Burt pop up for the final out of the inning.
Avent was not pleased at the tentative way his team played throughout the game. Add in a throwing error that allowed a run to score and a major base-running mistake, and Avent had plenty to talk about in the post-game press conference.
“I am sure our players are not going to say it, but I will: I am not sure our guys can play any worse than they did,” Avent said after his team lost for the sixth consecutive time against a No. 3 seed in an NCAA regional. “I don’t think it has anything to do with desire or heart. Maybe [Charlotte] just wanted it too much.
“But that wasn’t the way we usually play. I’d like to think we are going to play better and we are going to stick around awhile longer. I can’t pick a part of the game we did well. [Charlotte] deserved to win, but I think NC State’s got better baseball ahead.”
The Wolfpack (37-22/38-31) will play the loser of the Friday night game between top-seeded South Carolina and fourth-seeded Wofford on Saturday at 2 p.m. The winner of that game will advance to Sunday’s third-round action.
“We are going come back tomorrow after a lot of rest and fight,” Poulk said. “It’s going to be a fight from here on out. We are going to have to show a lot of heart. Talent can’t take you all the way, so we will see what we have left in the tanks.”
Avent, who announced that sophomore Clayton Shunick would start Saturday’s game, is also convinced his team will bounce back from its poor performance and make some noise in the regional play.
“I will be very surprised if Eric Surkamp isn’t pitching in the championship game Monday night,” Avent said.
You may contact Tim Peeler at email@example.com.