Ackley smashes CWS record in UNC win

June, 16, 2009
OMAHA, Neb. -- As he gets older, Dustin Ackley starts to appreciate and enjoy the records he's amassed.

Seriously, Ackley is enjoying this.

Before he put on the very serious gaze Tuesday, then shifted to a bored look when cameras approached, Ackley was well aware that he was within reach of the College World Series career hits record.

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Dustin Ackley
AP Photo/Ted KirkDustin Ackley set a new College World Series record with 27 career hits.

He smashed it, peppering Southern Mississippi with singles to the left and the right, going 5-for-6 in North Carolina's 11-4 blasting of the Golden Eagles.

Ackley now has 27 hits in 14 CWS games, passing Stanford's Sam Fuld, whose 24 stood for six years. The Tar Heels also tied an Omaha record with 23 hits in the game.

"I think everybody saw today what everyone on our team has seen in the last three years in Dustin Ackley," Carolina coach Mike Fox said. "He's an unbelievable performer; he's one sensational player. And I'm glad the nation had a chance to see it. We needed it."

The Tar Heels survived an elimination game by rocking J.R. Ballinger for nine hits and six runs in 2 2/3 innings. Ackley had No. 25 by the third inning, with the game spiraling out of control for Southern Miss.

The junior, who was the No. 2 overall pick by the Seattle Mariners earlier this month, is known as one of the quietest players on the team. Fox said he's doubtful he'll ever coach another hitter like Ackley, who's gotten a hit in every NCAA tournament game he's ever played in -- all 21 of them.

By the seventh inning, when Ackley singled to right-center, the question wasn't about whether the Golden Eagles had the moxie to stage a huge comeback. It was, "Will Ackley get another at-bat?"

He did, and sent a deep fly ball that was caught near the warning track.

And so ended the first and last College World Series for Southern Miss coach Corky Palmer, whose team put together an inspired run to Omaha for the retiring 55-year-old. Some of Palmer's players bent down after the last out and grabbed a handful of dirt as a keepsake of the school's first CWS.

After the Golden Eagles burned through their pitching staff Sunday and almost beat Texas, Palmer worried about what would happen Tuesday. He saw seven left-handed Carolina hitters. He knew they had no answer.

"We had a magical season," he said. "You can't ask any more of what we've done in the last three weeks. I'm really glad these guys let me work a little longer. It was all them. I was just along for the ride."

Elizabeth Merrill is a senior writer for and ESPN The Magazine. She previously wrote for The Kansas City Star and The Omaha World-Herald.



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