Ackley is widely expected to be selected in the first round of Tuesday's Major League Baseball Rule 4 Draft. In fact, most projections now slot him for the No. 2 overall pick. The first baseman/outfielder from Walnut Cove, N.C. is batting .545 (12-22) with nine RBI in the 2009 NCAA Tournament and has a 19-game postseason hitting streak dating back to the 2007 College World Series. He's now batting .412 on the season with 22 home runs.
Joining Ackley in another trip to Omaha for the College World Series is third baseman Kyle Seager, who is expected to be taken in the second round of the draft, according to Baseball America. The Kannapolis, N.C. native is on a six-game hitting streak while batting .391 (9-23) in the 2009 NCAA Tournament with 11 runs batted in - raising his season average to .386.
ECU head coach Billy Godwin stated that the pitch you hit for a home run off Brad Mincey was on what he considered to be an outstanding pitch, What is your recollection of the home run?
"Honestly, I got back in the dugout and somebody asked me what pitch it was and I could not even remember it at all. It all happened so fast it just kind of all blurred together. But, I remember it was off-speed and I know it was not a fastball because he was pumping it pretty good and I would not be out front of his fastball. I just knew it was off-speed and I got a good swing on it and it went over the fence.
“That was definitely a big hit because it put us up seven to nothing - which is big because it takes us out of grand slam range. It is really big to be up by that much and it allows your pitchers to relax more and kind of lets the offense even get more relaxed. It certainly relaxed us as a team and allowed us to get this win."
How big was that sixth inning scoring five runs?
"That was huge - we saw how big it was yesterday and it was even bigger today, especially with the timing of it being an elimination game for them so it was good to get out ahead of them and kind of put the pressure on them to have to do stuff. You saw that they kind of struggled hitting a little bit and pressed, so it helped us a lot."
Can you discuss what Adam Warren and Alex White brought to the team in the Super Regionals?
"It was unbelievable - both of those guys threw seven or eight innings each. It was unbelievable. When you take that kind of pressure off of your bullpen it is just fun and everybody is able to relax, hit more and play defense. Especially pitching, when guys like that have confidence it just makes everybody else more confident."
There was a lot of discussion about ECU's gaudy batting statistics, but it was your team that did the hitting in this series.
"I mean, it was great. We kind of did really well in the Regional and then it carried over in the Super Regional, which helped us out a lot. Our pitchers did really, really well and that kind of helps you, too. When you are up all the time and your pitchers are not giving up any runs it allows you to hit even better. That helped us out all weekend."
Can you discuss going back to Omaha for the third time as a Tar Heel?
"We are going to take the same approach we always have. We are going to go out there and give it our best shot. Whether that is if we win or if we lose - it does not really matter. All of our guys know what is out there and the teams that are out there and you have to play your best baseball and have a little luck. Hopefully luck will be on our side this time out there."
What are your thoughts on your team's performance in the Super Regional?
"We knew we were going to pitch so we knew we were going to have a chance to win every game. To win in a fashion where we left no doubt and really scored a lot of runs was personally very nice."
Can you reflect on your career at UNC, which now includes going back to Omaha for a third straight year?
"It is not over now by any stretch, but just being able to sit back and think about the time of the decision that I made when I was in high school ... just what a great decision it was and I never would have guessed I would be having the thrills that I have had. I think I decided on Carolina before the first run to Omaha. I could not have picked a better program, I could not have picked a better coach to play for or a better school to go to. It has been the perfect situation for me."
Talking about recruiting, if you had to advise some of the players who have to make a decision between signing with Major League Baseball or coming to North Carolina to play baseball - what advice would you give based on experiences here in Chapel Hill?
"A lot of the guys that they are able to recruit now are a lot bigger prospects that I was coming out of high school, but for me when I had the opportunity ... just weighing the pros and cons of going to school and getting all that experience and everything. The coaches put it in perspective for me pretty well. They talked about the first couple of years all you are are doing is going on long road trips, not playing for anything. You are playing for yourself basically. Talking about going to school, playing for something and go to Omaha a couple of times hopefully and hopefully you can do all of that other stuff later."
What do you think of your team's starting pitching in the Super Regional?
"Those guys are really good hitters - their numbers are gaudy. They throw some big time numbers over there. You look at our two pitchers and both of them were absolutely dominant and unbelievable. Adam [Warren] was sensational - he ended up coming out of there and they scored a couple of runs, but he was unbelievable. Then Alex [White] ... you can't really say enough about either one of them - they both give you a chance every single time."
What about Garrett Gore hitting a home run in his last at-bat at Boshamer Stadium?
"He still has not seen that pitch that he doesn't like yet. But it sure showed today - he got four hits today and that is a heck of a way to leave the Bosh. For a senior you could not have picked a better person for it to happen to and a better success. You could not have scripted it any better."
How would it have been to have gotten Mike McKee an at-bat in his final game at the Bosh?
"Yeah, it would have been really nice to have gotten Mike McKee in the game there. Being a senior and this being his last go around. But once they scored a couple of runs there in that one inning, everybody had to tighten up a little bit and that made Garrett [Gore's] swing of the bat real big. I think [Mike] was actually on deck to go up there when we got the final out.
“But he is the type of kid though - obviously he wants to play and do well - but he is an unbelievable person and he can sit back and look at everyone else and clap just as hard at everyone else doing well. That is just the type of kid that he is and just the type of leader he is."
How have the members of the senior class led this team??
"Just looking at these guys and the leadership that we have on this team. How the seniors set a good example, like Adam Warren - he does absolutely everything right. He works real hard in the classroom and in the weight room and it shows out there. You get guys in your program like that and when they become seniors it is something special."
With the Major League Baseball Draft coming up before the trip to Omaha, what is that process like?
"This is actually pretty good for a couple of us who might possibly be drafted. This gives us something to do, so we don't have to sit around and think about it. I'll be packing my bags to go out to Omaha when [the draft] is happening. So it will be very exciting. Everybody is looking forward to it - everybody wants to see where everybody goes. I'll probably either be on my couch at the house or I might be on the bed, I'm not sure [laughs]. I might go home, it depends on when we have practice. I might run home to be with my family."
Can you compare this season to the previous CWS trips?
"This year has been extra special with all of the criticism we have gotten - not being offensive enough to make it back possibly - and just to come out here on the big stage for the Super Regionals on TV and everything to show everybody. Sure we can pitch with everybody in the country but we will score enough runs, too. That is really special."