OMAHA, Neb. - When it comes to naming the greatest hitters in College World Series history, the conversation now must include Dustin Ackley.
Ackley went 5-for-6 yesterday and became the CWS' career hits leader in North Carolina's 11-4 victory over Southern Mississippi.
"I think everybody saw today what everybody on our team and myself have seen the last 3 years with Dustin Ackley," Carolina coach Mike Fox said. "It was an unbelievable performance, and we've seen that before from him day in and day out. He's one sensational player, and I'm glad the nation got to see a little bit of that today. We needed it."
The Tar Heels (48-17), who will play tomorrow against Arizona State (50-13), eliminated the Golden Eagles (40-26) and sent Southern Mississippi coach Corky Palmer into retirement.
Texas (48-14-1) advanced to Friday's game against the winner of the UNC-ASU game by overcoming a 6-0 deficit and defeating Arizona State, 10-6. UNC's Cameron Rupp hit two home runs.
Ackley has 27 hits in 14 CWS games, and was the No. 2 overall draft pick by Seattle in major league baseball's draft last week.
Ackley doubled and hit four singles. It was the kind of performance put up in the 1990s by Cal State Fullerton's Mark Kotsay, who batted a combined .517 in two CWS appearances and is widely considered the best pure hitter to play in the tournament.
"The guy can just flat-out hit," Southern Miss second baseman James Ewing said of Ackley. "We always heard about him, but to watch him, the guy hits the ball where it's pitched. He's got great hand-eye coordination. You can't strike him out. The only time we got him out, that ball was hit really hard, also. So we were fortunate to get him out one time. That was a show he put on for us."
The lefthanded-batting first baseman, who has hits in 21 consecutive NCAA Tournament games since 2007, singled to left in the third inning to break the record of 24 career hits set by Stanford's Sam Fuld (2001-03).
"It was just one of those days," Ackley said. "I've had days where I've hit a bunch of balls on the nose and they were getting hit for outs. Today, it seemed like a bunch of the balls were finding holes and I was getting hits."
"My worst fears came true," Palmer said. "Carolina is a great club. They can pitch, hit, defense. I was hoping I'd be wrong, but I really worried about our matchup. Seven lefthanded hitters in there, and we didn't have an answer."
North Carolina's Adam Warren (10-2) allowed three hits and struck out six in six innings.
The 55-year-old Palmer announced in April he would retire at the end of the season. He was 458-281 in 12 seasons at Southern Miss.