(2) Owls 14, (3) Tar Heels 4
Second-inning outburst helps Rice stay perfect at CWS
Updated: June 18, 2007, 1:07 AM ET
OMAHA, Neb. -- Rice is unbeaten after two College World Series games for the second consecutive season straight year. The Owls say they're a very different team this time around.
As always, the Owls are loaded with pitching. But now they appear to have the bats to get them back to the best-of-three championship round for the first time since they won the 2003 title.
Sunday's 14-4 victory over North Carolina followed Friday's 15-10 win over Louisville. The Owls have a total of 33 hits in the two games. Against North Carolina, each of the starting position players had at least one hit and one RBI against the Tar Heels.
Last year the Owls posted narrow victories over Georgia and Miami before falling flat in two games against eventual national champion Oregon State. They were held scoreless in their last 23 innings at the '06 CWS.
"Last year we got into this position, and I really feel like we were lucky to be 2-0," said Joe Savery, who pitched six-plus strong innings against the Tar Heels.
The difference this year?
"We're attacking the game a lot more and not really hoping for the best but kind of taking it," Savery said.
Rice (56-12) plays Wednesday against the winner of Tuesday's Louisville-North Carolina elimination game. Louisville or North Carolina would have to beat the Owls twice to keep them from advancing to the championship round that starts Saturday.
Diego Seastrunk went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and Aaron Luna hit a two-run homer in the ninth to lead the Owls' 14-hit attack.
"We're zeroed in," Rice coach Wayne Graham said.
North Carolina (54-14) used a CWS-record eight pitchers Sunday. But a bullpen that had been a key in five come-from-behind victories in the NCAA tournament wasn't up to the task after freshman starter Alex White lasted only 1 1/3 innings.
It was the most runs surrendered by North Carolina in 119 games, since a 15-8 loss to Maryland on March 17, 2006.
"They're the best team we've played by far all yearlong," North Carolina coach Mike Fox said. "We got a good, old-fashioned fanny-whipping. I hope we have an opportunity to play them again. We just didn't do anything in the game very well tonight. A team as good as they are, you just can't do that, or you're not going to be in the game."
Danny Lehmann, Seastrunk and Brian Friday all doubled in the second as the Owls converted six hits into six runs. They scored in all but three innings.
Savery (11-1), the Philadelphia Phillies' first-round draft pick, allowed four runs on seven hits before leaving with one out in the seventh.
"It was really neat to pitch for the first time in Omaha when you're offense is playing like that," Savery said.
Cole St. Clair allowed three hits the rest of the way and earned his ninth save.
For White (6-6), it was his second straight poor start in the NCAA tournament. He went 3 1/3 innings in a loss to South Carolina in super regionals, allowing six runs on five hits. He gave up the same number of runs and hits in two fewer innings Sunday.
"It was pretty bad tonight," White said. "The frustrating thing is that I felt like I had good stuff the first and second inning."
North Carolina's bullpen came into the game having allowed just six runs in 29 2/3 innings in the national tournament. The Tar Heels' seven relievers gave up eight runs in 7 2/3 innings against the Owls.
"These are kids. They're not robots. They're trying as hard as they can," Fox said. "We pitched so well all yearlong. Out here you're on the bigger stage and against this kind of team that hits the ball all over the ballpark, you have to make good pitches. If you don't, they're going to hit you."
Savery said he's not worried about the possibility of an offensive meltdown such as last year's.
"You can never say never," he said, "but I think we're ready to play. We know it's possible to lose. All the teams here are here for a reason, so we can't take anything for granted."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press