(3) Tar Heels 3, Cardinals 1

2:00 PM ET, June 19, 2007

North Carolina sets up showdown with Rice in CWS

Updated: June 19, 2007, 7:36 PM ET

OMAHA, Neb. -- North Carolina is proving the adage that good pitching beats good hitting any day.

The Tar Heels' starters had been anything but good the last two weeks, and Louisville had the hottest hitting team in the NCAA Tournament.

But Luke Putkonen and two relievers limited the Cardinals to three hits, and the Tar Heels won 3-1 in a College World Series elimination game Tuesday.

The Tar Heels also had three hits but they made two runs that scored on a Louisville throwing error stand up to advance to a Wednesday game against Rice. North Carolina (55-14), the 2006 runner-up, would have to beat the Owls twice to win their bracket and return to the best-of-three championship series, which starts Saturday.

Rice beat the Tar Heels 14-4 the first time they played Sunday.

"This game is crazy," North Carolina coach Mike Fox said. "You can go from a game where you score a lot of runs to none, because it's all controlled by that guy on the mound. I have a great deal of confidence in Luke. When he's on, he has as good a stuff as anybody."

The Cardinals (47-24), who had batted .402 and scored 22 runs in their first two games, ended their first trip to the CWS with their fewest hits since getting three in a loss to St. John's on May 5. They scored their fewest runs since a loss to Rutgers on May 25.

"Everybody putting in good at-bats for a long time is a hard thing," said Louisville's Logan Johnson, whose first-inning homer was his CWS record-tying fourth in three games. "We ran into a good club and they pitched well. Things didn't go our way."

It was the second straight year that a team had three hits in a victory -- Oregon State did it in a 2-0 win over Rice. In the CWS' 61-year history, only one team has won with fewer hits. That was Southern California, which had two in a 5-3 win over BYU in 1968.

Before Tuesday, no team in Fox's nine years at North Carolina had won with so few.

"Pitching and defense are the name of the game, and we got those today," he said.

All of North Carolina's scoring came with two outs in the second. Seth Williams hit a run-scoring single to center to tie it, and the go-ahead runs came in when Garrett Gore grounded to third, and Chris Dominguez threw wide of first baseman Daniel Burton.

"They jam a ball up the middle, and they cap a ball down the third-base line," Louisville coach Dan McDonnell said. "Just a real tough play. Even if 'Ming' makes a great throw, I don't know if we get him at first. If Dan scoops the ball, I don't know if he's out at first."

After Williams' single, Colby Wark (3-4) and Gavin Logsdon held the Tar Heels hitless until Josh Horton doubled leading off the eighth.

The Cardinals threatened with two outs in the bottom half, but they stranded two runners when Isaiah Howes struck out against Andrew Carignan.

Carignan, who relieved Rob Wooten, struck out three of his four batters for his 17th save.

Entering Tuesday, Tar Heel starters had given up 32 earned runs and 47 hits in 25 2/3 innings during the prior seven games. But Putkonen, who hadn't made it out of the fifth inning in his previous two starts, all but shut down an offense that entered with a .370 batting average and 99 runs in 10 national tournament games.

The 6-foot-6 right-hander worked seven innings, allowing Johnson's homer and two singles. Putkonen tied his career high with seven strikeouts.

"My breaking ball was the best it's been all year," he said. "I kept them guessing up there."

Louisville finished its season with a school record for wins.

"As I told the kids, they'll go down as the greatest team to play baseball at the University of Louisville," McDonnell said. "If you're going to have the season end somewhere, you would rather it be in Omaha than anywhere else."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press