(7) Tigers 4, (2) Tar Heels 8
June 15, 2008
North Carolina's offense picks apart LSU
Updated: June 15, 2008, 11:53 PM ET
OMAHA, Neb. -- North Carolina's dinks trumped LSU's dingers.
The Tar Heels did nothing fancy offensively to beat the Tigers 8-4 in the College World Series on Sunday night. They didn't need to because Alex White kept LSU's potent attack mostly under wraps.
After Michael Hollander and Matt Clark homered leading off the first and second innings, White allowed only two more singles before leaving in the eighth inning.
North Carolina (52-12), the national runner-up the past two years, advanced to a Tuesday night game against upstart Fresno State, which stunned Rice 17-5 in the afternoon. The Tigers (48-18-1), beaten for only the second time in 27 games since April 22, will play Rice in a Bracket 2 elimination game Tuesday.
All but two of Carolina's 17 hits were singles. Kyle Seager, Seth Williams and Ryan Graepel had three hits apiece. The Tar Heels scored in a variety of ways -- a wild pitch, a walk, a groundout, a sacrifice fly, a misplayed ball that went for a double and, of course, a couple of base hits.
"We kind of singled them to death there," Carolina coach Mike Fox said.
White (11-3), who has worked at least seven innings in four straight starts, left after Hollander reached on a bunt single to open the eighth. That's when LSU threatened to come back, loading the bases against reliever Brian Moran.
But helped by a favorable call, the Tar Heels survived to win their opening CWS game for the third straight year and for the fifth time in seven appearances since 1960.
After Micah Gibbs singled to pull the Tigers within five runs, the bases remained loaded. But Clark, who hit his nation-leading 27th homer in the second, struck out after Moran threw him a 66-mph changeup and 69-mph breaking ball.
Carolina then caught a big break to complete an inning-ending double play on Leon Landry's chopper up the middle. Graepel, the Tar Heels shortstop, picked up the ball as he swiped second base with his foot, and made a relay throw to stretching first baseman Dustin Ackley.
Landry appeared to beat the play, waving his arms as he crossed first base as if to signal safe, but umpire Jack Cox called him out. Television replays indicated Landry was safe by a step.
LSU coach Paul Mainieri argued to no avail, telling Cox, "It wasn't even close."
"It was a tough call that went against us," Mainieri said after the game. "It was pretty obvious to me he was safe. Obviously, it was a big play. It would have made the score 8-5. Who knows what would have happened? But it was a tremendous momentum-breaker for us at that point."
Rob Wooten gave up two hits in the final 1 1/3 innings to earn his fifth save.
The Tigers, who hit a season-high seven home runs in its super regional-clinching 21-7 win over UC Irvine last week, have homered in 11 straight games.
Hollander, the only player remaining from the previous LSU team to reach Omaha in 2004, lofted White's third pitch of the game high into the left-field bleachers, just a few rows from the top.
"It didn't start great for Alex, but I think you saw how much he's improved the last year and settled in there," Fox said.
White was throttled in his CWS debut last year, allowing six runs and five hits in 1 1/3 innings of a 14-4 loss to Rice.
"Giving up the first home run, it was early, so I had to keep pitching and get the next three outs," White said. "Scoring three runs the first inning was the biggest key for us, to prove that one run wasn't going to beat us and to give me confidence."
The Tar Heels strung together 10 singles against LSU starter Ryan Verdugo (9-4), including three straight on their way to a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the first. Verdugo walked in Carolina's first run, Seager had an RBI single, and another run scored on a sacrifice fly.
Carolina added runs in the third, fourth, fifth and seventh innings to lead 8-2. The last run scored on a freak play after LSU left fielder Jared Mitchell mistakenly ran back to the warning track on Williams' routine fly ball. When Mitchell turned around, he couldn't find the ball, and it dropped some 20 yards away in left-center field.
"They earned what they got to a certain degree," Mainieri said. "But we had some pretty mediocre defense at times. We dug ourselves too big a hole to climb out of."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press