OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — After finally showing a burst of power, the North Carolina Tar Heels are back in the championship round of the College World Series.
North Carolina beat Rice 7-4 on Thursday to set up a title rematch against Oregon State and the Tar Heels are hoping for a different result this year.
“Right now we just want to take a deep breath and realize we made it through our four-team bracket,” Fox said. We’re happy to be playing, that’s for sure.”
Last year, Oregon State scored the go-ahead run in the deciding game on the Tar Heels’ fourth error.
The teams meet Saturday night in the first CWS-final rematch since Southern California met Oregon State in 1972-73. USC won both years.
“We’re playing more now, last year we got there winning three in a row and it didn’t turn out too well for us,” said Andrew Carignan, who retired seven of the eight batters he faced for his fifth career CWS save and 18th of the season. “We’ll go the other way this time and see if it turns out a different result.”
North Carolina (57-14) had just two homers in 14 postseason games before Dustin Ackley, Tim Fedroff, Seth Williams and Josh Horton connected against Rice.
“I’m not sure where the home runs came from tonight,” said Carolina coach Mike Fox. “I guess we saved it up.”
The Tar Heels came back from the losers’ bracket after losing to Rice 14-4 on Sunday. In three straight wins — once over Louisville and twice over Rice — North Carolina allowed just six runs against the CWS’ two hottest-hitting teams.
Rice starter Matt Langwell had allowed just two homers in 79 1-3 innings coming into the CWS, but he gave up one to Louisville and the two to North Carolina here. Bramhall, who had given up just two in 60 1-3 innings entering Thursday, surrendered two in a span of five batters.
Adam Warren allowed three hits and three runs in six-plus innings in his first NCAA tournament start. The sophomore right-hander gave way to Rob Wooten after issuing a walk to start the seventh.
Wooten allowed back-to-back singles and an RBI double to Diego Seastrunk, who went 2-for-5 and drove in three runs after moving from the seventh to second spot in the batting order.
Joe Savery could have tied it with a home run in his last at-bat, but was called out on a fastball to end the seventh inning.
“It’s tough to end your career on a pitch that’s six inches outside,” Savery said. “And for them to show it on the board, that ain’t me complaining. It was up in front of God and everyone.”
The Owls finished with a CWS showing that mirrored last year’s.
Rice won its first two games in Omaha in 2006, then went home after getting shut out twice to Oregon State. The Owls scored 29 runs in their first two CWS games this year but scored only five in two losses to Carolina.
“I refuse to look at my career personally and my career here with the team as any sort of disappointment because that’s a crime,” Savery said.
“A lot of people are going to try to make us feel like we — whether they mean to or not — like we blew it or we succumbed to pressure and all those things. That’s just not true.”