OMAHA, Neb. – North Carolina pitcher Trent Thornton limited top-ranked LSU to two runs over seven innings and a comeback bid came up short as the Tar Heels eliminated the Tigers from the College World Series by a score of 4-2 on Tuesday afternoon at TD Ameritrade Park.
LSU (57-11) concluded a memorable season, tying the school and Southeastern Conference record for wins (57), while claiming an SEC West championship, an SEC Tournament championship, an NCAA regional title and an NCAA super regional crown.
“It was a very frustrating game,” said LSU head coach Paul Mainieri. “We had so many opportunities and couldn’t come through with a big hit. We came here to win, came here to win a championship.
“But in time, I’m not going to let that fact take away from these kids and what they accomplished this year. They are champions, and we won several championships this year. We just didn’t win the big one, the big championship.”
North Carolina (58-11), the only NCAA Division I team to not lose back-to-back games this season, shattered its school record for wins and moved on to face the loser of North Carolina State-UCLA at 7 p.m. CT Thursday.
First baseman Mason Katz, playing the final game of his career, reached base all five at-bats with three walks and two hits. Right fielder Mark Laird went 3-for-5, while designated hitter Sean McMullen scored two runs and connected for two hits.
LSU starter Cody Glenn (7-3), who had not pitched since May 22 at the SEC Tournament, absorbed the loss, allowing three runs on five hits in two innings pitched. Glenn allowed a two-out, two-run homer in the first to catcher Brian Holberton that put the Tigers behind 2-0 before coming to the plate.
The Tar Heels tacked on another run in the third, but senior reliever Brent Bonvillain kept LSU alive, working 4.1 innings and allowing only a run on five hits. Bonvillain escaped a bases loaded jam in the third when he entered the game in relief of Glenn.
The Tigers finally got on the board against Thornton in the fifth on Katz’ clutch two-out RBI single into left field, scoring McMullen. LSU mounted its biggest threat against Thornton in the seventh, loading the bases following a double by McMullen down the right field line and a single from Laird. Shortstop Alex Bregman grounded into a double play that scored one run but the Tar Heels minimized the damage when Raph Rhymes flew out to centerfield.
Thornton (12-1) exited in the eighth after allowing a walk to Christian Ibarra. He left after scattering nine hits and walking four with three strikeouts. The Tigers again the loaded the bases on a JaCoby Jones single and a McMullen hit by pitch with two outs. Laird’s liner into left field just missed falling as the side was retired.
UNC pitcher Chris McCue notched his second save of the season with a scoreless ninth. Bregman lined out to right field. Following a Katz walk, Rhymes flew out to centerfield and Ibarra struck out to end the game.
Third baseman Colin Moran led the Tar Heels with three hits and two runs.