OMAHA, Neb. -- North Carolina right-hander Alex White limited seventh-seeded LSU to four hits in seven innings and the second-seeded Tar Heels pounded out 17 hits to deal the Tigers an 8-4 loss in the 2008 NCAA College World Series opening round on Sunday night at Rosenblatt Stadium.
LSU (48-18-1) will face Rice in an elimination game at 1 p.m. Tuesday. The game will be televised nationally by ESPN 2.
The Tar Heels (52-12) entered the game as the national leader in earned run average. Sunday night they displayed their veteran presence as a team that is attempting to reach its third CWS championship series.
White, the Atlantic Coast Conference Pitcher of the Year, stymied the Tigers, allowing only four hits and three runs in a seven-inning effort. He walked two and struck out six while firing 107 pitches.
Meanwhile, UNC tallied 17 hits – 15 singles – against six LSU pitchers. Four Tar Heel starters registered three hits apiece, and centerfielder Seth Williams drove in three runs. UNC put pressure on LSU all game by putting the leadoff hitter on in seven of its eight at-bats.
LSU junior starter Ryan Verdugo (9-4) was touched for 10 hits and six runs – four earned – in 3.2 innings of work.
“It was a frustrating game for us,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “We got off to a great start with the leadoff home run in the first (by third baseman Michael Hollander). Verdugo was throwing well in the bottom of the first – a guy was safe on a swinging bunt, a good piece of hitting on a single the other way, a tough play on a grounder – all of a sudden the bases were loaded with nobody out, and I felt like our guy was throwing well. It was a series of tough breaks for us, and we got in a hole.
“North Carolina earned what they got, to a certain degree, but we made some mistakes as well. They swung the bats well, but we helped them out with some poor defense.”
Hollander drove a line drive, leadoff home run into left field bleachers that provided the Tigers with some early inning fireworks and a 1-0 lead. Hollander, who finished 3-for-5, became the third player in school history to lead off a College World Series game with a homer, joining Danny Higgins vs. Alabama (1997) and Jason Williams vs. Wichita State (1996).
LSU’s 1-0 advantage proved to be short lived, though. Verdugo surrendered three straight singles to start the bottom of the first, including two hits that never left the infield. First baseman Dustin Ackley beat out a grounder on the first base line and left fielder Kyle Shelton singled. Right fielder Tim Fedroff then popped up a bunt up that was dropped by a diving Matt Clark.
Catcher Tim Federowicz drew a bases loaded walk to tie the game, and second baseman Kyle Seager ripped an RBI single into left field to give UNC a 2-1 lead it would never relinquish.
White’s only other blemish came in the top of the second when Clark launched a 3-1 offering into the left field bleachers for his nation-leading 27th homer of the year that closed the gap to 3-2. Clark moved into a tie for fifth place in LSU single-season dingers, joining Trey McClure (1998).
UNC put the leadoff man for the third straight inning when Fedroff singled to start the third. Second baseman Ryan Schimpf later committed only his third error of the season, which led to two unearned runs. Designated hitter Garrett Gore capitalized with an RBI fielder’s choice and centerfielder Ryan Graepel drove third baseman Chad Flack home with a sharp single into left field.
UNC pushed across another run in the fourth and chased Verdugo from the game after 3.2 innings. Back-to-back singles by Graepel and Ackley brought reliever Paul Bertuccini into the contest from the bullpen with one out. Bertuccini uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Graepel to score and make it a 6-2 contest.
Trailing 8-2 in the bottom of the eighth, the Tigers attempted yet another late-inning comeback. After Hollander reached on a leadoff, bunt single, White gave way to reliever Brian Moran. Left fielder Jared Mitchell greeted the stellar left-hander with a single to left, and designated hitter Blake Dean loaded the bases with a single to right.
Catcher Micah Gibbs drew an RBI walk and brought Clark to the dish with the bases loaded and nobody out. With the Tigers down 8-3, Clark fanned on consecutive off-speed pitches. Reliever Rob Wooten was summoned, and shortstop DJ LeMahieu beat out an infield single to draw the deficit to 8-4.
Wooten silenced the momentum when he induced a double-play groundball from Leon Landry, who was ruled out on a controversial call at first base. Wooten pitched around two base runners in the ninth to register his fifth save with 1.2 innings of scoreless relief.
North Carolina 8, LSU 4 (Jun 15, 2008 at Omaha, Neb.)
LSU....................... 110 000 020 - 4 8 1 (48-18-1)
North Carolina...... 302 110 10X - 8 17 0 (52-12)
Pitchers: LSU - Ryan Verdugo; Paul Bertuccini(4); Louis Coleman(5); Blake Martin(7);
Jordan Brown(7); Anthony Ranaudo(8). North Carolina - Alex White; Brian Moran(8); Rob Wooten(8).
Win-Alex White(11-3) Save-Rob Wooten(5) Loss-Ryan Verdugo(9-4) T-2:59 A-22239
HR LSU - Michael Hollander (6); Matt Clark (27).
White, A faced 1 batter in the 8th.
NCAA Men’s College World Series
Game 4 Quotes (LSU vs. North Carolina)
Hall of Fame Room, Rosenblatt Stadium
Sunday, June 15, 2008
LSU Head Coach Paul Mainieri
(opening statement): “It was a frustrating game for us. We got off to a great start with the leadoff home run in the first. (Jason) Verdugo was throwing well in the bottom of the first – a guy was safe on a swinging bunt, a good piece of hitting on a single the other way, a tough play on a grounder – all of a sudden the bases were loaded with nobody out, and I felt like our guy was throwing well. It was a series of tough breaks for us, and we got in a hole.”
“They earned what they got, to a certain degree, but we made some mistakes as well. They swung the bats well, but we helped them out with some mediocre defense.”
(on the ball that Mitchell lost in the sky): “He thought the ball was hit harder than it was. He went back, thinking it was deeper, and then lost the ball in the high sky.”
(on the number of high-profile teams that have lost in the CWS and Tuesday’s game): “In today’s age, anybody can beat anybody – you have to be ready to play. The teams that deserved to win this weekend won, and the ones that deserved to lose lost. Rice (LSU’s Tuesday opponent) is a great ballclub... It’s just the state of college baseball today – anybody can beat anybody.”
LSU first baseman Matt Clark:
(on UNC starter Alex White): “He throws hard and threw well against us tonight. He has some good pitches, but we helped him out early by swinging at some out of the zone. His slider was biting, but we helped him out a bit.”
(on comparing his first at-bat home run with his strikeout later in the game): “I got in a good hitting count, and he left a ball up in the zone. I was able to put a good swing on the ball. My other at-bat, I missed my pitch to hit. He came with a good curve ball and I was trying to put a good swing on it and put it in play, but couldn’t get a piece of it.”
LSU third baseman Mike Hollander
(about Sunday’s game): “They definitely outplayed us tonight.”
(on his leadoff home run): “It didn’t mean anything because we lost. I was up there trying to put together a good at-bat and help our team win.”
North Carolina Head Coach Mike Fox
(opening statement): “It’s always good to get the first win here. Any win here is a good win, but the first win is important. I think the game was typical of our team – a team effort. We singled them to death. Things didn’t start well for Alex (White) but you got tsee how much he’s improved from last year. It was a total team effort. We’re certainly happy with the win.”
(about Alex White’s performance): “Alex, they’re not going to let you forget last year. We joke around about it all the time. You hope kids learn from mistakes. They’re older and more mature. Alex has worked very hard and improved, which is to his credit.”
North Carolina starting pitcher Alex White
(about his top pitch today): “I threw a couple of sliders to the lefties. My best pitch without a doubt was my split.”
(about his performance): “Scoring three runs in the bottom of the first inning was the most important thing for us.”
North Carolina second baseman
(about his offensive performance): “I definitely felt comfortable today at the plate. Something about the batters box set me at ease.”
(about singling LSU to death): “When you get guys on base we know from a defensive standpoint, it puts more pressure on the defense.”
North Carolina centerfielder Seth Williams
(about being relaxed at the plate): “Being here three years in a row, I think I was more relaxed out there. With our offense, we’re not going to get beat by one run.”