June 21, 2007
OMAHA -- Third-ranked North Carolina used four home runs and quality pitching to claim a 7-4 win over the Rice baseball team before a Rosenblatt Stadium crowd of 22,344 and national television audience on ESPN in a semifinal elimination game at the College World Series Thursday evening in Omaha.
The first time for the Owls to lose games on consecutive days this season has brought an end to another fantastic year. The Owls closed out the 2007 campaign among the final three teams in the country left playing and posted an eye-opening 56-14 record. It's the fourth-highest single season win total in school history and the team was electric in winning 37-of-39 games after the opening games of the CWS.
North Carolina, which has won six of its last seven games, advances to meet Oregon State in the NCAA Tournament's best-of-three championship finals beginning on Saturday. The series is a rematch of the same two teams in the 2006 championship finals.
The Tar Heels blasted home runs in four-straight innings Thursday, the most allowed by the Owls this season. The Blue & Gray surrendered a total of eight home runs in four games at the CWS.
UNC opened the scoring in the bottom of the second inning. Tar Heel first baseman Dustin Ackley knocked a 1-0 pitch over the screen in straight-away cernterfield for a solo home run and a 1-0 lead.
The Owls came right back with two runs in the top of the third. Jared Gayhart led off with a single up the middle and Jess Buenger drew a walk to put runners on first and second. Jordan Dodson executed a text-book sacrifice bunt to advance both men into scoring position. Freshman Diego Seastrunk laced a two-out pitch through the right side to score both runners to move in front 2-1.
The lead was short-lived. UNC answered with two in the bottom of the frame to move ahead 3-2. Reid Fronk drew a leadoff walk and Tim Fedroff connected on a pitch for a home run to left. Fedroff's fifth round-tripper of the year gave the Tar Heels a 3-2 advantage.
Two more homers in each of the next two innings stretched the margin. Seth Williams hit his ninth homer of the season in the fourth. Josh Horton slugged his ninth in the fifth as part of a three-run fifth. UNC took advantage of consecutive walks, a sacrifice and base hit to extend the lead to 7-2.
The Owls scratched out a pair of runs on three hits in the top of the seventh. Gayhart started it off with a walk and Buenger singled to put men on the corners. Dodson singled home Gayhart and an RBI double by Tyler Henley made the score 7-4.
Rice went 2-2 and played a full week's worth of games at the College World Series. In four CWS games the Owls played before a total of 93,874 fans, an average of 23,418 per contest at Rosenblatt Stadium. Each of the CWS games and super regional games at Reckling Park were televised nationally on ESPN stations.