Monday, June 16, 2008

Carolina Pitching Stifles LSU Bats

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.

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