THE GAME AT A GLANCE
Turning Point: The one-hour, 11-minute rain delay in the top of the sixth inning ended the outing for North Carolina ace Andrew Miller, but the Tar Heels didn't allow another run after his exit. Oregon State's Dallas Buck allowed two runs in the first inning, but held UNC to two hits from the second through fifth innings. He returned to the game after the delay and allowed three hits and the tying run in the bottom of the sixth.
The Hero: Sophomore first baseman Chad Flack tripled to lead off the bottom of the eighth inning and scored the game-winning run on a wild pitch. The triple was his fifth consecutive hit at the CWS.
You May Not Have Noticed: Righthander Dallas Buck got knocked around in his first CWS start, but looked sharp against North Carolina. His sinker worked to near perfection and he recorded 15 outs on ground balls and got four more outs on strikes. No UNC batter lifted the ball into the air against him, and at least half of the nine hits he allowed were seeing-eye grounders or bloops into the shallow outfield.
OMAHA--Chad Flack has home run power. He can hit for average. And he's also a good defender. But fast?
"Fast enough," North Carolina's 6-foot-3, 215-pound first baseman said with a smile. "Fast for my size. Not blazing fast."
Flack's speed came into question on consecutive pitches Saturday night against Oregon State. He led off the bottom of the eight inning with a line drive into the right-field corner and legged out a triple. He scored on a passed ball on the next pitch, sliding headfirst and getting his hand under pitcher Joe Paterson's tag.
That proved the decisive run Saturday as North Carolina beat Oregon State 4-3 in front of a College World Series championship series record 26,808 spectators at Rosenblatt Stadium.
"Chad's deceptively fast," North Carolina lefthander Andrew Miller said. "We were all kind of watching for him to run out of gas rounding second, but we're glad he made it. That was a big run for us."
The win gave North Carolina a 1-0 lead in the best-of-3 series, only one game away from the first baseball championship in school history.
Flack's triple was his fourth hit of the night and his fifth in as many plate appearances at the CWS. His game-winning run was the third one he scored in the game. It wasn't the first time Flack has come up big for North Carolina (54-13). In an 8-7 super-regional win against Alabama, he hit a three-run home run in the eighth inning and a game-ending two-run shot in the ninth to send his team to Omaha.
"Chad's been getting big hits for us ever since he stepped on campus," UNC coach Mike Fox said. "I happened to look at the replay after he slid into third, and that's a tough pitch to foul off, much less put into play."
The triple brought Jay Cox to the plate with no outs and a 3-3 score. Cox, who had an RBI single in the first inning and two home runs and four RBIs in UNC's last game, didn't have the chance to become the hero when the first pitch Paterson (1-1) threw to him glanced off the glove of OSU catcher Mitch Canham. Flack, didn't have a big lead at third base, but made it home just in time, reaching for the back side of the plate.
"You saw it," Canham said. "It got past. The run scored. We lost. That's about it."
In the end it was that simple for Oregon State (48-16). But the Beavers had their chances. Their leadoff man reached bases six times in nine innings, but just two of those men came around to score. Four Beavers reached base in the final four innings, but none advanced past second base.
Credit North Carolina's bullpen, which combined for four scoreless innings and extended its scoreless streak in Omaha to 12 2/3 innings.
Matt Danford allowed only one hit in 1 2/3 innings after a one-hour, 11-minute rain delay in the sixth inning caused Fox to remove Miller from the game after 77 pitches. Jonathan Hovis (8-2) produced the same line as Danford, trimming his nation's best ERA to 1.17. And Andrew Carignan struck out the game's final two batters for his 15th save, touching 95 mph with his fastball.
"Our relief pitching has just been outstanding so far," Fox said. "I have great confidence in our bullpen."
Oregon State took a 3-2 lead just before the delay, when first-team All-American Cole Gillespie hit a a two-run opposite-field home run off Miller. It was the fourth home run Miller had allowed all season, and the third in Omaha. Rain followed the line drive into the right-center field seats, and Miller's night after five innings, seven hits and three earned runs.
While the rain drove Miller from the game, it still might have benefitted the Tar Heels. They scored twice against Oregon State starter Dallas Buck in the first inning, but he held them to two baserunners over the next four innings. Unlike Miller, he returned after the delay and allowed three hits--including Seth Williams' game-tying RBI single--in the bottom of the sixth inning.
"I think it gave us a chance to regroup a little bit," Fox said of the delay. "Maybe it worked out better for us because when Buck came back out there he wasn't as sharp and it gave us a chance to score that run."
Still, Buck answered a lot of questions about his toughness and health by throwing 6 1/3 innings, withstanding the rain delay and allowing three runs. He recorded all 19 of his outs by strikeout (four) or groundout (15). He said his arm felt the same as it had all year--he's pitched through a ligament strain with reduced velocity for much of the season--and that's he has become used to the pain.
"I don't think that had any affect on how I pitched," Buck said. "I haven't felt good all year, but no matter how I've felt I'm good enough that we should win every time I pitch. My job is to leave with the lead, and I didn't do that. Any time I come out of the game and we don't have the lead, I feel bad."