UNC wins opener in super regionals
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina again waited until its final at-bat to win an NCAA tournament game. This time, it put the No. 1 overall seed within a victory of returning to the College World Series.
Freshman Skye Bolt hit an RBI single through the right side in the ninth inning to lift the Tar Heels past South Carolina, 6-5 on Saturday in the opener of the super regional best-of-3 series.
Bolt's two-out hit scored Parks Jordan from second for the Tar Heels (56-9), who are trying to reach Omaha for the sixth time in eight seasons. They had to regroup after a shaky start from top pitcher Kent Emanuel and rally from an early two-run deficit before winning their second straight in walk-off fashion.
"Once the game's over, you can take a deep breath," UNC coach Mike Fox said. "This is a fun bunch to be around and they have been since Day 1. I'm happy for them."
North Carolina beat Clemson in 14 innings and then rival North Carolina State in 18 innings during a run to the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament title over Memorial Day weekend.
Then came the winner-take-all game in the Chapel Hill Regional against Florida Atlantic. The Tar Heels fell behind on a ninth-inning grand slam and a 12th-inning three-run homer only to rally each time and win 12-11 on Cody Stubbs' RBI single in the 13th.
"I'm holding up fine. My wife's a pharmacist," Fox said. "I'm kidding -- sort of."
Bolt had been hitting just 14-for-60 (.233) since returning from a broken right foot that cost him 17 games in April and May, but he came through with the game's biggest hit after No. 9 hitter Jordan led off the ninth with a single.
After a sacrifice bunt by Chaz Frank and a flyout by Landon Lassiter, Gamecocks reliever Tyler Webb (3-3) intentionally walked Colin Moran -- picked No. 6 by Miami in this week's Major League Baseball draft -- to get to Bolt.
"I talked to Landon before I went up to the plate there and he told me he was going to attack in with something hard," Bolt said. "... I wasn't going to let him throw it by me."
South Carolina (42-19) won national championships in 2010 and 2011, then finished second last season. Now the Gamecocks -- led by former UNC player and assistant Chad Holbrook -- will have to beat the Tar Heels on Sunday and Monday to return to Omaha.
North Carolina hasn't lost consecutive games all season.
"As good as their pitching has been all year, the thing that has stood out to me all year about their team has been their offensive approach -- their willingness to never give in, the incredible job they do with two strikes," Holbrook said. "They've got nine really good hitters in the lineup. You never really can catch your breath with those guys."
Reliever Trent Thornton (10-1) earned the win, allowing one run in three innings. UNC's bullpen saw heavy work when Emanuel, the ACC pitcher of the year, lasted just 2 1/3 innings in his shortest start of the year.
Emanuel allowed seven hits and four runs on 63 pitches. Going back to the regionals, he has allowed 18 hits and 14 earned runs on 238 pitches in 11 2/3 innings -- all in an eight-day span.
His struggles helped the Gamecocks get off to a 2-0 first-inning lead and a 4-2 edge in the third before UNC rallied.
The Gamecocks got 15 hits, including three each from Graham Saiko, Chase Vergason and Kyle Martin. Joey Pankake also hit a solo home run in the second inning, but South Carolina hurt itself with three errors that led to two unearned runs.
South Carolina also stranded 12 men on base.
Brian Holberton drove in two runs for North Carolina, which finished with 11 hits and led 5-4 in the eighth before the Gamecocks tied the game on Vergason's RBI double that scored Martin.
The opener was supposed to be Friday, but heavy rain from Tropical Storm Andrea forced it to Saturday.
Louisville 5, Vanderbilt 3
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- When Louisville coach Dan McDonnell leaves his office two hours after a practice or game, he often notices a light on in the batting cages.
And usually swinging away is seldom used senior outfielder Matt Helms.
"This guy works," McDonnell said. "I always tell these guys that the bus pulls up at everybody's stop. You've got to be ready to get on it. I had no doubt Matt was going to get on it."
The extra practice paid dividends as Helms delivered a two-out, two-run pinch-hit single in the seventh inning to lift Louisville to a 5-3 victory over No. 2 overall seed Vanderbilt in a NCAA super regional opener.
In just his 41st at-bat of the season, Helms drove 1-2 pitch off Commodore closer Brian Miller down the third-base line to break a 2-2 tie. The left-handed hitter had driven in just three runs all season.
As he raced toward first base, Helms pointed to the crowd where his parents were sitting after making the nearly nine-hour drive from Oklahoma.
"It was huge," Helms said. "Just a big relief, big excitement. You work so hard for something and you finally get a chance to prove to the team you can do something. But it was huge just having (his parents) there and enjoying that success for me."
Helms' single was part of a three-run inning that rallied Louisville (50-12) to a win in the opener of a best-of-three series. The Cardinals, playing in their first super regional since 2009, tied a program-record for single-season wins and need just one win to reach their second College World Series.
"It is great to get that first win where your back is not against the wall but you're still going to be aggressive to go get game two," Helms said.
Vanderbilt (54-11), playing in its third super regional in four years, had just lost once in 49 previous games when leading after six innings.
Left-handed ace Kevin Ziomek (11-3) was cruising through six innings, allowing just two hits and one run. He had retired 11 of 12 before entering the seventh. Then he ran into trouble.
"Our demise was that seventh inning," Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said. "We just couldn't get out of it."
Trailing 2-1, Jeff Gardner led off with a single and moved to third on two groundouts. Ziomek then surrendered a two-out single through the left side to Zak Wasserman, who drove in Gardner for the second time in the game. Sutton Whiting followed with a single the opposite way leadoff hitter walked Adam Engel to load the bases.
"They grinded through some at-bats," Ziomek said. "I made a couple pitches but they put some good swings on the ball and they fell when they needed to."
UCLA 3, Cal State Fullerton 0
FULLERTON, Calif. -- Nick Vander Tuig pitched and three UCLA relievers combined to shut out Cal State Fullerton 3-0 to win the Fullerton super regional and advance to the College World Series.
Vander Tuig (12-4) gave up seven hits in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out four and did not walk a batter. David Berg closed out the ninth and earned his 21st save of the season. The Bruins (44-17) swept the series and will make their second consecutive trip to Omaha.
UCLA took advantage of two Titans errors in the first inning to score three unearned runs. Pat Gallagher had a two-run single with the bases loaded and Shane Zeile added an RBI hit to give the Bruins a 3-0 lead after one inning off Thomas Eshelman (12-3). He pitched a complete game for Fullerton.
The Titans (51-10) dropped back-to-back games for only the second time this season.
LSU 11, Oklahoma 1
BATON ROUGE, La. -- JaCoby Jones had four hits, including a homer, and drove in two runs to help LSU beat Oklahoma 11-1 on Saturday night to advance to the College World Series for the 16th time.
LSU (57-9), which tied a single-season school record for victories, used four pitchers, who combined to limit the Sooners (43-21) to five hits and prevented Oklahoma from scoring after it had taken its only lead of the series, 1-0, in the bottom of the first inning.
Will LaMarche (3-0) got the win for the Tigers, who improved to 5-0 in the NCAA tournament.
Dillon Overton (9-3), Oakland's second-round pick in this week's Major League Baseball draft, allowed four runs on seven hits before being lifted in the sixth inning.
Kansas State 6, Oregon State 2
CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Tanner Witt's two-run single in the 10th inning capped a four-run rally and Kansas State beat Oregon State 6-2 in the opening game of the Corvallis super regional.
The Wildcats (45-17) had seven hits over the final two innings and sent nine batters to the plate in the 10th. They pulled ahead when Jared King led off the inning with a bloop double into shallow left-center and Jon Davis brought him home with an RBI single. Two batters later, pinch hitter Mitch Meyer knocked a bases-loaded RBI single, and Witt broke the game open with a two-run single into right field.
With two outs and two strikes in the ninth, Ross Kivett doubled into the right field gap and reached third on an error, scoring when Witt followed with an RBI single that stunned the record crowd of 3,574 at Goss Stadium.
The rally spoiled a strong effort by Oregon State starter Matt Boyd, who struck out three and held the Big 12's top-hitting team to five hits over seven innings.
Pac-12 Player of the Year Michael Conforto put Oregon State (48-11) ahead in the fourth with a two-run homer over the right field bleachers.
The Wildcats got one back in the sixth when, Kivett led off with a double and Witt followed with an infield single. Boyd then hit two straight batters to force in a run.
Jake Mattys (9-1) earned the win with two innings of relief. Jace Fry (0-1) took the loss.
NC State 4, Rice 3
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Jake Fincher's two-out single in the bottom of the ninth inning capped a rally and lifted NC State to a 4-3 victory over Rice in Game 1 of the Raleigh super regional.
Rice (44-19) had taken a 3-2 lead in the top of the ninth, but NC State (48-14) tied it when Brett Williams slid under a tag after a bunt by Logan Ratledge. Williams singled to start the inning, stole second, and went to third on an error by pitcher Zech Lemond.
Two batters later, Fincher's single to left scored Jake Armstrong with the winning run.
Christian Stringer had doubled in the go-ahead run for Rice, pulling a ball down the left-field line to score pinch-runner John Williamson. Hunter Kopycinski had three hits, including the one that put Williamson on base.
Indiana 10, Florida State 9
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Kyle Schwarber had a go-ahead two-run single in a four-run seventh inning and Indiana went on to beat Florida State 10-9 in the first game of the Tallahassee Super Regional.
Schwarber, who also had a two-run homer in the fourth, put Indiana up 7-6 with his hit in the seventh.
Indiana (47-14) needed every run to survive a late Florida State rally in a 4-hour, 16-minute game that was far from a thing of beauty. Each team committed three errors and a combined 11 pitchers were used.
The Hoosiers provided plenty of pop with 11 hits. Scott Donley went 2 for 5 with two runs scored and Michael Basil went 2 for 5 with an RBI single, double and a run scored.
Indiana, playing in the super regionals for the first time, can advance to its first College World Series with a win on Sunday. If the Seminoles (47-16) win, a deciding game would be played Monday.
Mississippi State 11, Virginia 6
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Adam Frazier didn't want to go into Mississippi State's super regional against Virginia wondering where he'd be drafted.
The Pittsburgh Pirates took care of that on Friday, taking Frazier in the sixth round with the 179th overall selection, and a relieved Frazier gave Pirates fans a show a day later, leading the Bulldogs to an 11-6 victory against the Cavaliers.
"Any time you get some stuff off your mind and some pressure off of you, it's always more relaxing," Frazier said after going 6-for-6 with three singles, two doubles, a triple and three runs batted in to pace the Bulldogs' 20-hit attack.
Frazier said it was the first six-hit game he could remember, even thinking back to Little League.
Hunter Renfroe, the No. 13 overall pick by the San Diego Padres, went 4-for-5, also with three RBIs.
"I think we're seeing the ball great right now, laying off bad pitches, not striking out a lot," Renfroe said.
The Bulldogs (47-18) sure looked it, pounded Virginia pitching and scoring in six innings. They also benefited from uncharacteristic sloppiness by the Cavaliers, who made four errors that led to six unearned runs.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.