By TOM STAD
June 21, 2008
No. 2 North Carolina 7, No. 7 LSU 3
When the rain stopped and North Carolina took the field with the bases loaded and one out in the top of the first last night, they were staring back at a different face from the one they saw when the game originally started on Thursday. Head Coach Paul Manieri decided to have senior right-hander Jared Bradford (10-4, 4.48 ERA) take the mound last night in quite a spot. Bradford took over for Blake Martin, who was wild in his one-third of an inning Thursday night before the game was suspended with UNC leading 2-0 and threatening more. It turned out to be the right decision, as Bradford induced a Garret Gore grounder to third that LSU tossed around the horn for an inning-ending double play to kill the rally and put some spring in their step. In the bottom of the second, Tigers shortstop D.J. LeMathieu laced an RBI single up the middle. Bradford would keep the Tar Heels offense in check through 5 2/3 innings, only surrendering a run on a Tim Federowicz fielder’s choice in the fifth. Once again LSU (49-19-1) rallied, as first baseman Matt Clark crushed a 2-2 pitch to right for home run No. 28 on the year, with Micah Gibbs scoring as well to make the score 3-3. That’s the way it would stay, as Tar Heel coach Mike Fox left nothing to chance by bringing in super sophomore Alex White (11-3, 2.77 ERA), who pitched out of a one-out, bases loaded jam in the bottom of the eighth. And that’s when the fireworks started. With one out in the top of the ninth and the score still knotted at three, shortstop Ryan Graepel got things going with a double to the right-center field gap. After Louis Coleman (8-1) intentionally walked Dustin Ackley (4-for-4, 2 runs), the runners advanced on a wild pitch, but then pinch-hitter Mark Fleury struck out, leaving runners at second and third with two outs. Manieri decided to intentionally walk the other Tar Heels superstar, sophomore Tim Fedroff (.401, 12 HR), setting the stage for the kind of stuff you dream about as a kid. Junior catcher Tim Federowicz launched North Carolina’s first home run of the College World Series and the team’s first grand slam in 280 at-bats with the bases loaded at the CWS since 1981. The blast to right-center put the Tar Heels ahead 7-3. UNC then turned it over to White, who shut the door on any chance of yet another Tigers comeback. UNC advances to face Fresno State Tonight at 7 p.m. Georgia will battle Stanford at 2 p.m.
The drama was back last night, and this one will be tough to top. What could be better than having the bases loaded with two outs in the ninth inning and the score tied, and having the chance to be the hero? UNC catcher Tim Federowicz got that dream shot - which he had probably envisioned thousands of times in his backyard as a child - and took full advantage of it. The fact he did it with the entire Tar Heels season hanging in the balance just enhances the magnitude of the moment. Federowicz and fellow sophomore Alex White willed UNC past LSU after blowing an opportunity to break the game open as soon as it resumed. They will need to carry the emotion of that moment over to tomorrow’s game against Fresno State. The Bulldogs, as you know, are the hottest team left and will not be an easy out - especially since UNC has to win two in a row or face the prospect of going home. Either scenario could easily materialize. I will say this: Fresno State had better finish off the Tar Heels in the first meeting. Giving them extra chances is the worst thing they could do. In the other matchup, undefeated Georgia takes on once-beaten Stanford, and the Cardinal faces the same daunting task Carolina does. I don’t think they’ll be so lucky. After I saw all eight teams play, Georgia was the one I hooked my wagon to, and I’m not changing horses now. Georgia will await UNC, I think, but we’ll have to wait and see on that one.