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Carolina continues to give plenty of Flack
By Sean Ryan
OMAHA, Neb. –
Chad Flack shows plenty of attributes as a sophomore at North Carolina.
Possesses nice raw
power. Comes up big in the clutch. Mans a steady, if not splendid, first base.
Using speed to win a game, however, isn’t top of mind.
Flack morphed into
a speed demon of sorts Saturday night, tripling down the right-field line on a
1-2 pitch in the eighth inning then scoring on a passed ball as the Tar Heels
opened the best-of-three College World Series Championship Series with a 4-3 win
over Oregon State. Before a championship series record crowd of 26,808 at
Rosenblatt Stadium, North Carolina put itself one game away from winning its
first national title and the first for the Atlantic Coast Conference since 1955.
Flack, who went 4
for 4 with three runs, reached out and deposited Joe Paterson’s 1-2 offering
down the line in right to lead off the eighth of a 3-3 tie.
“We were all kind
of waiting for him to run out of gas rounding second,” said Andrew Miller, the
Tar Heels’ ace starter who tossed the first five innings Saturday.
215-pounder nearly slid past third on his headfirst dive but managed to hold on
for dear life for his team-leading fourth triple of the year.
A couple of pitches
later, Beavers catcher Mitch Canham couldn’t handle a Paterson inside fastball
to Jay Cox. Flack hesitated, expecting the waist-high pitch to be caught, then
lumbered toward the plate. His second headfirst slide gave the Tar Heels the
“I got a horrible
jump, I really did,” said Flack, whose two-homer game against Alabama in the
Super Regionals vaulted UNC to the College World Series. “The slide is what did
it, because I wanted to slide away from the pitcher. I knew he’d get on the
inside part of the plate, so I tried to get my hand in there and luckily I did.”
Tar Heels coach
Mike Fox added: “We talk about that all the time: Every pitch, expect the ball
in the dirt, expect the ball in the dirt. That’s kind of what we say. Maybe I
need to change it next year: expect the ball past the catcher…I screamed for him
to go. Fortunately he had just enough of a secondary lead and just enough foot
speed – and one less cheeseburger – to get in there.”
Canham, OSU’s fine
backstop, was more direct.
“You saw it; it got
past; the guy scored; they win,” he said.
Jonathan Hovis, the
second of UNC’s three-headed bullpen monster, tossed 1.2 innings to improve to
8-2. Andrew Carignan struck out leadoff hitter Darwin Barney and John Wallace
for his 15th save after Canham bunted the tying run to second base.
Miller, the sixth
pick in the Major League Baseball Draft a couple weeks ago, showed signs of
dominance in his five innings, but left trailing 3-2. The lefty left a 1-2
slider up in the zone and over the plate to the Beavers’ top hitter, Cole
Gillespie. Gillespie hit a missile to the right-center seats to put Oregon State
on top in the top of the sixth.
“After seeing him a
few times, everything he gave me was sliders,” said Gillespie, who went 2 for 3
with two RBI. “I was pretty much sitting on slider.”
One pitch later,
lighting and an ensuing shower delayed the game for one hour and 11 minutes.
Miller’s night was done.
“I was a little
disappointed that I wasn’t able to go back out, but I appreciate the coaches
basically taking care of me,” Miller said. “I know I’ve seen a lot of pitchers
get abused in the postseason. They really had my best interest in their heart. I
think my disappointment is in the fact that I didn’t feel like I pitched that
Miller, who entered
13-2 with a 2.36 ERA, allowed seven hits and three earned runs in five-plus
He was in a great
battle with Dallas Buck, who milked ground-ball out after ground-ball out from
the Tar Heels. Before the rain delay, the right-hander retired 13 of 15 batters,
getting 11 on ground balls and two on strikeouts.
After the rain
delay, Buck surrendered two straight singles to Flack and Cox. Tim Federowicz
was unable to get a bunt down and ended up hitting into a double play. But Seth
Williams came through with a clutch two-out single to score Flack and tie the
game at 3.
Buck said he “felt
the same way I did to start the game” after the rain delay and that he “didn’t
think it had any effect.”
“We feel a little
disappointed because we had some opportunities to score and let them get away,”
said Beavers coach Pat Casey, CollegeBaseballInsider.com’s national coach of the
year in 2005. “We just can’t let opportunities get away when we get guys in
The Tar Heels took
a 2-0 lead on Buck and the Beavers in the first inning, with Josh Horton walking
and moving up on Flack’s single to center. Cox then singled in Horton, and
Federowicz had a jam-sandwich to short center to score Flack.
Now, thanks in
large part to Flack’s big night, the Tar Heels are one win away from college
baseball’s grand prize.
“This puts us in a
great position,” Flack said. “This gives us the chance to come out tomorrow and
win a national championship.”