Omaha, Neb. • It took nearly 4 1/2 hours in 95-degree heat to play the opening game of the College World Series.
Time flew for North Carolina coach Mike Fox. He was having fun.
The Tar Heels knocked out Oregon State ace Luke Heimlich during a five-run third inning and went on to beat the Beavers 8-6 on Saturday.
“I liked being in the third-base coaching box in the top of the third. Felt I was out there for a while,” Fox said. “For me, the more you’re out there, the better. I get it. It was a long game. But they’re not long for me, and they’re not long for the coaches and players. Sometimes it’s agonizing for the people watching. We’re not trying to drag it out by design.”
The Tar Heels (44-18) used six pitchers in a 4-hour, 24-minute slog that was the longest nine-inning game in CWS history. They turned back threats in the sixth and seventh innings and prevailed against an opponent they hadn’t faced since losing to the Beavers in the 2006 and ‘07 CWS finals.
The Tar Heels built leads of 6-1 and 8-4, but Oregon State (49-11-1) was poised to go ahead in the seventh after loading the bases with two outs against Josh Hiatt and Steven Kwan coming to bat. Kwan had reached base on his first four trips to the plate and had struck out only 15 times in 247 at-bats, making him one of the toughest players in the nation to strike out. Cooper Criswell came on and struck him out on three pitches.
“My goal is to go out and get ahead in the count. I was able to do that,” Criswell said. “I think he was a little froze on the second fastball I threw him. I think he might have been expecting something else. And on the slider for strike three, (Brandon Martorano) did a great job framing that pitch and getting that one for me.”
The Beavers were uncharacteristically sloppy while losing their third straight game over two years in Omaha. Carolina scored on a passed ball, and the Beavers committed three errors after making one in their first five NCAA Tournament games.
Then there was Heimlich (16-2), the two-time Pac-12 pitcher of the year who lasted just 2 1/3 innings — his shortest start in two years.
Last year, Heimlich left the team for super regionals and the CWS after it was revealed he had pleaded guilty to molesting a young relative when he was 15. The university allowed him to return to the team this year. He served two years’ probation and went through a treatment program but denied wrongdoing in recent interviews with Sports Illustrated and The New York Times.
Mississippi State 1, Washington 0 • Luke Alexander’s drive to right field got past Christian Jones in the bottom of the ninth inning, allowing Hunter Stovall to score from second base to give Mississippi State a 1-0 victory over Washington in the College World Series on Saturday night.
It was the Bulldogs’ third walk-off win, and fourth on their final at-bat, in their last eight NCAA Tournament games.
Stovall and Elijah MacNamee singled leading off the ninth against Andy Hardy before Alexander hit an 0-2 pitch deep to right. Jones was playing shallow and gave chase, but he couldn’t catch up to the ball as it bounced to the wall. Alexander easily scored, prompting players to pour out of the Mississippi State dugout and celebrate on the grass behind third base.
Starters Ethan Small of the Bulldogs (38-27) and Joe DeMers of Washington (35-25) traded zeroes through seven fast-paced innings.