CWS: Day seven wrap... What, these two again? Oy vey!

Okay, I've got a game for ya'. Go ahead and raise your hands if back on June 27th of 2006, you predicted a repeat of North Carolina and Oregon State in the 2007 College World Series Finals again?

If you did, you're a freak. Or a lyin' sack-a-jeh-wea.

'Coz guess what?... That's what we've got this year again in the CWS finals. Last time around it was the unheralded Beavers rising up and taking down the arms-rich staff of Andrew Miller and Daniel Bard, and that unpredictable defense that eventually melted down when it counted to account for a stunning national title for the Rainbelters.

AckleyHR.jpg
(Dustin Ackley rounds third after hitting his monstrous dinger to open the 2nd inning)

Also, it's a complete role reversal too, this time it was UNC fighting its way through the loser's bracket to beat Rice twice and come into the title series just plum tuckered out. UNC hopes a similar scenario re-emerges this weekend. They'd like to jump out as soon as possible, to alleviate any tired arms problems that may strike at any time against the opportunistic Beavers.

Today, as OSU was waiting around without even breaking a sweat, UNC completed an unlikely two-game sweep of the Rice Owls. Even coach Mike Fox said in the post-game, "For one, we're all exhausted after this one. But we're also elated to get the chance to play for another national title." Hmmm. Exausted huh? We'll see how that translates onto the field.

But rest assured, tired, exhausted, emotionally spent, whatever UNC claims to be, just keep in mind how much of a second wind those Beavers got last year. It could happen in reverse this time around.

Here's what happened at the yard today...


GAME 13.
Rice - 002.000.200- 4 6 2
UNC- 012.130.00x- 7 8 1

WP: Adam Warren, 12-0
LP: Matt Langwell, 8-2
Save: Andrew Carignan, 18

Top hitter:
Dustin Ackley, UNC, 2-for-3, HR, double, walk

Game Time: 2:39
Attendance: 22,344

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In A Nutshell---
I turned to Doug Kroll in the 6th inning and said, "You can just look at Rice's body language and tell they're beaten. They LOOK like they're a defeated team." Well the Owls made a mad rush in the 7th inning and started to make a move with a pair of runs. But an Andrew Carignan strikeout and a 9th inning 1-2-3 smackdown put the kaibosh to all that.

UNC took most of the drama out of this one early on. They found their power bats and homered in four straight innings on their way to a comfortable win. Okay, there was a hairy moment or two (Joe Savery's 7th inning at-bat. Thank you Mr. Ump for that crap call), but it was mostly without incident.

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Key Moment---
With two men in scoring position in the 7th inning, Rice slugger Joe Savery came on to face a Lucan-wild Andrew Carignan. After air-mailing a few pitches, including one that bounced off Savery's bat as he was ducking out of the way, home plate ump David Buck gave an undeserving Carignan a batter's box-chalk called third strike, leaving Savery (and the rest of the press box) slack-jawed over the punchout call.

That kept the lead at 7-4, ending what could've been a one-run game with a Savery single. Or as Wayne Graham said in the post-game, "I was looking for Joe to get a waist-or-knee-high fastball and hit a home run to tie the game."

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That back wasn't feeling Langwell---
In the post-game press conference, Rice starter Matt Langwell admitted to "tweaking" his back early on in the game. This didn't sit well with Coach Wayne Graham. "Had I known that he had tweaked his back earlier I would've pulled him from the game right away." After a few minutes, the subject came up again and Coach got downright barbed about it. Looking at Langwell at the end of the table, he said "Matt learned a valuable lesson tonight. That will teach you to take a nap all curled up in your locker. You need to sleep on a flat surface, like the floor or a table, right?" Langwell barely uttered "yes" as if he was bent that his coach called him out like that. Do we hear transfer bells?

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Speaking of Langwell---
Langwell's loss tonight was his first since March 6th, snapping a personal 7-game winning streak. Langwell had given up just two home runs in his first 81 innings thrown this year, before serving up two dingers tonight.

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Bats go quiet again---
In their two losses to the Heels, Rice hit just .203 (13-for-64). Meanwhile, they hit .407 in the first two games against Louisville and UNC.

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That horrid called third strike on Savery---
Here's what Joe Savery said about his 7th inning strike-out, "It is disappointing to go out like that. That's a crime to do that. Especially since it was a strike that was at least six inches off the plate." To be honest, you guys probably saw it on TV replays like we did in the press box, that sumbitch was touching the chalk... on the batter's box.

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Biggest under-rated stat---
Dustin Ackley and Tim Fedroff have gone off-the-hook in the last two games. They were a combined 4-for-24 in their first three games here in The O, but went 7-for-15 over Wednesday and Thursday night. They combined to gather three home runs and seven RBI.

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Some game notes handed out to the media in the press box---
- This year marks the first time in CWS history that the final three teams from the previous season (Rice, OSU and UNC) were the final three teams left remaining this season.
- Remember that 2001 CWS where they called all those balks? Well, apparently they made some changes in the rule after that series. Seeing as how there been something along the lines of 46 hit-by-pitches in this CWS, look for some kind of rule change in this off-season. At least there better be.
- UNC had two home runs in their first 14 post-season games (ACC and NCAA tournament), had four home runs in tonight's game, including four straight innings of home runs.
- You have to like the way UNC's pitching has come along. They've allowed only six runs in the last 27 innings this week. By contrast, the Heel staff allowed 19 runs in the first two games of the CWS.
- Andrew Carnignan picked up his 18th save of the season tonight, tying him with San Houston State's Luke Prihoda as the national saves leader. Carnignan also tied the school record for saves in a season.
- I don't know if I've ever heard of a pitcher in college making as many appearances in a season as has Rob Wooten (46 in all). Okay, so tonight's two-thirds of an inning effort wasn't his best, giving up three hits in two-thirds of an inning.

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NOTES.

With UNC winning its bracket, this gives the ACC another chance to win its first national title since Wake Forest since 1955.

Poor Rice, everybody's piling on the Owls now.
The 2006 and 2007 Rice Owls became the first team since Arizona State in 1975 and 1976 to win its first two games in the CWS and NOT make the championship round in two consecutive seasons.

My interview in corn country.
I did an interview yesterday with Mr. Corn Blight from www.cornnation.com, an all-sports, pro-Nebraska website. If you want to see what I wrote about the NCAA's "no-blogging" rule, go to this address:
http://www.cornnation.com/

Great article No. 1.
Here's something Glenn Tanner wrote about the NCAA and their "holding a gun to Omaha's head" today in his usual biting sartorial style that I love. Pictures included. Check it out here if you haven't already:
http://slog.cstv.com/touchingthebases/2007/06/cws_its_time_for_the_ncaa_to_r.html#comments

Great article No. 2.
Mark Etheridge's SEC bash.
Although it's posted as one of his "exclusive" subscription-only columns, Mark wrote a really good article on the foibles of the SEC in Omaha (something I noted when Mississippi State became the 6th 0-2 SEC team since 2003 here in Omaha.). Since some of you may not subscribe to his site, here's a few highlights off it... And don't worry, Mark gave me permission:

"For the second consecutive season, the conference got just one team to Rosenblatt. The conferences' two National seeds and best chances for Omaha success couldn't make it out of their home Regionals.

The time has come for the SEC coaches to change their formula. Coaches have stressed using the non-conference schedule to prepare for the conference season. That's great if your only goal is to excel in conference. But a league that considers itself the best in the country should have higher goals for its elite squads.

Perhaps they do. Maybe this is just a bad run of luck. Maybe averaging one win in Omaha is no cause for concern. Maybe this is all Chicken Little talk and no wakeup call is needed.

Playing the New York Tech's of the world may pad that won-loss record and provide three more home games in the season-ticket package, but it does little to help prepare the team for the postseason.

Step out there. Road games against good teams are not Satan's spawn. If programs losing money can do it, the big boys can spare a home weekend as well.

Frankly, this conference's record in the postseason is revealing that perhaps outlets like this one have given the conference too much credit."

Okay, so it's late late now. I'm getting some shut-eye.

G'night.

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Eric Sorenson Eric Sorenson
Eric Sorenson is CSTV.com's National Baseball Columnist, and also appears on CSTV as a baseball expert