I feel like we've seen this before. The team out of the loser's bracket between these two clubs has lost the first game of the CWS Finals. Last year it was UNC beating Oregon State, this year it was the opposite. But if there's one thing that Tar Heels head coach Mike Fox can look at it, they came back to win the next two against his squad a year ago. The bottom line on Saturday night, Oregon State was a better team than North Carolina. Plain and simple.
Nobody said it better than coach Fox.
"We were beaten by a much better team tonight. I thought they were better in ever asset of the game. I think that was typical of the way Oregon State has won games lately. They put guys on the corners, and when we made mistakes pitching-wise, they made us pay for it. We'll regroup and I'm glad it's best two-out-of three," Fox said.
And I would tend to agree. North Carolina is a lot better than they looked on this night. Two errors proved to be costly by reliever Tyler Trice, who had one of the wierdest stat-lines you'll ever see. He didn't record an out, didn't give up a hit, yet gave up three runs, none earned, while walking one. The two others who scored reached on the two errors he committed on bunts back to the mound.
The second one, he threw down the rightfield line, allowing two runs to score on the play, and allowing Joey Wong to go all the way to third base on the three-base error.
That was part of a four run seventh inning, that really busted the game open, turning the game from a 6-3 deficit for UNC, to 10-3.
Both teams finished with 12 hits, and it came down to UNC not hitting with runners in scoring position. They left eight guys on as well.
Jorge Reyes picked up yet another win, moving to 7-3, as he outdueld fellow freshman starter Alex White, who fell to 6-7 on the season. White had this to say about his performance.
"Tonight was obviously better, but it wasn't good. I made some mistakes, and coach talked to me in between innings and I had to keep the ball down, and when I did I got some ground balls," White said.
Yes it was better, but no it was not good enough. For a guy that had been counted on so much in the regular season to come up with big starts, White has completely fizzled out since beating Virginia in the ACC Tournament, in a game in which he threw seven shutout innings. Now he's allowed 24 runs in his four combined NCAA Tournament games. That's just not good enough.
For the Beavers, I'm not sure how many ways you can say the same thing. They are just playing really, really, really good baseball right now. It's funny because a lot of people wouldn't have disagreed with the selection committee if they had left OSU out of the Tournament. Now they are just one win away from winning their second consecutive national championship.
They haven't trailed in any game now in over 60 innings, dating back to the Regionals in Virginia. If that's not a sign of a hot team, I'm not sure what is. But head coach Pat Casey has obviously seen teams blow a 1-0 lead in these situations before, and will have the warning flags up in his dugout.
"We're obviously excited about winning the first game, and also very well aware that you need to win two. We're going to make sure we enjoy it for about ten minutes and start focusing on what we have to do tomorrow. We have a lot of guys doing a lot of good things, and feel real good about winning the first game," Casey said.
We continue to follow an eerie pattern of opposites here in the '07 CWS. Everything that happened for one of these teams last year, has happened for the other in 2007, and vice versa. For the Tar Heel fans, at least they know what's coming if that pattern is to continue, as unlikely as that has been over the years.
Speaking about his team's attitude in the ballgame, coach Fox wasn't too pleased about the question being asked if his guys were tight out there.
"We're not going to make excuses, our guys weren't tight. Why would our guys be tight playing for the national championship? It just happens. That's part of it. I tip my cap to the other team. I'm not giong to put the blame on us," Fox said.
On the lighter side of things, OSU starter Jorge Reyes had the best line of the evening, as when he was asked if these starts were getting "old hat," he had no idea what the reporter was asking. That prompted the following line.
"I'm only a freshman, 16 credits now, and I got a 'C' in English," Reyes said.
Up and down the OSU lineup, guys continue to just produce. Seven different Beaver players drove in runs, with Mitch Canham and Jordan Lennerton driving in two apiece to lead the team. Every starter in the lineup had at least one hit, with four players winding up with two.
These guys are just hot at the right time. No two ways about it. As for UNC, they pounded out those 12 hits, but couldn't get guys in. Seven starters had hits, with Reid Fronk and Seth Williams pitching in with two each, with Fronk driving in two runs, too.
So now it's up to UNC redshirt sophomore Luke Putkonen. Oregon State's Mike Stutes will look to win the national title tomorrow, as he will oppose Putkonen on the hill.
It's another good pitching matchup on paper, but shouldn't all of these be at this point? I think so too.
Congrats to the Beavers on another great win, but as we have found out this year from UNC, they aren't dead quite yet. The Heels are 4-0 in elimination games, and something tells me coach Fox will have these guys raring to go on Sunday evening.
That'll do it from Johnny Rosenblatt on a beautiful Saturday evening, where for one final time, the final score of game one of the 2007 CWS FInals was, Oregon State 11 and North Carolina 4.
Good night everybody, and see you back here tomorrow.