"Their pitching was on tonight, and I thought their hitters looked good," UNC coach Mike Fox said. "They made us pay when we made pitching mistakes by leaving the ball up. It's a two-out-of-three series so we'll show up ready tomorrow."
Carolina must defeat OSU (48-18) Sunday and then Monday, or settle for its second CWS runner-up trophy in as many years. Sunday's game begins at 7 p.m. EST (ESPN2).
With a strong starting effort from freshman Jorge Reyes (7-3), the Beavers are just one win away from becoming the first back-to-back CWS champs since LSU accomplished the feat in 1996 and 1997. Reyes scattered eight hits and three runs over 6.1 innings.
"[Reyes] was throwing his best fastball at us," said Reid Fronk, who doubled twice in the game. "He made us hit his pitches, but we just couldn't string anything together."
Meanwhile, Alex White (6-7) failed to hold down Oregon State's hitters until relief could arrive. Although like his counterpart, White allowed eight hit as well, the Tar Heels (57-15) fell behind 2-0 on a Jordan Brennerton home run in the second inning, and then 3-0 on a sacrifice fly in the third.
"I was just looking for a fastball, and he threw me one belt high in the middle of the plate," Brennerton said. "I knew I got a piece of it, but I was not sure how it would travel with the wind."
Carolina answered with a pair of runs in the top half of the fifth on a two-RBI double by Fronk. But the Beavers answered with another run in the bottom of the inning to extend their lead to 4-2.
Determined to save his top relievers Rob Wooten and Andrew Carignan, Fox paraded out five different pitchers for the final 2.1 inning of the game as OSU blew the game wide open.
"Hopefully giving (Wooten and Carignan) the day off will benefit us in the long run," Fox said. "The other guys got a shot tonight and they just didn't get the job done."
Reserve catcher Benji Johnson hit his second pinch-hit home run of the season in the eighth.
Fox said as an aside on Friday, that he hoped UNC (57-15) would learn from the Beavers' backdoor trek to the national title last season. OSU battled through the losers' bracket and shook off a 1-0 deficit to the Tar Heels before claiming the final two games and the '06 CWS title.
Fans hope Fox was unknowingly prophetic, because that's just the route Carolina now must take in order to bring home its first CWS championship.
UNC has lost the first game in three previous three-game series this year, rallying to overcome NC State, but losing to top-10 opponents Florida State and Virginia.
The Tar Heels are 8-4 (10-12 all-time) in the CWS with three consecutive losses to Oregon State.