|Inside Carolina audio is available to IC premium subscribers. To listen, you'll need an updated version of Windows Media Player - click here to download the software.|
* For only the second time in six NCAA Tournament games this postseason, No. 2 North Carolina fell behind 1-0 to No. 7 LSU on Sunday night. But with a quick-strike attack in the bottom of the first inning, the Tar Heels were back on top with a 3-1 lead and the pressure had been squarely placed on the Tigers' shoulders.
Early leads have allowed North Carolina to control every game in this NCAA postseason, and that has played an obvious factor in UNC's six straight wins up to this point.
"I think it makes a big difference with any team, and ours is no exception," head coach Mike Fox said following practice at the Boys Town practice facility on Monday. "When you have a lead, you just feel a little more confident and the other team feels a little bit more pressure.
"Everything's highlighted in the NCAA Tournament, so when you're behind by two runs in the regular season, it's okay. When it's the NCAA Tournament, you feel like you're down by four. I don't know – it just always feels like it's a bigger task than maybe it really is, but that just magnifies the tournament."
* Rosenblatt Stadium has always been known as a hitter's park, and the 19 homeruns hit during opening-round play this weekend serve as a testament to that belief. But of the eight teams in Omaha, North Carolina was the only one without a homer, instead using a barrage of singles to knock off LSU in the fourth game of the session.
But Fox said that his team is capable of hitting the long ball, and even pointed to a spot in Sunday's game where a big swing was warranted at the plate. With two runners on with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning and North Carolina holding a 7-2 advantage, Dustin Ackley grounded out on his first pitch, ending the inning on a fielder's choice.
"We wish he would have kind of looked for the ball in the inner-third of the plate and tried to yank one out and really take the wind out of their sails, [but] he just rolled over on the ball," Fox said. "So there's sometimes when we want guys to go up there, especially the guys that can do it with the wind blowing out to right field, to look to yank a ball just for one pitch. We haven't relied on that in Cary just because of that ball park…
"We've got some guys that are capable of hitting some homeruns and it may come down to the fact that we may have to hit with a little bit of power out here in a big scoring game."
* The experience storyline for the Tar Heels has been played out ad nauseam in the media during this postseason run, but that doesn't diminish its importance. When North Carolina took the field on Sunday night against LSU, only one player in the lineup was stepping onto the Rosenblatt Stadium field for the very first time – sophomore shortstop Ryan Graepel.
"It was incredible – it was probably the most fun that I've ever had on the baseball field," said Graepel, when asked about the excitement of the College World Series. "I don't know, but for some reason, I felt really relaxed out there. I was a little worried that I'd be a little nervous playing in front of all of those people and with the cameras everywhere, but to be honest with you, it felt really good."
Having teammates that are well-seasoned in the Omaha spectacle lends to calming one's nerves, and Graepel indicated that everyone in a Carolina blue uniform had repeatedly told him to approach the game in the same manner that he would if the event was held in Cary or Chapel Hill.
"And it's the truth – it's the same game, it's just on a bigger stage," Graepel said. "Having guys like Chad Flack and Tim Federowicz and guys who have been here before, it helps out so much. It makes me feel like I've been here before when you hear their words of experience, so it's been huge for us."
* Speaking of Chad Flack, the senior third baseman took a double shot to the knees at the end of practice on Monday afternoon. While fielding fungoes from Fox down the third base line, a player working in the batting cage drilled a line drive toward Flack just as he was bending down to pick up a groundball. The ball appeared to hit the Forest City, N.C. native in the left knee before ricocheting and hitting the inside of his right knee.
Despite an abrupt end of practice as a trainer rushed to Flack's side, the senior indicated that he was fine before limping off to sign autographs with ice bags strapped to both knees.
"That's one of the dangers of practice, right there," Fox said immediately following the incident.
* Adam Warren (9-1, 4.07 ERA) will pitch for the Tar Heels on Tuesday night, while Fresno St.'s Justin Miller (6-3, 4.88 ERA) will take the mound for the Bulldogs.