With the score knotted at 3-3 entering the ninth, Ryan Graepel (1-3, one run) hit a one-out double to left-center field to put a man in scoring position for the Tar Heels. The Tigers wisely walked Dustin Ackley (4-4, two runs), and both bases runners advanced on a wild pitch to pinch hitter Mark Fleury (0-1).
With runners in scoring position on second and third, LSU head coach Paul Mainieri elected to walk All American Tim Fedroff (1-3, one RBI, two runs) to load the bases, setting the stage for Federowicz's bomb to left field on a 1-1 pitch.
"It was a great piece of hitting," Mainieri said. "You have to give the kid credit. I've already asked myself several times if I did the right thing by walking [Fedroff], and I think even if I had to do it over again 1,000 times, I'd do the same thing. It just didn't work out for us."
This contest was due for a dramatic ending on Friday night, considering the first pitch was thrown out on Thursday. The Tar Heels looked to be in prime position when play was suspended due to lightning, holding a 2-0 lead with the bases loaded and just one out.
But Jared Bradford (four hits, one ER in 5.2 innings) took the mound for the Tigers on Friday, and promptly forced Garrett Gore (2-4) to hit into a 6-4-3 double play to end the first inning scoring threat for UNC. Another rain delay – this one last one hour and 27 minutes – led North Carolina head coach Mike Fox to go to his bullpen early, replacing Matt Harvey ( one hit, one ER in 2.0 innings) with Colin Bates (no hits, no ER in 2.2 innings).
The Tar Heel pitching staff was sensational against a LSU squad that entered the College World Series ranked top-20 nationally in homeruns (97), hits (738), slugging percentage (.515) and runs (525). The Tigers boasted a 36-1 record when holding their opponents to five runs or less, but with a stellar combined effort from Harvey, Bates, Brian Moran (two hits, two ER in 1.1 innings), Rob Wooten (no hits, no runs in 1.0 innings) and Alex White (WP, one hit, no runs in 2.0 innings), the Tar Heels only needed three runs in this elimination game in front of a record crowd of 30,422 (over two days).
"I think tonight you saw probably why we've led the nation in earned run average," Fox said. "We ran our five best guys out there, and it would have really been a shame if we had lost only giving up four hits, but sometimes that's the nature of the game."
The Tigers shared in those sentiments.
"I don't know when the last time was that we only had four hits in a ball game," Mainieri said. "Their kids were really good… Sometimes you just tip your hat to the other team. I thought their pitching was really outstanding. They shut us down pretty much."
The Tar Heels jumped out to the 2-0 lead on Thursday when Fedroff doubled in Ackley for a run in the opening inning, followed by LSU starting pitcher Blake Martin (two hits, two ER in 0.1 innings) walking Chad Flack (0-3, one RBI) for the second run.
When play resumed on Friday, D.J. LeMahieu (1-4, RBI) singled in Micah Gibbs (1-2, two walks) in the second inning. After Graepel scored on a fielder's choice in the fifth inning to give UNC a 3-1 lead, Matt Clark (1-2, two RBI) hit his NCAA-leading 28th homerun in the sixth inning with a man on to tie the score at 3-3.
North Carolina will square off against Fresno State on Saturday night at 7 p.m. EST in another elimination game. No decision on the Tar Heels' starting pitcher for Saturday had been announced as of late Friday night.