FINAL – UNC wins, 11-4
The Golden Eagles present no challenge in the ninth, and can head back to the team hotel to begin packing their bags for the trip home to Hattiesburg.
As for the Tar Heels, Nate Striz comes in for Patrick Johnson to close the victory out on the mound as the team will now prepare to face the loser of tonight's Texas/Arizona State game on Thursday at 7pm ET.
Top of 9th – UNC leads, 11-4
Wade Weathers takes the mound for Southern Miss, and succeeds where no other Golden Eagle has today – not allowing Ackley on base, thanks to a fly out to deep left-center. Kyle Seager bombs a homerun in the very next at-bat, but that's besides the point, right?
UNC is now up to 23 hits on the afternoon, topping the previous season-high of 21 hits set against Winthrop on April 15. The box score is brutal, as UNC's 11 runs and 23 hits are laughable next to Southern Miss' four runs and four hits. Such is baseball.
The 23 Tar Heel hits ties the CWS record for most hits in a game.
As for an update in the battle between runs scored and men left on base, the LOB has slowly built a 14-11 lead and can now claim victory.
Bottom of 8th – UNC leads, 10-4
Southern Miss gets on the board in the 8th, thanks to a throwing error by Graepel that allowed Joey Archer to cross home plate. Pinch hitter Brian Dozier then reaches third base on a wild pitch by Bates to give USM a look at cutting the deficit in half.
UNC almost makes a third mistake in the inning on Vollmuth's deep fly ball to left-center field, as Bunting and Cavasinni collide in fielding the play. Crisis is diverted, however, and the Tar Heels prevent the Golden Eagles from adding any more runs on the scoreboard.
Top of 8th – UNC leads, 10-3
The stands continue to empty as the overall feeling seems to be that this one is over and done with, as the Tar Heels' pitching staff is making the Golden Eagles look like little leaguers in the batter's box.
UNC doesn't manage to add anymore runs in the eighth, but at this point, it doesn't appear as though it's going to matter.
Bottom of 7th – UNC leads, 10-3
Colin Bates comes on in relief of Warren, and with the help of a inning-ending double play, the red-shirt sophomore keeps things moving along quite effectively for the Tar Heels.
Top of 7th – UNC leads, 10-3
Ackley is now up to five hits on the afternoon, which gives the Walnut Cove, N.C. product two more hits than the entire Southern Miss lineup. A Seager single to right field scores Bunting, prompting Corky Palmer to pull Schlagel with runners on the corners and no outs.
Jeff Stanley now enters this Golden Eagle pitching spectacle, a lefty boasting a 4-2 record and a 4.43 ERA. Not wanting to feel left out, he quickly allows Fleury to fly out to deep right field, scoring Ackley from third.
Seager ends the inning stranded on third, which is giving us the most competitive statistic on the afternoon – UNC ‘s 10 runs versus 11 men left on base. The drama is almost unbearable.
Bottom of 6th – UNC leads, 8-3
Another painless inning for Warren.
While UNC didn't get the victory on Sunday, it cannot be stated enough how important Alex White's nine innings of work were for the Tar Heel bullpen. Combine that with Warren's showing today, and it looks as though UNC will emerge from the first two games of action basically unscathed in the pitching department.
Top of 6th – UNC leads, 8-3
The Tar Heels worked hard to add more runs to their lead, but a foul pop-up strands runners at 1st and 2nd. Despite a 5-run margin, it could be a lot more as UNC has left 10 men on base.
If you're looking for a reason why this game is taking so long, UNC's 16 hits is a good place to start.
Bottom of 5th – UNC leads, 8-3
Warren recovers nicely in the fifth stanza, retiring the side with ideal efficiency.
We're through five innings and have already surpassed the 2-hour, 15-minute mark. The crowd is actually thinning as opposed to growing, which is difficult to explain. Milkshake time at Zesto's, perhaps?
Top of 5th – UNC leads, 8-3
Ackley keeps churning along, registering his fourth hit of the afternoon. For Southern Miss, a silver lining could be that the No. 2 overall MLB draft pick did not have a runner on base. Good thing, too, as a botched throw to first base allowed Ackley to work around to third base with two outs.
The Golden Eagles do manage a small victory in not allowing a UNC player to cross home plate.
Bottom of 4th – UNC leads, 8-3
Just as I was about to post that Southern Miss has done the bulk of their scoring damage in the first two innings throughout the season (150 of 498 runs), the Golden Eagles jump on Warren for three runs in the fourth to try and claw back into this contest. B.A. Vollmuth hit a moon shot to left-center field to notch his eighth homerun of the season and etch three runs on the scoreboard.
Warren threw 44 pitches in the fourth inning, moving up to 99 on the afternoon. He now has five walks to his credit against just three strikeouts, showing some signs of looseness in his command as the game drags on.
Southern Miss has now left five men on base.
Top of 4th – UNC leads, 8-0
Cody Schlagel took the reins from Ballinger last inning, and the lefty hasn't had much better luck than his predecessor. He owns a 5-1 record and a 4.99 ERA in 25 appearances this season. Fleury singles to first base, and then Gore line drives one to left field for another base hit.
The Golden Eagles allow the Heels to put runners on 2nd and 3rd for the fourth-straight inning, and UNC capitalizes again with a Graepel two-run single.
Game 7 of the 2009 CWS is quickly getting out of hand…
Bottom of 3rd – UNC leads, 6-0
Since Warren is serving as a blogging minimalist today, let's compare the starting pitcher's stat lines:
Warren – 3.0 innings, 0 ER, 1 hit, two walks, 55 pitches, 30 strikes
Ballinger – 2.2 innings, 6 ER, 9 hits, four walks, 73 pitches, 37 strikes
I made the case in this article that East Carolina's offensive numbers were overblown due to poor pitching in the C-USA, and Southern Miss is adding more ammunition to that argument this afternoon.
Top of 3rd – UNC leads, 6-0
Ballinger appeared to be working through his early game jitters, retiring the first two batters of the 3rd before walking Graepel, but that calming trend ended quickly. Back-to-back singles by Cavasinni and Baldwin score Graepel, followed by a two-run double by Bunting, sends Ballinger to the dugout after only 2 2/3 innings.
Ackley once again knocks in a run with a runner standing on second, giving him three RBI on three hits in three innings. The junior first baseman now owns the CWS all-time record for most hits with 25.
The Heels tack four more on the board.
Bottom of 2nd – UNC leads, 2-0
We're only through two innings, but the momentum is already leaning heavily in North Carolina's favor. Warren may as well be flipping burgers on his grill at home as easy as he's made this look against a handful of batters, while Ballinger is running for his life with the Tar Heels at the plate.
Three up, three down.
Top of 2nd – UNC leads, 2-0
The Tar Heels got a little unlucky in the top of the 2nd, as a Ryan Graepel single quickly led to a double play ball when Cavasinni hit a line drive to second base.
Ballinger is already showing some command issues, walking Seth Baldwin, who owns a .222 batting average. That mistake allows Ackley to return to the plate with a runner in scoring position for the second straight inning, and the All-American delivers again with his CWS record-tying 24th career hit in Omaha.
Fleury steps into the batter's box with the bases loaded and two outs, but the junior catcher grounds out to first to end the inning. Five left on base through two stanzas for UNC.
The Golden Eagles' bullpen is already in motion.
Bottom of 1st – UNC leads, 1-0
Adam Warren's statistics this postseason have been staggering – a 3-0 mark with six earned runs and 19 hits in 22 1/3 innings, thanks to 23 strikeouts against just two walks. He begins his fourth postseason start by striking out first-team All C-USA member Bo Davis.
While Alex White has been dominant over his last two outings, you could definitely make the case that Warren has been UNC's top ace dating back to the ACC Tournament. Regardless, few teams have two options as good as this duo out here in Omaha.
Southern Miss strands a runner at second base as Corey Stevens grounds out to second base.
Top of 1st – UNC leads, 1-0
The Tar Heels are the visiting team today, and thus are wearing Carolina blue jerseys and white pants. The Golden Eagles are in their yellowish gold jerseys with white pants.
First pitch by Ballinger to Bunting is a ball at 2:08pm ET. After a difficult 0-5 showing – with four strikeouts – on Sunday, Bunting stays patient and walks on five pitches. Hitting with a runner on base was a rarity for Ackley on Sunday, and that has to change for UNC to post a crooked number on the scoreboard. So far, so good, as Ackley knocks in Bunting with a single up the middle to start the scoring.
Freshman Levi steps to the plate with runners on 2nd and 3rd and two outs, but grounds out to shortstop to end the inning.
Rosenblatt Stadium was packed during the first two days of action, but I'm assuming the weekday action has made it a little tougher for the locals to fill out the stands. There's still a good crowd here for the start of the game, but there are also a lot of empty seats.
The North Carolina Tar Heels and the Southern Miss Golden Eagles are quickly approaching the 2 pm ET first pitch in Game 7 at the College World Series. Loser goes home, while the winner lives to fight another day here in Omaha.
After struggles at the plate for North Carolina in its CWS 5-2 opening loss to Arizona State, head coach Mike Fox has revamped his batting order against Southern Miss' righty J.R. Ballinger (6-3, 3.89 ERA).
The lineups have been announced for both squads --
Ben Bunting (.327, 35 RBI)
Dustin Ackley (.412, 22 HR, 70 RBI)
Kyle Seager (.391, 5 HR, 59 RBI)
Mark Fleury (.311, 12 HR, 59 RBI)
Garrett Gore (.309, 6 HR, 44 RBI)
Levi Michael (.298, 13 HR, 57 RBI)
Ryan Graepel (.273, 39 RBI)
Mike Cavasinni (.264, 23 RBI)
dh Seth Baldwin (.222, 13 RBI)
Bo Davis (.362, 14 HR, 53 RBI)
James Ewing (.313, 4 HR, 43 RBI)
Kameron Brunty (.342, 7 HR, 53 RBI)
Corey Stevens (.325, 8 HR, 60 RBI)
Joey Archer (.307, 10 HR, 62 RBI)
Michael Ewing (.242, 5 HR, 20 RBI)
B.A. Vollmuth (.237, 7 HR, 25 RBI)
Travis Graves (.252, 2 HR, 12 RBI)
Taylor Walker (.305, 3 HR, 29 RBI)