Live Blog: ASU 12, UNC 5 (FINAL)

OMAHA, Neb. --- Inside Carolina's Greg Barnes is blogging live from his press seat at Rosenblatt Stadium as the Tar Heels face off against Arizona State in Thursday's College World Series elimination game ...

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Top of 9th – ASU wins 12-5
Ackley singled to right field in his final at-bat as a Tar Heel, extending his NCAA Tournament hitting streak to 22 games. After the first baseman steals second standing up, Seager doubles to left to score his future teammate in Seattle.

Garrett Gore's final at-bat was not as pleasant as his homerun to end his playing career at Boshamer Stadium against East Carolina, but his four years have been nothing but successful. And finally, senior Mike McKee steps to the plate with two outs and a runner on second. While he hasn't seen the playing time that his senior teammates have, McKee has been a crucial part of UNC's stunning four-year run to the College World Series.

Congratulations to North Carolina on yet another splendid baseball season. Hard to complain when you play your final game in Omaha – that's a great accomplishment.


Bottom of 8th -- ASU leads, 12-4
Nothing doing for the Sun Devils in their apparent final at-bat of the evening.


Top of 8th – ASU leads, 12-4
Swagerty takes the mound for Spence and promptly strikes out Michael. Bunting singles up the middle, but Baldwin follows him up with another strike out. Cavasinni moves Bunting to third with a single to right field, as UNC is desperately trying to string a number of hits together to spark this offense.

Tarron Robinson pinch hits for Graepel, but grounds out to short to end the inning.

The Heels are down to three outs remaining in their season.


Bottom of 7th – ASU leads 12-4
Kipnis leads off the bottom of the seventh with a single to right, and the Sun Devil fans respond with an "ASU" chant. These batters have become more patient as this game drags on, forcing the Tar Heel arms to throw strikes. Ten of Bates' first 19 pitches are balls, sending Ramirez to first base and moving Kipnis over to second.

Moran and Bates represent the core of UNC's vaunted bullpen, but Fox quickly sends Patrick Johnson to the mound to stop the bleeding. The move backfires, as Calhoun fakes a bunt and then blasts a shot to right-center for a two-run double to put ASU up 6-4. No doubt that Calhoun has the Tar Heels' number this week.

Johnson manages to strike out Newman, but follows that up by walking Reuttiger to give Torrez runners on 1st and 2nd with one out. Some disagreement between Johnson and Fleury on the pitch selection leads to a short meeting at the mound, but it doesn't help – the sophomore righty walks Torrez to load the bases for the McDonald.

A passed ball allows all of the base runners to advance, and Johnson is done for the night. Nate Striz will now take the reins and try to pitch UNC out of this inning. After an intentional walk to load the bases, the stout righty gives up a two-run single to left field to MacPhee to push the deficit to five runs. A double steal moves the runners to 2nd and 3rd, and a Maggi single up the middle scores both runners.

The wheels have officially fallen off for the Tar Heels.

Logan Munson has come in to replace Striz – the fourth UNC pitcher this inning, and there's still only one out. Kipnis grounds out to second base, but Ramirez singles to left field to score Maggi. At least this has been a group effort by the Tar Heel pitchers. Munson hits Calhoun, bringing Newman back to the plate with runners on 1st and 2nd.

The lefty strikes out Newman looking, ending the most disastrous inning of UNC's season.


Top of 7th – Tied, 4-4
Spence throws his 117th pitch against Ackley to start the seventh, and quickly dismisses the No. 2 overall pick, as well third-round pick Kyle Seager, before Gore triples to left-center. Fleury steps to the plate with a chance to put UNC back on top.

Fox sends Gore home on a 1-2 pitch, but Fleury strikes out, rendering the play useless. Gutsy call, though.

Murphy went with his ace lefty on three days of rest, and the move has paid off beautifully with seven strong innings. It would be shocking to see Spence in the 8th, but who knows with a wild card like Murphy.


Bottom of 6th – Tied, 4-4
After Jared McDonald singles to left-center field with one out, Fox elects to go with Colin Bates in place of Moran. The righty boasts a 2.88 ERA and a team-high 33 appearances on the season. Bates nearly picks off McDonald at first in consecutive attempts, but then allows the ASU third baseman to move to second on a wild pitch.

MacPhee works a full count before drawing Bates' first walk – and UNC's sixth – of the evening. Maggi continues to be the Sun Devils' Achille's heel against North Carolina, hitting into a double play to end the inning.

Here's a painful stat if you are a North Carolina fan – Moran has inherited 11 base runners this postseason and all 11 have scored.

Alex White and Patrick Johnson took some time that inning to loosen their arms in the bullpen.


Top of 6th – Tied, 4-4
Surprise, surprise – Spence returns to the mound for Arizona State. His off-speed pitches are still effective, striking Michael out to begin the inning. Bunting singles to right-center field and designated bunter Jacob Stallings runs out a chopper to short stop to give Cavasinni an opportunity with runners on 1st and 2nd and one out.

The red-shirt junior has flipped the switch offensively over the past couple of weeks, but hits into a 4-6 force out. A Graepel fly ball to center ends the threat for the Tar Heels, stranding two runners on base.


Bottom of 5th – Tied, 4-4
Another walk to start the inning draws a visit from pitching coach Scott Forbes. Moran continues to throw in the bullpen, but Harvey forces a Maggi 4-6 fielder's choice get the first out of the inning. As wild as the sophomore has been, he has only given up two hits to the Sun Devils, despite the four walks. No question he's battling hard out there.

A wild pitch moves runners to 2nd and 3rd, giving Harvey a CWS single-game record. Ramirez leads ASU with 19 homeruns and 74 RBI on the season, but he draws the towering righty's fifth walk, and that will be the end of the road for Harvey.

LHP Brian Moran steps into the lion's den with the bases loaded and just one out. The junior allowed one inherited run to score in Sunday's loss to the Sun Devils and also gave up a three-run homer to Kole Calhoun. Consider it déjà vu all over again, as Calhoun blasts a 3-2 pitch over the right-center field wall for a grand slam to knot the score.


Top of 5th – UNC leads 4-0
Spence returns to the mound for the fifth time, and works through the side with relative ease. His 102nd pitch of the afternoon struck Fleury out looking.

The question at this point becomes how long Murphy is willing keep Spence on the mound, with 224 pitches totaled over the past four days.


Bottom of 4th – UNC leads, 4-0
I expected the four-run lead to settle Harvey down even more, but a wild pitch and a leadoff walk gives the large contingent of ASU fans in attendance some hope. Another wild pitch moves Calhoun to second, but Newman goes down swinging. Ruetigger takes a shot to the upper back to give Torrez runners on 1st and 2nd with one out, but the first baseman pops up behind the plate. Two left on base for the Sun Devils.

So far, Game 10 is just a simple case of UNC capitalizing on its opportunities and ASU not being able to reciprocate.

Harvey exits the fourth with his pitch count standing at 71 and Brian Moran warming up in the bullpen.


Top of 4th – UNC leads, 4-0
Spence gives up his second hit of the day to Gore to start the inning, and Mike Fox quickly implements his small ball approach as Fleury squares to bunt twice before falling behind 1-2 in the count and then promptly striking out. Gore makes the move to second on his own, notching his fifth stolen base of the season. Michael strikes out, but a wild pitch allows him to advance to first. ASU is gift-wrapping base runners to the Heels through four innings.

Stallings steps to the plate with the bases loaded and one out, and sacrifice bunts again with two strikes to score Gore. Cavasinni follows with a RBI single to left field to score UNC's second run of the inning. Graepel joins the party with a single to left as well, scoring Bunting, setting the table for Ackley with runners on the corners, but the All-American strikes out looking.

Sun Devils' righty Jordan Swagerty (4-1, 4.55 ERA) took a bullpen session that inning, as Spence finishes the stanza with 89 pitches.


Bottom of 3rd – UNC leads, 1-0
Humorous watching these two pitchers alternate innings. Harvey is all power, while Spence is all about finesse. The Sun Devils make solid contact in the third frame, with a Zack MacPhee rip to right field for a single with one out getting things going. Leadoff hitter Drew Maggi, who struggled against UNC in Sunday's meeting, walks on four pitches, bringing Kipnis back to the plate.

The center-fielder blasts a shot to the warning track, but Gore is there for the catch. The Sun Devils strand runners on 1st and 3rd as Harvey tosses his 48th pitch.


Top of 3rd, UNC leads 1-0
After a 4-of-5 hitting display against Southern Miss on Tuesday in the seven-hole, Graepel's return to the leadoff spot has resulted in two early strikeouts. The Tar Heels jumped on the Golden Eagles by giving Ackley at-bats with runners in scoring position in each of the first three innings.

Speaking of Ackley, the junior reaches first base thanks to an interference call on ASU first baseman Riccio Torrez. That's two quick errors for the Sun Devils, but a stellar grab by second baseman Zack MacPhee leads to a 4-6-3 double play to prevent the error from amounting to anything.


Bottom of 2nd – UNC leads, 1-0
Harvey burns through ASU's order quickly in the second, looking much more comfortable than he did in the opening stanza. That's not unexpected – nearly three weeks between outings has to build some degree of rust, regardless of how many long tosses, bullpen sessions and intersquad games a pitcher throws.


Top of 2nd – UNC leads, 1-0
There was some concern earlier today about a strong chance of thunderstorms and high wind tonight, but so far, so good. The sun is shining bright and the team flags in center field are showing no signs of abnormal wind speeds.

Fleury works a full count before leading off the second with a walk, and a routine 6-3 throw on a Bunting at-bat turns into an error and moves the runners to 2nd and 3rd with one out. The ball was lost behind the infield cover on the first base line wall, and a first-base umpire's halt of play prevents Michael from scoring, but Stallings sacrifice bunts the run home in the next at-bat. Cavasinni grounds out to second to end the threat.

Spence's pitch count is already pushing 40 through two innings. You have to assume that anything approaching six innings for the Aussie would be gravy for Arizona State.


Bottom of 1st - 0-0
Harvey, boasting a 7-2 record and a 5.35 ERA, last pitched on May 29th against Dartmouth, giving up just two earned runs and nine hits in 6 1/3 innings. The sophomore told Inside Carolina before the outing against the Big Green that his fast ball had lost some velocity, dropping down into the low-90s. That long layoff has apparently been good for the righty, as he told a group of reporters on Wednesday that he hit 98 mph in an intersquad contest earlier this week.

Pac-10 Player of the Year Jason Kipnis used a single and a wild pitch to advance to second base with one out, and Carlos Ramirez walks to pose an early Sun Devil threat, but Murphy gets greedy and Fleury throws Kipnis out at third on a steal attempt.

Poor decision as another wild throw allows Ramirez to advance to second, before Calhoun strikes out to end the inning.


Top of 1st – 0-0
While it is surprising to see Spence back so soon after a 122-pitch outing on Sunday afternoon, it's important to note that the Sun Devils' bullpen threw 108 pitches in Tuesday's loss to Texas. If Murphy was to try and save Spence for Texas on Friday, it would pit the junior lefty and a right-handed dominant lineup.

So the question was this – a lefty vs. left-handed bats on three days of rest with your No. 3 starter on the back burner, or a lefty vs. right-handed bats on four days of rest?

Spence looks good in the top of the first, allowing a two-out single to Seager and that's all.


Pregame
You can expect bold decisions in the losers' side of the bracket, and Thursday is no exception. Arizona State head coach Pat Murphy has decided to throw lefty Josh Spence on just three days rest against UNC's Matt Harvey.

The lineups have been announced for both squads --

UNC

Ryan Graepel (.284, 41 RBI)
Dustin Ackley (.421, 22 HR, 73 RBI)
Kyle Seager (.393, 6 HR, 61 RBI)
Garrett Gore (.309, 6 HR, 44 RBI)
Mark Fleury (.314, 12 HR, 60 RBI)
Levi Michael (.295, 13 HR, 57 RBI)
Ben Bunting (.332, 37 RBI)
dh Jacob Stallings (.332, 7 RBI)
Mike Cavasinni (.268, 23 RBI)

Arizona State

ss Dre Maggi (.314, 21 RBI)
cf Jason Kipnis (.378, 16 HR, 71 RBI)
c Carlos Ramirez (.344, 19 HR, 74 RBI)
lf Kole Calhoun (.299, 46 RBI)
rf Matt Newman (.307, 7 HR, 54 RBI)
dh Johnny Ruettiger (.368, 13 RBI)
1b Riccio Torrez (.292, 37 RBI)
3b Jared McDonald (.252, 22 RBI)
2b Zack MacPhee (.261, 37 RBI)



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