OMAHA, Neb. — North Carolina benefited from a sloppy Oregon State performance to win the opening game of the College World Series.
Playing with house money, the sixth-seeded Tar Heels turned in a clunker of their own Tuesday en route to an ugly 12-2 loss against Mississippi State. The disappointing result sends UNC (44-19) to the losers’ bracket for a Wednesday rematch with No. 3 OSU (50-11-1).
The elimination game is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. with MSU (39-27) awaiting the winner.
“We’re going to have to beat both teams if we want to reach where we want to be,” senior infielder Michael Gretler said Tuesday. “We made some big errors early on that kind of set the tempo for them and got them rolling.”
The Beavers, who own a team fielding percentage of .979, committed three errors in Saturday’s 8-6 loss to UNC. Mistakes were also made on the mound, at the plate and while running the bases.
Despite the numerous slip-ups, the Beavers still had a chance to win the game.
“Obviously we didn’t play well against them,” senior outfielder Kyle Nobach said. “It’s win or go home at this point, and you’ve always got to come out and have a positive attitude, because it’s contagious.”
Added Gretler: “We know we just have to put it behind us, and we have. We are excited about (Wednesday).”
After Tuesday’s game, UNC coach Mike Fox announced that Cooper Criswell (6-2, 2.72 earned run average) will start Wednesday. Criswell, a junior right-hander, worked the final 2⅓ innings Saturday and gave up just one hit with two strikeouts and a walk.
OSU coach Pat Casey didn’t name a starter during Monday’s postgame press conference and wasn’t available for interviews Tuesday. Bryce Fehmel, Kevin Abel and Jake Mulholland all threw in the 14-5 victory over Washington.
“You never really know who’s going to come out and be a guy for us,” Nobach said. “Shoot, Grant Gambrell or somebody could run out there and throw the game of their life. You never know, and it’s always just the next guy up.
“I’m confident in our bullpen and (pitching coach Nate) Yeskie. He’s gotten his guys ready to pitch for the last decade, so I’m not worried about that.”
OSU center fielder Steven Kwan tweaked his quad against Washington and took himself out of the game. The junior’s status moving forward is uncertain, but Nobach believes Kwan has a good chance of playing.
“I think Kwan is doing well,” he said. “I don’t really know the full extent of what happened, but he’s a competitor and it’s going to take everything for him not to be in the lineup.”