OMAHA, Neb. — It was a tiring day at the office for Oregon State and North Carolina.
For the duration of Saturday’s College World Series opener, a strong wind blew straight in from center field that altered the trajectory of every fly ball. The breeze did provide respite from intense sunshine that baked TD Ameritrade Park during the 4 hour, 28-minute affair.
The 8-6 UNC victory was the longest nine-inning game in CWS history.
“It’s really important for us as a defensive team to just make sure that we have that energy and are making sure to breathe while we're out there,” OSU catcher Adley Rutschman said. “Because sometimes when it gets dead or you have those long innings, it can kind of spiral just because things seem to not be going your way.”
The sixth-seeded Tar Heels (44-18) plated seven of their eight runs in a pair of lengthy innings: the third and seventh. No. 3 OSU (49-11-1) had defensive breakdowns in both frames.
During its five-run top of the third, UNC scored on a rare Rutschman passed ball and a Steven Kwan fielding error in center field. The Tar Heels also benefited from a blooper that died in the wind and dropped between Cadyn Gernier, Jack Anderson and Kwan in no-man’s land.
“It was definitely a factor,” Kwan said of the wind. “It didn’t play in our favor with (Trevor Larnach’s first-inning triple) in center, and I think it kept some of the balls in. … Before BP, taking live reads was definitely very important.”
A Michael Gretler throwing error — OSU’s third of the game — set up the Tar Heels’ two-run seventh. Grenier, the Pac-12 defensive player of the year, booted a routine grounder on the game’s opening pitch.
The Beavers had committed just one error in their last eight games.
“Some of them were hit hard, but we’ve got to be better,” Gretler said. “I bodied it up, tried to rush the throw a bit and it sailed up the line. We’ve just got to be better.”
On-field temperatures hovered above 100 degrees for Saturday’s CWS opener.
The outfield bleacher seats were relatively full at first pitch. By the fourth inning, much of the crowd had dispersed.
“It was definitely hot, but I don’t think it affected our game,” Kwan said. “It was just another distraction that we’ve learned to overcome over the years, we can’t blame that with our game today.”
Luke Heimlich, who lasted just 2⅔ innings, didn’t believe the weather impacted his performance.
“We’ve pitched in heat before,” Heimlich said. “We’ve had all the elements in Corvallis and wherever we’ve traveled, too. It was nothing new.”
OSU could be dealing with a different weather problem in Monday’s 1 p.m. (11 a.m. Pacific) elimination game.
The early forecast calls for a high temperature of 94 degrees with an 80 percent chance of afternoon thunderstorms.