OMAHA, Neb. — One more victory and Oregon State is the repeat champion.
Jordan Lennerton hit a two-run home run in the second inning to get the Beavers rolling to a decisive 11-4 win over North Carolina in Saturday's first game of the best-of-three championship finals of the College World Series.
"We got excited when he got that home run," OSU coach Pat Casey said. "We're excited to win the first game, but we're well aware that you have to win two."
Although not ready to accept the trophy, his Beavers (48-18) are in prime position after turning the tables in the rematch of finalists from last year. The Tar Heels won the opener 4-3 in 2006 before falling twice to the Beavers by scores of 11-7 and 3-2.
The Beavers haven't trailed in the CWS since the fourth inning of Game 2 of last year's finals and have extended that streak to 50 innings. That's third all-time but 21 innings behind the record set by Missouri.
No big deal. The important thing today is that it's UNC (57-15) that needs to win twice to earn its first national title. Game 2 is today at 4:10 p.m. PDT. Mike Stutes (11-4) will start and try to make the Beavers the first repeat champion since LSU in 1996-97.
If UNC wins, a decisive game would be played Monday.
That hardly seems probable when considering the manner in which the Beavers have sliced through four opponents. After a 3-2 win over Cal State Fullerton in the first round, they've blitzed Arizona State 12-6, UC Irvine 7-1 and now UNC by seven.
Freshman Jorge Reyes (7-3) pitched 61/3 innings, giving up two runs and allowing eight hits while striking out three and walking two, to improve to 2-0 in this year's CWS.
"Good pitching beats good hitting, and he was good tonight," UNC coach Mike Fox said of Reyes, who has pitched the opening game of the regional, super regional, CWS and the championship final.
"It doesn't get old at all," Reyes said. "I love winning. Now I put us one game closer to it."
Reyes was lifted in the seventh inning with runners at first and second, replaced by Joe Paterson, who has pitched in relief in all four games. Paterson finished the seventh, giving up a walk to load the bases and a sacrifice fly to make it 6-3 before getting a strikeout with the tying run at the plate.
He also allowed a home run in the eighth, but it was over by then and he earned his second save of the CWS.
Alex White (6-7), the first of six UNC pitchers, took the loss. He was charged with five runs and got little help from the relief corps.
The first two pitches of the game by Reyes rang loudly, producing a double off the left-field fence by Reid Fronk and a line drive by Tim Fedroff that was caught by right fielder Scott Santschi. Two strikeouts later, the inning ended with Fronk still at second.
The Beavers also botched a scoring opportunity in the first inning after Chris Hopkins and Joey Wong opened with singles. But Mike Lissman's sacrifice bunt was caught for the first out, and Mitch Canham's comebacker was turned into a double play.
White made an outstanding play by lunging to catch Lissman's bunt just above the ground in foul territory, then fielded Canham's hot grounder and threw to third for an unusual 1-5-3 double play.
White struck out the first two hitters of the second inning before walking Santschi. Lennerton followed with his home run to right-center field, the ball traveling about 400 feet.
A strange ending to the third didn't prevent OSU from extending its lead to 3-0. Wong singled with one out and moved to third on Lissman's single. When Canham flied to center, Wong tagged up and scored, but Lissman, thinking there were two outs, ran on the play and was doubled off first.
But because Wong had touched the plate prior to the third out, the run counted and Canham was credited with a sacrifice fly.
The Tar Heels finally broke through against Reyes in the fifth with a two-out rally. Seth Williams and Garrett Gore, the Nos. 8 and 9 batters, singled and Fronk followed with his second ringing double to cut the deficit to 3-2. The hit came two pitches after he took a close pitch with two strikes.
The Beavers didn't hesitate in adding to their lead as No. 9 hitter Lonnie Lechelt doubled and scored on a single by Hopkins.
They made it 6-2 in the sixth in singles by Canham and Barney, followed by a sacrifice fly by John Wallace. Barney alertly tagged at first and advanced on the fly by Wallace before scoring on Santschi's two-out single.
After making it 6-3 in the seventh, UNC pitchers issued four walks, one with the bases loaded, and made two errors on throws to first on bunts as four runs scored without a hit. The second error allowed two runs to score and the rally continued with the bases-loaded walk to Canham and a sacrifice fly by Jason Ogata, making it 10-2.
Canham was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded for OSU's final run in the lower eighth.
Both teams managed 12 hits with Hopkins, Wong, Lennerton and Lechelt getting two each for the Beavers.
"We really hit the ball well with runners in scoring position," Barney said.
The bottom three batters — Santschi, Lennerton and Lechelt — combined to go 5-for-10 with five runs and three RBIs.
"The lower part of the batting order has done a great job," Lechelt said. "I just think, 1 to 9, we can swing it at any point."
Fox expects better things in Game 2.
"We got beat by a better team tonight. What else can you say?" Fox said. "I thought in every phase of the game, they did much better than we did. They moved the ball with people on base, and when we made pitching mistakes, they made us pay for it.
"We'll regroup and I'm glad it's two out of three. We'll play better tomorrow night. We have to."
Fronk is covinced of that.
"We'll be better tomorrow," he said.