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June 15, 2007OMAHA, Neb -- North Carolina is living by the comeback. Trailing by four early in the game, the Tar Heels got a strong relief effort from Adam Warren and a six-run sixth inning to beat Mississippi State 8-5.
"Once again we were able to come from behind," said North Carolina coach Mike Fox. "I am not sure how long we will be able to do it. Hopefully it will go into 2008. At some point, it will come back to get us. But there is no clock out there. There is time to come back.
"I thought the key was Adam Warren out of the pen," Fox continued. "When we got in a hole early, we have to try to hold them down and fight back."
Chad Flack led the Tar Heels with three hits. Benji Johnson, Tim Fedroff, and Josh Horton followed with two hits each in the twelve hit attack.
Observers knew no lead was safe with North Carolina. After all, they scored three in the ninth to beat East Carolina and two in the ninth to beat Western Carolina to claim a Regional crown. They trailed in all three games last weekend against South Carolina but rallied to take wins in a pair.
"We are a mature team with experience from our World Series team last season," said UNC designated hitter Benji Johnson. "We have freshmen who are contributing too. We have learned over the past couple of years to have confidence we can always win."
North Carolina's comeback from an early four deficit drew praise from Mississippi State coach Ron Polk. Polk was especially impressed with what he saw after his team chased Tar Heel starter Robert Woodard in the second inning.
"The comebacks are the mark of a good ballclub," Polk said. "A lot of time it isn't the offense that makes the comebacks, it is the bullpen keeping it close. I really like what I saw from their bullpen."
Warren pitched 4 1/3 innings of three-hit shutout ball to move to 11-0 on the season. Andrew Carignan pitched the ninth for his 16th save.
The big comeback came in the sixth chasing Mississippi State starter Justin Pigott (7-7) in the sixth scoring six runs on four hits. The Heels got a boost when a potential inning-ending double play was not turned by MSU freshman third baseman Russ Sneed. With runners on first and second with one out, Seth Williams laced a sharp grounder that Snead did not handle. The ball skipped by into leftfield. Six runs later, North Carolina had a lead it would not relinquish.
"I am not disappointed in our club," Polk said. "We didn't add to the lead. I would like to get that play back he didn't make. That's the ballgame right there."
Mississippi State scored four runs in the second inning and pounded out twelve hits. Mitch Moreland hit a tape-measure home run to center.
"Everyone in our lineup had at least one hit," Polk said. "We just didn't get enough runs."
Coming from the losers' bracket
Mississippi State saw their five game winning streak snapped with the loss. Now their season ends unless they can win four games before they lose again.
"Oregon State lost their first game here last year and they went on to the win the whole thing," said Mississippi State catcher Edward Easley. "We will come back Sunday and give it everything we have against Louisville. We'll see what happens from there."