North Carolina ace Alex White, projected to be a top 10 pick in the First-Year Player Draft on Tuesday, went into Saturday's opener of Super Regional play looking for his first win in six weeks.
Playing perhaps his last game at Chapel Hill before heading to the pros, White delivered in a big way, striking out a career-high 12 and enjoying huge offensive support in a 10-1 victory over East Carolina that got him back on the winning side.
White wound up throwing 128 pitches into the ninth inning before coach Mike Fox removed him from the game, allowing the junior right-hander to receive a standing ovation from the home crowd at Boshamer Stadium.
"Obviously I always want to go back out, no matter the pitch count," said White, who went 8 1/3 innings. "I think Coach Fox did a great thing letting me go back out. It's possibly the last time I'll play here, who knows? It was just great with the crowd and everything. It was an emotional moment and I enjoyed it."
Meanwhile, three teams punched their tickets to Omaha on Saturday, as Cal State Fullerton joined fellow favorite LSU and upstart Arkansas in the College World Series field with Super Regional victories on a day when all eight best-of-three series were in action.
Cal State Fullerton coach Dave Serrano set the agenda for his club as soon as it became one of the teams heading to the College World Series, which will begin June 13.
"We're not just going to Omaha to enjoy the Omaha steaks and the people and the environment," Serrano said. "We think we have a legitimate chance to win the national championship with the way we're playing right now."
The Titans (47-14) rolled to an 11-2 victory over Louisville to earn their 16th appearance in the College World Series, and third in four years. Seeded second nationally, the 2004 champion will head to Omaha having outscored their opponents by a 64-11 margin.
But already they have a co-favorite among the first teams bound for Omaha. The LSU Tigers (51-16), seeded third nationally, earned a berth by eliminating Rice with a hard-fought 5-3 victory.
In the upset of this round so far, Arkansas (39-22) knocked off Florida State with a 9-8 victory that saw the Seminoles take the lead in the top of the ninth only to have Arkansas take it back in the bottom half on a two-run double by Andrew Darr.
Meanwhile, top national seed Texas took care of its first assignment of the Super Regionals, dispatching TCU 10-4 in a game in which the Longhorns set an NCAA record with seven sacrifices. For comparison purposes, the Major League record is eight, last accomplished by the Rangers in 1977.
The remarkable run underdog Southern Miss has been on into the NCAA playoffs continued with an upset of Florida in the opener of their best-of-three series. It was the Eagles' 11th win in 14 games since coach Corky Palmer announced his retirement.
Also, Arizona State got off to a winning start, as Mike Leake improved to 16-1 in a 5-3 victory over Clemson. His 16 victories leads the nation.
The only team facing elimination Saturday that didn't succumb was Virginia (43-17-1), which will meet host Mississippi (44-19) in a rubber game Sunday following a 4-3 victory Saturday.
Other games Sunday:
Texas (45-13-1) vs. TCU (39-17), Texas win clinches CWS berth
Arizona State (48-12) vs. Clemson (44-21), ASU win clinches CWS berth
North Carolina (46-16) vs. East Carolina (46-20), UNC win clinches CWS berth
Southern Miss (39-24) vs. Florida (42-21), Southern Miss win clinches CWS berth