By Eric Olson/The Associated Press
OMAHA, Neb. — Brian Holberton homered, freshman Trent Thornton pitched a strong seven innings and No. 1 national seed North Carolina extended its stay at the College World Series with a 4-2 victory over LSU on Tuesday.
The Tar Heels (58-11) play North Carolina State or UCLA in an elimination game Thursday. The No. 4-seeded Tigers (57-11) went 0-2 in their first CWS appearance since winning the 2009 national title.
Holberton’s 12th homer of the season staked the Tar Heels to a 2-0 lead in the first inning against LSU starter Cody Glenn (7-3), and Colin Moran singled to make it 3-0 in the third.
Thornton (12-1) worked around two singles and three walks to hold the Tigers scoreless until the fifth. Leading 4-2, Thornton walked Christian Ibarra to start the eighth and was relieved by Chris McCue.
McCue hit Sean McMullen in the arm with 2-2 pitch to load the bases with two out. That brought up Mark Laird, who had a double and four singles in his first eight CWS at-bats. But McCue got Laird to fly out to short left field and keep it a two-run game.
McCue worked a perfect ninth for his second save.
Carolina, which lost 8-1 to North Carolina State in its CWS opener, remains the only team in the country to not lose back-to-back games this season. The Tar Heels are outscoring opponents 85-30 after losses, and their 58 wins are a school record.
LSU scored only three runs in two CWS games. National freshman of the year Alex Bregman, who was batting a team-leading .374, was hitless in eight at-bats. Raph Rhymes, batting .337, was 0 for 9 in Omaha and stranded eight base runners against the Tar Heels. Christian Ibarra, batting .311, finished the season hitless in his last 22 at-bats.
Thornton, who has served in every capacity on the Carolina pitching staff, was making sixth start in 29 appearances but first since March 27.
He got the call over available weekend starters Hobbs Johnson and Benton Moss, both of whom have struggled of late. Thornton came in as the Tar Heels’ best pitcher in the postseason, having allowed two runs in 21 1-3 innings.
Thornton threw a career-high 114 pitches in his seven-plus innings, allowing two runs on nine hits and four walks.
Glenn, making first appearance since starting the opening game of the SEC tournament May 22, last just two innings. He allowed three runs on five hits.
The teams were meeting for the first time since the 2008 CWS, when Carolina beat the Tigers twice.