College baseball: Top-ranked Vols beat UNC 6-1 in World Series

Published 11:01 pm Sunday, June 16, 2024

By ERIC OLSON AP Sports Writer

OMAHA, Neb.  — Kavares Tears and Reese Chapman homered, Drew Beam limited North Carolina to one hit over five shutout innings, and Tennessee took control of its bracket at the College World Series with a 6-1 win Sunday night.

The Volunteers (57-12), trying to become the first No. 1 national seed since 1999 to win the championship, will advance to the best-of-three finals if they can beat Florida State or North Carolina (48-15) on Wednesday. Those teams will meet Tuesday in an elimination game. The Vols would have to lose twice to be denied a first appearance in the finals.

Beam (9-2) limited North Carolina to three base runners through five innings, and his team was up 4-0 when he went out for the sixth.

Tar Heels starter Shea Sprague (3-2) retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced before he gave up a single and walk in the fourth. Then Tears drove an elevated change-up off the back wall of the right-field bullpen, next to the North Carolina logo, for his 20th homer of the season. Chapman, 1 for his last 15 when he came to bat, connected for his seventh to start the bottom of the fifth to chase Sprague.

Former Salisbury High star Vance Honeycutt broke through against Beam with his 27th homer of the season to start the sixth, and Casey Cook and Parks Harber singled to bring on Kirby Connell.

Connell, he of the handlebar mustache, held the Tar Heels scoreless for two innings and turned things over to Nate Snead to start the eighth.

The first meeting of the teams since 2019 began with each teams making sterling defensive plays.

Carolina’s Colby Wilkerson threw to first from his knees to get Moore. Tennessee’s Hunter Ensley took off in a full sprint and stretched out his left arm to snag Anthony Donofrio’s deep fly to center just before crashing into the wall and leaving eyeblack smudged on the padding. Though he didn’t show any immediate sign of injury and batted twice, he was replaced by Colby Backus in center to start the fifth.

Cameron Padgett, who starred for East Rowan, got four outs for the Tar Heels in the seventh and eighth.

Home-plate umpire Kellen Levy was replaced in the fifth by Scott Cline, who had been working second base. Levy was hit in the facemask by a foul ball the previous inning and began feeling unwell. An NCAA spokesman said Levy was being monitored for concussion symptoms. The game was delayed 16 minutes while Cline was in the umpires’ locker room changing into protective gear.