OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Luke Putkonen gave North Carolina the quality start it had been longing for, combining on a three-hitter to lead the Tar Heels over Louisville 3-1 Tuesday in a College World Series elimination game.
North Carolina had only three hits but scored twice on a throwing error, but that was enough against a Louisville team whose bats went cold in the NCAA tournament.
North Carolina, the 2006 national runner-up, meets Rice on Wednesday. The Tar Heels (55-14) must beat the Owls twice to win their bracket and return to the best-of-three championship series, which starts Saturday.
The Cardinals (47-24), who had batted .402 and scored 22 runs in their first two CWS games, ended their first trip to the CWS with their fewest hits since getting three in a loss to St. John's on May 5. They scored their fewest runs since a loss to Rutgers on May 25.
It was the second straight year that a team had converted three hits into a victory - Oregon State did it in a 2-0 win over Rice.
All of North Carolina's scoring came with two outs in the second. Seth Williams hit a run-scoring single to tie it, and the go-ahead runs came in when Garrett Gore grounded to third, and Chris Dominguez threw wide of first base.
After Williams' single, Colby Wark (3-4) and Gavin Logsdon held the Tar Heels hitless until Josh Horton doubled leading off the eighth.
The Cardinals threatened with two outs in the bottom half, but they stranded two runners when Isaiah Howes struck out against Andrew Carignan.
Carignan, who relieved Rob Wooten, struck out three of his four batters for his 17th save.
Entering Tuesday, Tar Heel starters had given up 32 earned runs and 47 hits in 25 2-3 innings during the prior seven games. But Putkonen, who hadn't made it out of the fifth inning in his previous two starts, all but shut down an offense that entered with a .370 batting average and 99 runs in 10 national tournament games.
The 6-foot-6 right-hander worked seven innings, allowing Logan Johnson's CWS record-tying fourth home run in the first inning and two singles. Putkonen tied his career high with seven strikeouts.