OMAHA, Neb. — It took nearly 4 1/2 hours in 95-degree heat to play the opening game of the College World Series.
Time flew for North Carolina coach Mike Fox, who was having fun.
His Tar Heels knocked out Oregon State ace Luke Heimlich during a five-run third inning and went on to beat the Beavers 8-6 Saturday.
"I liked being in the third-base coaching box in the top of the third. Felt I was out there for a while," Fox said. "For me, the more you're out there, the better. I get it. It was a long game. But they're not long for me, and they're not long for the coaches and players. Sometimes it's agonizing for the people watching. We're not trying to drag it out by design."
The Tar Heels (44-18) used six pitchers in a 4-hour, 24-minute slog that was the longest nine-inning game in CWS history. They turned back threats in the sixth and seventh innings and prevailed against an opponent they hadn't faced since losing to the Beavers in the 2006 and '07 CWS finals.
The Tar Heels built leads of 6-1 and 8-4, but Oregon State (49-11-1) was poised to go ahead in the seventh after loading the bases with two outs against Josh Hiatt. Coming to bat was Steven Kwan, who had reached base on his first four trips to the plate and had struck out only 15 times in 247 at-bats this year, making him one of the toughest players in the nation to strike out.
Cooper Criswell came on and struck him out on three pitches.
"My goal is to go out and get ahead in the count. I was able to do that," Criswell said. "I think he was a little froze on the second fastball I threw him. I think he might have been expecting something else. And on the slider for strike three, (catcher Brandon Martorano) did a great job framing that pitch and getting that one for me."
Caden O'Brien (7-0), the second North Carolina pitcher, worked 1 2/3 innings for the win. Criswell pitched the last 2 1/3 innings for his first save of the year.
The Beavers were uncharacteristically sloppy while losing their third straight game in two years in Omaha. North Carolina scored on a passed ball, and the Beavers committed three errors after making one in their first five games of this NCAA postseason.
Then there was Heimlich (16-2), the two-time Pac-12 pitcher of the year who lasted just 2 1/3 innings — his shortest start in two years.
Last year, Heimlich left the team during super regionals and the CWS after it was revealed he had pleaded guilty to molesting a young relative when he was 15. The university allowed him to return to the team this year. He served two years' probation and went through a treatment program but denied wrongdoing in recent interviews with Sports Illustrated and The New York Times.
There was no discernible negative crowd reaction during pregame introductions, and Oregon State fans behind the third-base dugout loudly cheered Heimlich.
The first two North Carolina batters reached base each of the first three innings, and the senior left-hander was charged for the Tar Heels' first six runs. He hit three batters, walked one and struck out two in his shortest outing since going 2 1/3 innings against Southern California on May 21, 2016.
"It wasn't good," said Heimlich, who acknowledged he might have started pressing when things weren't going his way early and he lost command of his pitches.
He downplayed the conditions, though.
"We've pitched in the heat before," he said.
North Carolina starter Gianluca Dalatri threw only 15 pitches before leaving with two outs in the first. Dalatri had missed 12 weeks with a stress reaction in his right (throwing) elbow and was making his fifth start since May 19.
"He basically said he just didn't feel right," Fox said. "That's all he needed to say, quite honestly. He said he didn't feel like he had anything on the ball. With his past history, we needed to make a change."
Mississippi State 1, Washington 0
Luke Alexander finished a 3-for-4 performance with an RBI single in the bottom of the ninth as the Bulldogs (38-27) topped the Huskies (35-25) in their CWS opener.
Hunter Stovall led off Mississippi State's half of the ninth with a single to right, moved to second on Elijah MacNamee's single up the middle and came home on Alexander's hit to right. Stovall was also 3-for-4.
Bulldogs starter Ethan Small pitched seven innings, allowing four hits with five strikeouts and no walks. J.P. France, Cole Gordon and Zach Neff worked in relief to help limit Washington to six hits total.