OMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ Oregon State pitcher Daniel Turpen relaxed before the biggest game of his season by going fishing.
Coach Pat Casey said he would have given the junior a harder time about spending the day in the sun had he not thrown eight innings of one-run ball against UC Irvine to bring the Beavers one step closer to a repeat title.
``I got no control over these guys,'' coach Pat Casey said.
Relaxed and confident, Oregon State paved its way to the title round as it did last year, but this time without all the tension, beating Irvine 7-1 on Wednesday night.
``It's like night and day,'' said Darwin Barney, who had three hits and two RBIs. ``Last year it took something else, it took some special energy, some special players. I think that this year all 25 of us truly believe we can make it happen.''
That might not have been the case a short time ago, when the Beavers (47-18) were mired in Pac-10 mediocrity, having been embarrassed at home by Arizona State in what Casey has called the season's biggest disappointment.
``I was unhappy. I didn't sleep, I didn't eat _ but I was able to make sure that they understood that I felt that we were going to turn the thing around,'' Casey said. ``I don't know what the odds were three weeks ago, but I bet there's some guys that are pretty happy they bet on the 'Beavs.'''
The only remaining national seeds in the CWS have one game to prove they should face the defending champs starting Saturday.
No. 3. North Carolina (56-14) evened the score with No. 2 Rice (56-13) on Wednesday, forcing an elimination game Thursday night.
North Carolina's pitchers have been stellar the last two games after some shaky starts this postseason. The Tar Heels held the two hottest hitting teams in the CWS _ Rice and Louisville _ to just one run apiece.
Robert Woodard came off the shortest start of his career to shut down the Owls for six-plus innings Wednesday, leading the Tar Heels to the 6-1 win. Rob Wooten and Andrew Carignan finished for the Tar Heels, who handed the Owls their first loss in 10 games.
Rice had 29 runs and 33 hits in its first two CWS games, one of which was a 14-4 victory over the Tar Heels on Sunday.
Dustin Ackley broke open the game with a three-run homer to help the Tar Heels, the 2006 national runner-up, even the score with the Owls.
``They're the No. 3 team in the nation, so beating us twice in a row wouldn't be an upset,'' Rice's Joe Savery said. ``At this point, you can't look at it as underdogs or that sort of thing. We just have to go win. As much as we want to talk about experience that benefits us, they have at least equal experience, and they made it a step farther last year.''
The two highest ranked teams left fighting for the title have each won 56 games this year. The team that wins Thursday night will finish with the most wins in the country this year.
Rice coach Wayne Graham said the pressure on both teams is the same.
``They came here to win the national championship, and so did we,'' Graham said. ``They have to win a game to get into the championship series, and so do we.''
Turpen's outing was the third straight strong performance by an Oregon State starter, not allowing a hit after the fourth inning. Joe Paterson pitched a perfect ninth.
Mitch Canham hit a two-run homer and John Wallace added a run-scoring triple for the Beavers, who scored four unearned runs in the third inning.
It was a disappointing finish for Irvine (47-17-1), a team that turned heads here by winning consecutive extra-inning games against Cal State-Fullerton and Arizona State in their last at-bats.
Bryan Petersen cried and wiped his jersey with his face as he shook hands with his Oregon State counterparts.
``As exciting as it was to play on the grandest stage in college baseball, it's a pretty devastating feeling right now to know we have to take these uniforms off,'' second baseman Cody Cipriano said.
Freshman Christian Bergman made just his third start of the season and held the Beavers scoreless through 2 2-3 innings. He was on the verge of getting out of the third when Mike Lissman grounded to third baseman Tyler Vaughn.
Vaughn threw high, and first baseman Taylor Holiday missed a jumping, sweeping tag on Lissman. Chris Hopkins came home from second on the play for the first of the Beavers' four unearned runs.
Canham followed with his 10th homer and John Wallace's triple made it 4-0.
``We showed how dominant our club can be,'' Barney said. ``We are deep, we can pitch and defend, and when our bats are there, we're pretty tough to beat.''