OMAHA, Neb. -- North Carolina's Brian Holberton and Colin Moran kept the Tar Heels alive in the College World Series on Tuesday afternoon in an elimination game no one expected.
Holberton homered in the first inning and Moran went 3-for-5 to lead No. 1 UNC to a 4-2 win over No. 4 LSU at TD Ameritrade Park.
North Carolina freshman right-hander Trent Thornton held the Tigers (57-11) to two runs in seven-plus innings to set up an elimination game between the Tar Heels (58-11) and North Carolina State (50-15) at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday. The Wolfpack fell to UCLA, 2-1, in Tuesday's nightcap.
The Bruins (46-17) face the winner of N.C. State/UNC on Friday night.
Holberton -- the Astros' ninth-round pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft -- gave Thornton an early lead with a two-run homer, and Moran added an RBI single in the third. Moran -- the sixth overall pick by the Marlins -- also singled and scored a run in the seventh.
"I thought the home run by Brian was really crucial for us," North Carolina coach Mike Fox said. "Just kind of let the air out a little bit."
Holberton's blast and Moran's day at the plate were enough for Thornton, who scattered nine hits and struck out three while throwing a career-high 114 pitches.
"We had the utmost confidence in Trent today. I think all of his teammates did, as well," Fox said. "He was just terrific, made some big pitches when he needed to, and kind of weathered the storm a little bit."
Overall, LSU recorded 10 hits, but stranded 13 baserunners -- including leaving the bases loaded in the third and eighth innings.
"We had so many opportunities and just couldn't come through with a big hit," LSU coach Paul Mainieri said.
The Tigers -- viewed by many as favorites to win the tournament heading into the College World Series -- instead dropped both games in Omaha.
"I'm proud of this team; it was a phenomenal year. We did all kinds of things that had never been done before," Mainieri said. "But right now this just stings a little bit. We expected to come out here and play better than we did."
UCLA remained undefeated in Omaha by getting another solid pitching performance and more timely offensive execution. Right-hander Nick Vander Tuig tossed seven-plus innings of one-run ball in the Bruins' 2-1 victory over North Carolina State.
"Pitching and defense, I think, is clearly our strength," UCLA coach John Savage said. "Our guys know our strength, and sometimes it's walking a tightrope. That's for sure. And tonight was one of those nights."
The Wolfpack's lone run came in the third when they loaded the bases against Vander Tuig. A Trea Turner single to left field scored Bryan Adametz, but UCLA left fielder Brenton Allen's airmailed throw ricocheted off the backstop and allowed the Bruins to get the second out of the inning at home plate when Jake Armstrong attempted to score.
That was all Vander Tuig -- the Giants' sixth-round pick -- allowed, as he retired 13 of the final 15 batters he faced and held the Wolfpack to four hits while striking out six and walking none.
"He didn't miss a spot ever unless he wanted to," Turner said of Vander Tuig. "The only time he missed was up, and he did it on purpose. He pitched very well."
North Carolina State's Logan Jernigan matched Vander Tuig with four shutout innings before tiring in the fifth, exiting with the bases loaded and none out. UCLA's Kevin Kramer singled off Wolfpack reliever Grant Sasser, who threw a wild pitch two batters later to bring in the go-ahead run.
The Wolfpack threatened in the eighth when Adametz's single knocked out Vander Tuig, and UCLA reliever David Berg hit Armstrong after two failed bunt attempts. But a popped-up bunt that allowed the Bruins to nab the lead runner at third was followed by a deep flyout and strikeout to end North Carolina State's final threat.
North Carolina 4, LSU 2
UCLA 2, North Carolina State 1
Indiana vs. Oregon State, 8 p.m.
Cash Kruth is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth.