Brian Miller and Brandon Riley had three hits each for the Tar Heels (47-13), who will face Michigan Saturday at 1 p.m. in an elimination game. J.B. Bukauskas allowed a season-high six earned runs in 3.2 innings of work to fall to 9-1 on the year.
Cam Johnson drove in three runs to lead the Wildcats (33-24), who were making their NCAA tournament debut after winning the Atlantic 10 title last weekend in St. Louis. Jake Sidwell and Will Robertson added two hits apiece in support of O'Linger (9-1).
Carolina finally broke through in the sixth on a Zack Gahagan RBI single and then added three more in the seventh courtesy of a pair of home runs. After Miller led off the seventh with his third hit of the day, Logan Warmoth launched his 10th homer of the year to make it 8-3. Riley added a solo shot off Allen Barry later in the inning, but Barry kept the Tar Heels off the board in the final two innings to seal the win.
Cole Aker, Bo Weiss and Austin Bergner combined for 4.1 scoreless innings of relief for the Tar Heels, who will turn to freshman righty Gianluca Dalatri in Saturday's elimination contest.