June 23, 2008


Dogs vs. Dawgs for Best in Show

Fresno State to face Georgia in CWS Championship Series


By Phil Stanton

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder


OMAHA, Neb. – CWS might now stand for Canine World Series.


It will be Bulldogs vs. Bulldogs in the Championship Series of the 2008 College World Series as Fresno State eliminated No. 2 North Carolina 6-1 Sunday in front of 15,125 fans at Rosenblatt Stadium to earn a date with No. 8 Georgia for the national title.


Fresno State (45-30) will face Georgia (44-23-1) on Monday at 7 p.m. ET in Game 1 of the best-of-three Championship Series. The Tar Heels end their season at 54-14.


Clayton Allison (left) (4-5) went six innings for the Bulldogs with six hits, one run, three walks and six strikeouts. Holden Sprague pitched a scoreless seventh and Brandon Burke finished with two shutout innings to give Fresno State its first shot at a national championship.


“It was another must-win we had today,” Allison said, “like we had in Tempe, Arizona. We came out with our backs against the wall. I knew I had to make some pitches. Our defense played awesome. Ryan Overland blocked a bunch of splits in the dirt, none of them scored. The whole defense was solid.


This was Allison’s first action since June 8 in the Tempe Super Regional at Arizona State. He did not pitch earlier in the College World Series due to tendonitis in his right shoulder.


“That was a gutsy performance when we needed one the most,” said Fresno State head coach Mike Batesole. “What Allison did today was really, really special. That was a mental win, didn’t have much to do with what he had physically. That was a mental battle and he won it. All three guys that pitched today were real special with their location. Their stuff wasn’t as good as I’ve seen them have it but mentally they were locked in and they located exceptionally well. I think that was the big difference.”


The Bulldogs had base-runners in ever inning and scored in four of their first six at-bats. FS scored two in the third, single runs in the fourth and fifth and two more in the sixth for its total of six. UNC got its lone run in the fourth.


Starter Adam Warren, one of seven pitchers used by UNC, faced just nine batters in 1.2 innings. He did not allow a hit, but walked four, including the bases loaded in the second. Lefty Brian Moran took over and got leadoff hitter Danny Muno to hit a grounder up the middle. Shortstop Ryan Graepel made a diving stop and executed a backhand flip while still lying on the ground to second baseman Kyle Seager just ahead of the runner to end the threat.


Fresno State broke the ice with a pair in the bottom of the third. With one out, Erik Wetzel singled and moved to third on a double to right center by Steve Susdorf. Alan Ahmady was intentionally walked and was later picked off first for the second out. Tommy Mendonca capped a nine-pitch at-bat with a single to left that scored both base-runners and gave the Bulldogs a 2-0 advantage.


The Tar Heels got a run in the fourth as Tim Fedroff had a leadoff single, moved to second on a base hit by Chad Flack, moved to third on a one-out walk to Tim Federowicz and scored on a walk to Kyle Shelton. Allison got a strikeout and a fielder’s choice to stop the rally.


The Bulldogs got that run back in the bottom of the frame. Jordan Ribera had a one-out single and moved to third when Colin Bates’ pickoff attempt went into foul territory down the right field line. Muno’s base hit brought in Ribera to make it a 3-1 contest. Gavin Hedstrom had an infield single to keep the rally going. After a strikeout, Susdorf hit a ball foul down the left field line. Left fielder Shelton made a sliding catch just before going into the wall face first to end the inning.


Fresno State scored again in the fifth. Ahmady walked and scored on a double by Mendonca to make it 4-1. After a hit batsman, a fielder’s choice and a walk loaded the bases, Alex White came on to pitch for the third consecutive day and the fourth time in the CWS. He enticed Muno to hit into a double play to finish the inning.


The Bulldogs got to White in the sixth. Wetzel had a one-out single and moved to third on a double by Susdorf. Ahmady hit a ball to third and Wetzel beat the throw home. Mendonca had a base hit just over the glove of first baseman Dustin Ackley as Fresno State pushed the lead to 6-1.


Mendonca went 3 for 4 with four RBI. Wetzel and Susdorf each had two hits and two runs.


Fresno State played outstanding defense, not committing an error in the contest. The infield combined for 13 assists. Wetzel at second and Muno at short each had tremendous plays on ground balls in the eighth. Mendonca at third had several terrific plays, including starting a double play in the ninth to end the contest.


“Our defense was very smart,” Batesole said. “They did a good job of thinking ahead. Offensively we gave some at-bats away. That could have come back to hurt us. But defensively we were good enough where it didn’t.”


UNC had base-runners in all but the second inning. The Tar Heels had 10 hits, but grounded into two double plays and stranded 10. Ackley and Fedroff each had three hits for North Carolina.


“We didn’t have a lot of things go right for us tonight,” said UNC head coach Mike Fox, “and Fresno State had a lot to do with that. I congratulate them for moving on to play in the Championship Series. They made every play defensively against us all three games. The shortstop and third baseman were sensational. We looked back at the stats and they made some errors during the year, but they played terrific.”


North Carolina was trying to get to the Championship Series for the third consecutive year, looking for its first national title.