Wonderdogs Takeout No. 2 Tar Heels
June 17, 2008
OMAHA - A run through the NCAA baseball tournament that most called improbable took the Fresno State baseball team one step closer to the national championship series.
The Bulldogs once again did the unexpected in beating No. 2 national seed North Carolina 5-3 Tuesday night in front of more than 23,000 fans at historic Rosenblatt Stadium.
The win puts the Bulldogs at 2-0 in the College World Series and they will have two days to rest before returning to action. Fresno State will wait for Thursday's elimination game survivor, North Carolina or LSU.
Since the Dogs have not lost in the CWS, they need just one more victory to win Bracket 2 and advance to the best-of-three championships series.
"Fresno State certainly outplayed us, outexecuted us," said North Carolina head coach Mike Fox, who's guided the Tar Heels to consecutive trips to the NCAA Championship series. "I like the way they played. For a depleted pitching staff, they did well. Hats off to Fresno State. We'll regroup and try again Thursday. I wouldn't describe them (Fresno State) as playing with nothing to lose. Everybody is equal once you get here. They did what they needed to do to win. The score could've been worse. Credit our guys for keeping it close."
North Carolina (52-13) is ranked No. 2, one of three teams in the College World Series with more than 50 wins and one of the three from the Atlantic Coast Conference. No. 1 Miami (Fla.) and No. 4 Florida State are the other two. The Hurricanes eliminated the Seminoles Monday afternoon.
Fresno State's NCAA run started as a No. 4 seed and it won the Long Beach Regional with a win over No. 11 Long Beach State and two against No. 6 San Diego.
After that, no one predicted the Bulldogs would get past No. 3 Arizona State, a team loaded in talent with 15 Major League Draft picks. The Bulldogs won the Tempe Super Regional 2-1 in front of capacity crowds at Packard Stadium.
That led them to the College World Series, the only No. 4 team to ever reach Omaha. Some snickers greeted the Dogs and most thought Fresno State would be headed back to the Valley on Wednesday with two consecutive losses.
After pounding No. 5 Rice's excellent pitching for four homeruns and 17 runs, the naysayers said there's no way the Dogs would beat the Tar Heels, who've been ranked in the top four all season. To make matters more difficult, Fresno State would face a Carolina pitcher who lost just once in his career coming into tonight's game.
Fresno State refused to listen again, and despite leaving 12 runners on base, earned a 5-3 victory. Fresno State had 13 hits in the game including two homeruns, bringing their CWS total to six.
"No one really expected this going in," said senior pitcher Brandon Burke, who earned a save and closed out the Bulldog victory. "None of us have ever been here before. You've got to think pitch-to-pitch and game-to-game. Some of these teams like Rice and North Carolina have been here the last couple of years and may have taken us lightly, but we just go out there and play hard every game."
Junior pitcher Justin Miller (6-3, 4.88 ERA), a 15th-round draft choice of the Texas Rangers started for the Dogs. Miller came off a strong performance against Arizona State in the final game of the Tempe Super Regional that Fresno State won 12-9.
The Tar Heels' Adam Warren (9-1, 4.07 ERA) threw for North Carolina. He entered the game with a 22-1 record in his career. He was taken in the 36th round by the Cleveland Indians in the Major League Draft. He beat No. 1 ranked Miami (Fla.) on May 16 with seven strikeouts.
The Dogs and Tar Heels had met four times before this College World Series match-up, each team won twice. North Carolina has reached the championship round of the College World Series each of the last two seasons, falling to Oregon State in 2006 and 2007.
Just like Rice, the Tar Heels were undefeated in the NCAA Tournament, sweeping the Cary, N.C. Regional with wins over Mount Saint Mary's and UNC Wilmington (twice) and sweeping Coastal Carolina in the Cary Super Regional.
Fresno State showed the kind of night it would be as outstanding freshman shortstop Danny Muno continued to have an incredible College World Series. The Bulldogs got two runners on in the first inning against Warren, but couldn't generate a run. Muno, the WAC Freshman of the Year, led off the bottom of the first inning with walk. Unfortunately, he got picked-off first base.
Second baseman Erik Wetzel hit a double to the gap in right-center field that likely would have driven in Muno.
Muno has been a media darling in Omaha after generating a career-high five RBIs in Fresno State's 17-5 victory over Rice. Large photos of Muno appeared in USA Today on Monday and Tuesday, as well as photos on ESPN.com and the Omaha World Herald newspaper. He reached base five times against North Carolina.
The Bulldogs opened the scoring in the bottom of the second inning when catcher Ryan Overland hit his fourth homerun of the season to the opposite field (left field). It was his first homerun since April 27 at Nevada.
Overland's homer came on a 2-2 count, giving the Bulldogs 15 RBIs when they have two strikes during the College World Series. It was the fifth homerun of the series for the Bulldogs and just the seventh Warren's allowed all season.
That gave Fresno State a 1-0 lead.
The Dogs threatened in the bottom of third when they had two runners on with one out but couldn't score a run.
Muno singled to center with one out and Hedstrom reached on an infield single with a beautiful bunt toward third base, moving Muno to second. Wetzel struck-out swinging and the Carolina catcher caught Hedstrom with too big a lead off first base for the pick-off play to end the inning.
The Tar Heels scored three runs in the fourth inning. They tied the score 1-1 with a single and a triple off the centerfield field wall. Two batters later, a UNC double brought in another run and the Dogs trailed for the first time in the series 2-1. Another single RBI single made the score 3-1. That did not scare the Bulldogs.
Senior left fielder Steve Susdorf, the 2008 WAC Player of the Year, took a 1-2 Warren pitch into the right field stands to make the score 3-2. It was his 12th homerun of the season and the 38th career, third-most in Bulldog history. He also added to his Bulldog career RBI record (212).
First baseman Alan Ahmady nearly tied the score with a rocket that came up a few feet short of an opposite field homerun. Overland had a single, his second hit of the game, with two outs. Right fielder Steve Detwiler drew a walk, moving Overland to second base. They were stranded there.
With two Carolina runners on base and no outs in the fifth inning, junior pitcher Kris Tomlinson (2-1, 7.13 ERA) replaced Miller. Tomlinson was honored in the CWS opening ceremonies as one of the top academic performers among the participating teams. Tomlinson got a big win over No. 3 Arizona State in the Super Regional clinching game.
Miller threw 66 pitches in four innings, allowing three earned runs.
Tomlinson was effective getting a ground out and a strikeout against two left-handed Tar Heel batters. Senior Jason Breckley (2-2, 7.66 ERA) replaced him and got Fleck to fly out to right field to get out of the inning.
Muno led off the bottom of the fifth inning with a sharp single to center field, reaching base for the third time in the game. Hedstrom singled past the shortstop, moving Muno to second base. Wetzel laid down a beautiful bunt in front of home plate for a single to load the bases.
North Carolina coach Mike Fox replaced Warren with Brian Moran (1-1, 1.99 ERA), who had 67 strikeouts in 45.1 innings this season. Sudorf reached on a fielder's choice as Muno was forced out at home by the third baseman.
Ahmady then gave the Dogs the lead back with a 2-RBI single to center field, bringing Hedstrom and Wetzel home and moving Susdorf to second base. That gave the Dogs a 4-3 lead and that's all the run support they would need.
With Tommy Mendonca at the plate, the Dogs pulled a double steal with Susdorf moving to third base and Ahmady to second.
Senior catcher Danny Grubb replaced Overland in the lineup while Fox replaced Moran with Rob Wooten (6-2, 1.80 ERA), a 13th-round pick of the Brewers, who got Grubb to lineout to end the threat.
Through five innings, the Dogs had 10 hits.
Bulldog Holden Sprague (5-2, 3.63 ERA), a product of Fresno's Bullard High School, replaced Breckley, who earned the win for the Dogs, in the top of the sixth inning. After a lead-off double, he was stellar setting down the next three Tar Heels.
Detwiler led off the sixth inning by reaching on an error by the shortstop. He moved to second on a wild pitch three pitches to DH Jordan Ribera, who walked two pitches after that. Muno was hit by a Wooten pitch to load the bases.
Wooten got out of the inning with a strikeout, pop-up and groundout as the Dogs left three runners on base.
Sprague got through the seventh inning on just 10 pitches. The final out was an outstanding stop of a hard line shot by Mendonca near the third base line and he easily threw out the Carolina batter.
Ahmady raced to first to earn an infield single to start the bottom of the seventh inning. Mendonca then walked after a 3-2 count.
Detwiler grounded out to the pitcher, but that moved Ahmady to third base and Mendonca to second. Ribera grounded out with two on base, as the Dogs stranded two more runners, a total of seven from the fifth through seventh innings.
The Tar Heels rallied with two base runners in the eighth inning, putting runners on second and third with two outs. Bulldog career saves leader Brandon Burke (4-5, 3.15 ERA) got the Bulldogs out with two pitches, a groundout on another fine defensive play by Mendonca.
Sprague was very efficient in his outing. Of his 48 pitches, 31 were strikes as he allowed just three hits and no runs.
Muno led off the eighth inning by pulling a single to right field and Hedstrom pushed him to second base with a sacrifice back to the pitcher. Wetzel singled to left field and Muno scored on a close play at the plate, reminiscent of his head-first slide against Rice on Sunday. It was Wetzel's 41st RBI of the season. That gave the Bulldogs a 5-3 lead.
The next batter, Susdorf, put a charge into a ball to the right-center field gap but the Carolina right fielder made a nice grab at the wall.
Burke closed the game in the final inning earning his 23rd save of his career and 13th this year, owning the Fresno State career and single season records.
The Bulldogs return to action in the College World Series on Friday, June 20, against the winner of the North Carolina vs. LSU game.
The crowd at Omaha's Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium was 23,314, the largest to ever watch a Bulldog game. For its two games at the CWS, Fresno State has played in front of a total of 41,422 fans.
Omaha has been the home to the College World Series since 1950, and baseball fans from all over America make an annual pilgrimage each June for this event.
Nearly 1,000 members of the media are in Omaha to cover the event and all of the game will be televised by ESPN/ESPN2.
2008 College World Series Results and Schedule
Sunday, June 15
Monday, June 16
Tuesday, June 17
Wednesday, June 18
Thursday, June 19
Friday, June 19
CWS World Series Tickets Available
Join the State - Fresno State! The Bulldog baseball team continues play in the College World Series Friday at 4 p.m. PT against either LSU or North Carolina. All Fresno State games from the CWS can be heard in the Valley on KMJ Radio and seen nationally on ESPN/ESPN2.