Fresno State 3, (2) North Carolina 4
June 21, 2008
Flack's 8th-inning homer forces CWS rematch with Bulldogs
Updated: June 22, 2008, 12:52 AM ET
OMAHA, Neb. -- Chad Flack homered to get North Carolina to the College World Series in 2006 and 2007.
This year, he homered to keep the Tar Heels in Omaha at least for another day.
Flack's monster two-run shot in the bottom of the eighth inning Saturday night kept Carolina alive with a 4-3 victory over Fresno State.
"I don't really know what to say," North Carolina coach Mike Fox said. "I know Chad Flack is the clutchest player I'll ever be fortunate enough to coach. He's proven it time and time again."
The Tar Heels (54-13) forced another game Sunday against Fresno State (44-30), the first No. 4 regional seed to reach the CWS. It was the second straight elimination game Carolina won on a late home run. Tim Federowicz's grand slam in the ninth broke a tie in a 7-3 win over LSU on Friday.
Another win Sunday would wrap up Bracket 2 and send North Carolina to the best-of-three championship round for the third straight year, this time against Georgia. Meanwhile, Fresno State is trying to continue its surprising postseason run and make its first appearance in the finals in its third trip to Omaha.
"I don't think anybody in our clubhouse is thinking about our backs being to the wall," Fresno second baseman Erik Wetzel said. "We're just thinking about the next day, coming out and playing baseball."
The Tar Heels threatened almost every inning, but a committee of four Fresno State pitchers kept holding them off.
Finally, Flack broke through, and then Alex White (13-3) finished off the Bulldogs for his third win of the CWS, his second in relief. White became the ninth pitcher to win three games in a single CWS.
For Flack, it wasn't the first time in his Tar Heels career that he delivered a big home run. He hit two of them, including one in the ninth, to beat Alabama in the super regionals in 2006. Last year, he homered in the seventh to propel North Carolina past South Carolina in the super regionals and into the College World Series.
Where does he rank Saturday's homer?
"It has to be No. 1 right now," he said. "We're here another day, and we have a chance to play tomorrow. With Alex White on the mound, and to get him a run or two, that's all he needs."
Kyle Seager doubled into right-center leading off the bottom of the eighth against Justin Miller (6-4). When Flack came up, Fox initially had called for him to bunt to move Seager to third.
"I didn't get it down on the first pitch, and then he threw me some balls," Flack said. "Coach gave me the green light to swing. I just missed the 3-1 pitch. Looking at 3-2, I just wanted to make sure I did my job and get Seager over. He happened to leave one over the plate for me."
Did he ever.
Flack hammered Miller's slider to left, nearly hitting the scoreboard.
"Justin was throwing the ball exceptionally well, and I liked the matchup he had," Fresno coach Mike Batesole said. "We thought he made a good pitch -- a 3-2 slider, which is what he does. Give Flack credit. He got into it pretty good."
Carolina came into the game batting .349 in the CWS and .341 in the NCAA tournament, and the Tar Heels had outscored the opposition 69-32 in the postseason. But Fresno, which beat Carolina 5-3 on Tuesday, kept the Tar Heels mostly in check for seven innings.
The Bulldogs built a 3-0 lead against Matt Harvey on Steve Susdorf's RBI single in the first and Tommy Mendonca's two-run homer in the fourth, his 17th of the season.
Fresno State starter Justin Wilson struggled with his control, walking four of the first eight batters he faced. He struck out Seager to end the first and induced a double-play ball by Ryan Graepel to end the second.
In the third, Dustin Ackley and Tim Fedroff singled to put runners on with one out before Federowicz hit a soft pop foul to the right side. First baseman Alan Ahmady slid into the tarp to make the catch, then popped up and threw across the field to third base, where Mendonca tagged out Ackley well in front of the bag.
The Tar Heels scored twice in the fourth to pull to 3-2. Flack doubled with one out and scored on Seth Williams' single, and another run scored on a groundout by Ackley.
Fresno State had an opportunity to break it open in the seventh after loading the bases with one out against Rob Wooten and Brian Moran.
But White, who pitched the eighth and ninth innings Friday to earn the win against LSU, came in and shut down the Bulldogs for the rest of the night. His fastball clocked as high as 96 mph as he struck out Gavin Hedstrom and Wetzel to end the seventh, the first two of eight straight he set down.
Adam Warren (9-2) will start for North Carolina on Sunday. Clayton Allison (3-5), out since the second game of the super regional against Arizona State because of tendinitis in his right (throwing) shoulder, is the likely starter for Fresno, Batesole said.
Wetzel said the Bulldogs are up to the challenge against the No. 2 national seed. They staved off elimination in the regionals and again in the super regionals after losing their first game to Arizona State.
"We don't have anything to be demoralized about," Wetzel said. "That's a real good baseball team in the other dugout."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press