OMAHA, Neb. — Fresno State’s improbable postseason run will end with the Bulldogs playing for a national championship.
Tommy Mendonca drove in four runs, Clayton Allison came back from a shoulder ailment to allow one run over six innings, and the Bulldogs defeated North Carolina 6-1 to win their bracket in the College World Series on Sunday night.
Fresno State (45-30) will play Georgia (44-23-1) in the best-of-three championship series starting today. North Carolina (54-14), the No. 2 national seed and CWS runner-up the past two years, was denied a third straight appearance in the finals.
Fresno is the first No. 4 regional seed to make the CWS and joins clubs such as Eastern Michigan in 1976, Wichita State in 1982 and Pepperdine in 1992 as surprise finalists.
Georgia, on the other hand, is the first team to bounce back from a losing season to reach the CWS finals the following year.
Neither has an overly impressive record and no team with more than 23 losses has ever won a national title. That could change this year.
Fresno State’s journey has been anything but smooth. The Bulldogs have made it through the postseason without ace Tanner Scheppers, a second-round pick by Pittsburgh who is out with a slight rotator cuff tear.
In the regionals, Fresno State came off a 15-1 thumping by San Diego to beat the host Toreros 5-1 the next day for the title.
In the super regionals, the Bulldogs lost the first game 12-4 to Arizona State, then won two straight against the No. 3 national seed to advance to Omaha.
Fresno State hammered Rice 17-5 in its CWS opener and beat North Carolina 5-3 in its second game. The Tar Heels came from behind Saturday to win 4-3 on Chad Flack’s eighth-inning home run.
Still, the Bulldogs’ resolve was anything but broken. They were in control all night Sunday, pressuring the Tar Heels every inning and scoring at least a run in each between the third and sixth. North Carolina used seven pitchers in all.
Allison (4-5), out since the second game of super regionals because of tendinitis in his right (throwing) shoulder, allowed only Dustin Ackley’s double to start the game and five singles. The only run against him came when he issued a bases-loaded walk in the fourth. He struck out six and walked three.
Fresno State opened the scoring in the third against reliever Brian Moran (1-2). Alan Ahmady was intentionally walked to load the bases with one out, and then Mendonca hit a two-run single to left.
The Bulldogs went up 3-1 in the fourth when Jordan Ribera singled, ended up on third on Carolina reliever Colin Bates’ errant pickoff attempt and scored on Danny Muno’s single.
Carolina got a scare at the end of the inning when left fielder Kyle Shelton went face-first into the wall in foul territory to catch a ball off Steve Susdorf’s bat. Shelton slid on his knee in the gravel to make the inning-ending catch behind the bullpen mound, with his momentum carrying him into the wall.
Athletic trainers, along with coach Mike Fox and players, rushed to Shelton, who stayed down for a minute or so before returning to the dugout under his own power.
The Bulldogs added a run in the fifth on Mendonca’s RBI double and two more in the sixth on a grounder by Ahmady and a single by Mendonca.
Carolina’s loss means the Atlantic Coast Conference will go another year without a national title in baseball. The Tar Heels and fellow ACC members Miami and Florida State all reached the CWS, but Wake Forest remains the only team from the conference with a baseball title, winning it in 1955.