College World Series: Let's Go Fresno

Brett LissendenSenior Analyst IJune 22, 2008

Tonight at 7 pm Eastern, Fresno State will play North Carolina for the right to play in the CWS Championship Series against Georgia.  Fresno, a number four seed, and UNC, a number one seed and the highest ranked team remaining, have split the two games they have already played in Omaha. 

This includes last night's game, where UNC hit a two-run homer in the top of the 8th to take the lead and beat Fresno 4-3.  To start the eighth, Fresno made a highly suspect move to put in pitcher Justin Miller.

Miller started the previous game against the Tar Heels and gave up three earned runs on seven hits in only four innings of work.  The Fresno bullpen held North Carolina scoreless for the rest of the game.

Not only had the entire North Carolina lineup seen, and had success against, Miller only four nights before, but Miller was also the scheduled starter for today's game in the scenario of a Fresno loss.  So while they left their stud closer in the bullpen, Fresno now has an elimination game against the number-two ranked team in the country and very little pitching left to go off of.

Most of the problems with Fresno's pitching are due to injuries.  They actually have a multitude of injuries outside of the pitcher position as well that makes their miraculous run through to the College World Series tournament even more notable. 

Fresno's opponent, UNC, has been to the CWS championship series for the past two years and is looking to go for a third straight time.  In the previous two years they lost to Oregon State both times.

It would be perhaps just as good to have such a Cinderella team like Fresno State play in the Championship as it would be for a team like UNC, that has already had two chances, to not make the championship again.  Just think how awful it would be to have Ohio State playing in next year's BCS National Championship game again. 

Fresno certainly has their backs against the wall, but they are no strangers to that.  They have been the higher seed (lower-ranked) team in every single NCAA tournament game they have played this postseason and have been pushed to elimination games in both the Regionals and Super Regionals before this.  Never before has it been against a team as good as North Carolina though. 

For those unfamiliar with the College Baseball format, the prelimary rounds of postseason play are regionals for four teams each seeded one through four.  Being a four seed, Fresno is the equivalent of a 13-16 seed in the NCAA basketball tournament.

In comparison to George Mason several years ago, an 11-seed who stunned the country by making the final four, Fresno State is already among the last three remaining college baseball teams. 

Unless you have ties to Chapel Hill, you'd be crazy to not be pulling for the Fresno State Bulldogs tonight to pull off at least one more upset and prevent the Tar Heels from a third straight championship series appearance.