OMAHA, Neb. — This time, there was no late-inning home run. This year, there will be no championship series.
Second-seeded North Carolina, which had survived two elimination games in two days by coming up with timely clutch hits, couldn't belt another one out of the ballpark Sunday night, and therefore couldn't pull another one out of its ball cap — losing to Fresno State 6-1 in the College World Series.
Carolina's pitchers, the strength of the team, didn't dominate. Carolina's hitters, strangely sporadic the last few outings, again left too many men on base.
As a result, the Bulldogs — the lowest seed to ever advance to the CWS — will play No. 8 seed Georgia in the best-of-three championship series, beginning tonight.
And the Tar Heels, many of whom said they wanted to finish some "unfinished business" in their third straight trip to Omaha, will again return home wondering, "what if?"
Fresno State put the pressure on in the third inning when third baseman Tommy Mendonca — who blasted a two-run homer against UNC on Saturday night — smacked a two-RBI single off UNC reliever Brian Moran on a full count to make it 2-0.
In the top of the fourth, Tar Heels Tim Fedroff and Chad Flack both singled, and Tim Federowicz walked to load the bases with one out. Fresno State starter Clayton Allison then walked Kyle Shelton, bringing home UNC's only run of the game to cut its deficit to 2-1.
But UNC, which had tweaked its batting order to try to energize an offense that had left 27 men on base its previous three games, couldn't take any more advantage of the opportunity. Seth Williams struck out and Ryan Graepel — visibly angered about a called strike that looked well outside — grounded out to end the inning.
It was a sign of things to come.
UNC's third pitcher of the game, Colin Bates, replaced Moran in the bottom of the fourth. After Bulldog Jordan Ribera singled, he advanced to all the way to third on the next batter when Bates tried to pick him off but threw to first baseman Dustin Ackley's feet, committing an error.
Shortstop Danny Muno then got an RBI single, bringing home Ribera to make it 3-1. And the inning ended even more painfully for the Tar Heels when leftfielder Kyle Shelton went full tilt for a high foul ball by Steve Susdorf; Shelton held onto it for the third out, but smacked face-first into the wall near the bullpen. He lay in the dirt for several minutes in obvous pain before running off the field.
Shelton returned to left field in the fifth, when another Mendonca RBI, off UNC's fourth pitcher of the game, Rob Wooten, extended the Bulldogs cushion to 4-1.
With one out and the bases loaded, the Tar Heels brought on ACC Pitcher of the Year Alex White, a surprise move considering he had thrown a combined 63 pitches out of the bullpen two previous days. White got Muno to hit into a double play to end the inning.
But the winning magic from two games past didn't continue. Fresno State's Alan Ahmady and Mendonca each added RBIs in the bottom of the sixth, off White, to extend the lead to 6-1.
And although UNC got two more hits in the seventh, one in the eighth and one in the ninth, it never managed an RBI.
Allison (4-5) picked up the win for the Bulldogs. Moran, one of seven UNC pitchers to take the mound, got the loss.
It marked the final college game for six Carolina seniors, plus possibly three underclassmen who were drafted earlier this month.