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Off the cuff: Everything was set up well for Carolina to win - especially having a rested starter and having momentum from two dramatic wins in a row - but things did not go the Heels' way. Pitching has been the key all season and the staff seemed poised to advance. But Adam Warren, a well-rested pitcher, didn't make it out of the second inning with four walks to nine batters. Reliever Colin Bates made a key throwing error on a pick off that led to a run after Carolina had just gotten within a run. Rob Wooten, the team's best reliever and a senior, came on in the fifth and had a rough time - walking two, hitting a batter and giving up a double. Alex White was not expected to be called on again in this game because he would be needed to start against Georgia if the Heels could win. White's arm was not nearly as lively as it had been in relief on Saturday night. He gave up a couple of runs in the sixth that put the game out of reach. Coach Fox said his relief pitchers were fatigued. Being in the loser's bracket mandates more innings and rain delays dictated back-to-back-to-back games.

TV announcers coming to the defense of umpires gets really old. It happens every time there is a bad performance by an ump. Yes, it's a tough job but Mitch Mele was pathetic calling balls and strikes during Sunday night's game. A key point in the game came when Mele called Seth Williams out on a pitch that was so inside that it almost hit him. Williams was up with the bases loaded and only one out with the score 2-1 in the fourth.

Announcer Barry Larkin, who is articulate and by all accounts a nice guy, is an announcing lightweight and rarely says anything insightful and never says anything provocative. In the sixth after a particularly bad strike call on Kyle Seager, Larkin said something that was so far from the truth that his announcing partner fell silent when he said it. Larkin said, "The one thing you look for is consistency and I can say one thing about Mitch Mele is he's been generous on the outer half but he's been consistent. He established a strike zone and he stayed with the strike zone he established and that's all you can ask for." Huh?

The fact is that nearly all his bad calls happened to go against Carolina and he was not consistent about what was a strike. For instance, in the bottom of the third, Fresno State's Tommy Mendonca singled up the middle to drive in two runs after Mele called two strikes as balls. His balls and strikes calls could have changed the outcome of the game. Perhaps the Bulldogs wouldn't have gotten those two runs and perhaps Williams would have driven in a couple. When an ump makes bad calls, it can get in the head of hitters and they swing at bad pitches for fear it will be called a strike. Several Heels swung at bad pitches but who could blame them? One Bulldog hitter was even awarded first base for getting hit by a pitch - when the pitch was a strike! Jeez.

While I'm ragging on the TV coverage, I almost got dizzy from all the flashbacks ESPN showed. Sometimes, especially because they use original crowd noise, you are confused for a split second as to whether a flashback is actually the game you are watching. Once I even thought they were showing a flashback and it was live game action. In the fourth inning, ESPN thought it was more important to show a flashback frm Georgia's 1990 national championship than a single by the Bulldogs. We totally missed the hit - never saw it, even on replay.

Earlier, when Colin Bates came in to pitch for the Heels, he threw three pitches before TV viewers were introduced to him. That's because ESPN thought it was more important to show a live interview with Georgia's coach. Was this a Carolina game or a Georgia game? ESPN's decision to air the game on ESPN Classic indicates the lack of importance they saw in the game. ESPN Classic, which used to be Classic Sports Network before ESPN bought it several years ago, is supposed to be a channel for classic games from the past, not present-day games. They use it sometimes as overflow but to bump a College World Series game off ESPN2 because they wanted to show a repeat of the World Series of Poker from 2007 is ridiculous. Poker in high definition makes much more sense than baseball in hi-def I guess.

Season Review: UNC baseball had one of its best years

Carolina made it to the College World Series
Photo by Clifton Barnes

But the Tar Heels ran out of gas against Fresno State

North Carolina, fresh off two dramatic late-inning victories to avoid elimination, had no magic left as the underdog Fresno State Bulldogs defeated the Heels 6-1 to advance to the College World Series finals in Omaha, Neb.

“The end of the year is never fun and this is actually the worst,” an emotional UNC coach Mike Fox said. “We just didn't have a lot of things go right for us tonight and Fresno State had a lot to do with that.”

Seemingly in good position with a better pitching staff that was healthier and more rested, Carolina could not get by Fresno State, which is the first unranked team to make it to the finals. The Fresno State Bulldogs will now take on the Georgia Bulldogs in a best-of-three series beginning Monday night.

UNC's starting pitcher Adam Warren, who had his regular rest between starts, was pitted against Clayton Allison, who had not pitched in 21 days due to tendonitis but was needed because of a depleted staff. Warren gave up four walks to the first nine batters and didn't make it out of the second inning. Allison meanwhile went six strong innings, striking out six and giving up only one run.

Once into the bullpen, the momentum Carolina had after Saturday night's victory over the Bulldogs, switched back to Fresno State. UNC reliever Brian Moran gave up a two-out, two-run single to Tommy Mendonca in the third to give the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead.

In the fourth the Heels got one run back. After singles by Tim Fedroff and Chad Flack along with a one-out walk to Tim Federowicz, Carolina had the bases loaded. Kyle Shelton walked to force in a run, drawing the Heels to within one at 2-1.

A called third strike on Seth Williams drew the ire of the UNC coaches and set the tone of a contentious evening with home plate umpire Mitch Mele. Carolina could not push in another run that inning or any inning thereafter.

Fedroff and Dustin Ackley, the Tar Heels' top hitters all year, had three hits each to lead Carolina, which ends the season at 54-14.

Coach Fox said the team will focus on the whole season, rather than this one game. “We kinda have to in order to get over the hurt,” he said.

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Heel Prints reviewed each UNC basketball game
As a student sports editor years ago, prior to the season, Clifton Barnes predicted a national championship for the Tar Heels and indeed they won. In fact he wrote his lede paragraph for the national championship game almost a year early. He regrets that he didn't keep a journal after each game. While he didn't predict a championship this season, he did have those same feelings. He kept a journal after each game of the 2007-2008 season and you can reach them here. He recently completed writing about UNC's baseball season and will write an analysis after each UNC football game.
Carolina basketball's run ends after comeback falls short

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