The Washington Times - June 21, 2008, 08:49PM

By JAY LeBLANC
June 22, 2008

No. 8 Georgia 10, Stanford 8

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Georgia punched its ticket to the College World Series finals yesterday afternoon, holding off a late Stanford rally for a 10-8 win. The Bulldogs (44-23-1), who beat No. 1-seeded Miami in their CWS opener and then topped Stanford (41-24-2) on Monday, were coming off a four-day layoff but didn’t appear rusty at all.

Georgia jumped all over Stanford ace Jeremy Bleich, knocking him around for six runs on eight hits in his 3 1/3 innings of work. Bleich retired the Bulldogs in order in the top of the first, but Georgia got on the board in the second when Joey Lewis singled to drive in Rich Poythress, who had reached with his first of three doubles on the day. Poythress drove in Ryan Peisel with his second double in the third and came around to score along with Gordon Beckham on another Lewis single two batters later as Georgia took a 4-0 lead. The Cardinal pushed a run across in the bottom of the frame to pull within three, but the Bulldogs answered with two more runs in top of the fourth as Poythress again came through, singling in Miles Starr and Peisel to make the score 6-1.

Cord Phelps did his best to get Stanford back in the game in the bottom of the fourth, tripling in Jake Schlander and then scoring on a wild pitch by Bulldogs hurler Dean Weaver to once again pull the Cardinal within three at 6-3. The momentum switch was short-lived, however, as Peisel answered with a three-run jack in the top of the fifth to make it 9-3 in favor of Georgia. Stanford’s Joey August singled in star catcher Jason Castro with the fourth Cardinal run in the bottom of the inning. The score stayed at 9-4 until the top of the eighth, when Poythress’ third double of the ballgame drove Beckham home with the 10th Bulldogs run.

It didn’t look good for Stanford when stud Bulldogs closer Joshua Fields took the mound in the bottom of the ninth, but the Cardinal refused to go quietly. Randy Molina drew a one-out walk and advanced to third on a Sean Ratliff single. Fields fanned August for the second out, but pinch-hitter Colin Walsh followed with a single to knock in Molina and make it 10-5. With two on and two out, pinch-hitter Ben Clowe followed with a clutch three-run shot to pull Stanford within two, but Fields then got Phelps to fly out to center as Georgia escaped with a 10-8 victory.


No. 2 North Carolina 4, Fresno State 3

Fresno State appeared to be in control for most of the nightcap, but Tar Heels ace Alex White and third baseman Chad Flack changed all that with clutch, late-inning heroics.

The Bulldogs got on the board in the top of the first against Tar Heels starter Matt Harvey when Steve Susdorf singled in Gavin Hedstrom. The score stayed at 1-1 until the top of the fourth. Fresno State’s Alan Ahmady singled with two outs and came around to score on a two-run bomb by Tommy Mendonca as the Bulldogs jumped out to a 3-0 lead.

UNC pushed two runs across in the bottom of the fourth to pull within a run. Flack started the rally with a one-out double, advanced to third on a single by Garrett Gore and came around to score on a Seth Williams single. After Ryan Graepel walked to load the bases, Gore crossed the plate with the second Tar Heels run on a Dustin Ackley fielder’s choice before Kyle Shelton struck out to end the inning.

Things settled down a bit over the next few innings as both teams got some good pitching from their bullpens, but North Carolina’s bats awoke in the bottom of the eighth. Kyle Seager began the frame with a double to deep right-center off Fresno State ace Justin Miller, who had entered the ballgame with two outs in the seventh. Flack followed with a two-run jack that gave the Tar Heels their first lead of the game at 4-3. Miller retired the next three hitters in order, but the damage was done.

White, who had entered the game with one out in the seventh, capped off a dominant performance by retiring the Bulldogs in order in the ninth and striking out the final two batters for good measure. White totaled five K’s in his 2 2/3 flawless innings of relief to pick up his 13th win of the season. More importantly, his stellar performance gave his Tar Heels another shot at Fresno State, which would have advanced to the championship series had they been able to hold on and win.

The Fresno State vs. North Carolina game kicks off at 6 p.m. this evening on ESPN Classic, with the winner advancing to face Georgia in the best-of-three championship round beginning tomorrow.


Saturday Wrap

After yesterday’s win, a well-rested Georgia team finds itself in the College World Series finals riding a wave of momentum. The Bulldogs are playing so well that they probably don’t care which team they end up playing in the best-of-three series. Upstart Fresno State will have the tough task of rebounding after seemingly having last night’s game in its grasp before allowing it to slip away. The Tar Heels, on the other hand, enter this evening’s showdown feeling pretty good after coming through with their backs against the wall and their season hanging in the balance. I say Carolina rides the positive vibes from its come-from-behind victory - and its superior talent - to a second straight win over Fresno State and a berth in the finals.