CWS, Day1: Top of the 9th magic and ugly baseball

Don't know why, but the top of the 9th inning of both games today will become known for two things: 1- Game-deciding plays. And 2- Ugly baseball.

CWS08-20mphWind.jpg
(Mark Marquess, "When I got to the park today and saw the wind blowing out I knew it could be a long game.")

Stanford went nuts, with the help of two errors, to score 11 runs in the top of the 9th of game one, beating Florida State 16-5. And Georgia made a big comeback, with the help of a dropped third strike and an error, of course, to beat Miami 7-4.

Another ugly factor? The vaunted ACC starts Omaha 0-2 so far.

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GAME ONE---
Conditions at game time:
84 degrees, winds out of the South at 20-30mph. In other words, wind howling straight out to center field.


Stanford - 000 102 20(11)- 16 15 1
Florida State- 000 002 030- 5 16 3

WP: Drew Storen (5-3)
LP: John Gast (0-1)

Top Hitters:
SU-
Cord Phelps: 2-for-5, 2RBI, 4runs scored.
Toby Gerhart: 3-for-4, 1RBI, 3runs scored.
Brent Milleville: 1-for-4, 4RBI, 1run scored.
Sean Ratliff: 2-for-5, 3RBI, 1run scored.

FSU-
Jason Stidham: 2-for-3, 3RBI, 1run scored.
Dennis Guinn: 2-for-5, 1RBI, 1run scored
Tommy Oravetz: 3-for-4, 1RBI, 1run scored.

For five innings of this game, there wasn't a lot of drama. I mean, there were the flags beyond center field, blowing straight out due to vicious South winds. Just aching for Arena Ball 101 to start.

Then, just as the winds started to die down significantly, the great primate busted through the underbrush and made its presence felt. Four home runs and five doubles later, Stanford rode a blitzkrieg of a 9th inning to paste Florida State by a 16-5 count.

And as you might imagine, it was one ugly game. FSU SS Tony Delmonica kicked a trio of ground balls, two in the 9th inning alone, helping the Trees to plate 11 mind-numbing runs in the frame. Nasty stuff man.

"This game will humble you." Coach Martin would say afterward. "It just wasn't our day. Tony has been great for us all season, but it just wasn't our day. Those things happen."

Nothing seemed to go right for the Noles after they tied the game in the 8th at five apiece. SU put up 11 runs on just six hits and got the help of two errors and three walks to turn this hard-fought game of eight innings into a laugher. FSU used four pitchers in the inning. In fact, things got so bad, Coach Mike Martin quit making the walk to the mound, giving way to assistant coach Jamey Shouppe to do the honors.

The biggest blows came from Sean Ratliff, who laced a two-run single to center field, Cord Phelps, who knocked in a pair on a double down the line, and a Brent Milleville 3-run bomb. The first two of those hits coming off of National Player of the Year Buster Posey, who came on after Cord Phelps had started the inning with a single off of John Gast.

Commenting on his big hit off of Posey, Ratliff countered with, "I think Buster just missed his spot because he came inside twice before that. But the next pitch he left one out and up in the zone and I was lucky enough to place it over the infield and drive in a few runs."

The Trees move on to the winner's bracket game on Monday, while, for the third round in a row, FSU immediately falls into the loser's bracket after game one. But really, who here is going to sell the lot on FSU? They've lost the first game of every round of post-season play so far.

"Anybody you play here is tough." Coach Martin asserted. "We've got our backs to the wall again. But I'm never going to count these guys out, that's for sure."

CWS08-MarquessBadCall.jpg
(Mark Marquess is pleading his case on that awful foul ball call that first base umpire Mike Conlin REALLY screwed the pooch on.)

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GAME TWO---
Conditions at game time:
86 degrees, 35% humidity, winds West/Southwest at 10mph.

Georgia- 001 002 004- 7 11 1
Miami - 102 000 100 - 4 7 1

WP: Joshua Fields (3-2)
LP: Carlos Gutierrez (5-4)

Top Hitters:
UGa-
Ryan Piesel, 3-for-4, 4RBI
Lyle Allen, 2-for-3, 1RBI, game-tying hit.

UofM-
Blake Tekotte, 1-for-5, HR, 2RBI
Yonder Alonso, 1-for-2, HR, 1RBI, 2BBs
Ryan Jackson, 2-for-4

Just like the Regionals and Super Regionals, it was ugly, but to Georgia fans, it was an ugly kind of beautiful.

With the help of a dropped third strike and a bad throw from relief ace Carlos Gutierrez, who fielded a sac bunt and threw wild to first, the 'Dogs were able to overcome a 4-3 lead in the top of the 9th and pull out a 7-4 win. And the strange thing is, no, Gordon Beckham had nothing to do with this 9th inning magic.

From the get-go, you got the feeling Georgia was never going to go away in this one. The Bulldogs just kept hanging on by a thread the whole game. Especially early on when the Hurricane hitters were pounding 'Dog starter Trevor Holder pretty hard, but mostly right at people.

CWS08-TekotteHR.jpg
(I admit, after Blake Tekotte hit his two-run bomb in the 3rd inning, I thought Miami would cruise)

Living on the edge as they were, UGa stayed in the game with an opportunistic defense and good middle relief work from Alex McCree and Dean Weaver. But they immediately got back into things with a crushing homer from leadoff hitter Ryan Piesel in the 6th inning to knot the game at three.

"The big key was just keeping it close." Said Coach Dave Perno in the post-game. "We battled. We knew that if we could just hang in there and do what we do, we had a chance."

But Yonder Alonso put The U back ahead in the 7th with a yard call of his own. And that seemed to put the Canes on their way to the expected opening round win.

"I told myself today that Yonder Alonso wasn't going to beat us. And after he hit that home run I was kicking myself." Coach Perno lamented.

But then came the 9th. When Bryce Massanari singled to start the inning, you could sense a little bit of "oh no" from the Cane fans. You almost got the feeling it had turned into an LSU game. A sac bunt was followed by a dropped third strike that allowed Robbie O'Bryan to reach first and pinch runner Adam Fuller to go to third.

That's when the theatrics really got serious. Lyle Allen slapped an RBI single into left to tie the game at four. Then, in a rare moment of pressure-drop, reliever Carlos Gutierrez fielded a sac bunt from David Thoms and chucked the ball all the way down the right field line, allowing two more Dog runs to score, cementing the game.

"Miami is the best team we've played all year." Coach Perno would say. "But this is also the toughest game we've ever been in. Our kids fought hard and stayed within their identity to get the win."

Ryan Piesel, who was the unlikely offensive star tonight, added, "This was probably the biggest win I've been a part of. They were everything that we expected and more. For us to come out here and get the first one under our belt, it's huge. Sweet redemption for going 2-and-Q the last time we were here."

"We've got to swing the bat better, but they had great pitching and that was the difference." Coach Jim Morris opened the post-game with. "We had our backs against the wall last week against Arizona, if we keep swinging the bat we'll be able to do that again."

CWS08-UGaAllenScore.jpg
(This picture says it all, Lyle Allen is pumped as he gives Georgia the lead for good in the 9th)

Morris also said this about his ace reliever Carlos Gutierrez's 9th inning implosion, "We had 'em right where we wanted them, but that first batter gets on and that changes everything. But I've seen something like this from every reliever I've ever had. But we didn't score enough runs or get enough hits. We've got to do a better job of taking advantage of things we have. But again, they had great pitching."


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NOTES---

I said it first. I said it first.
As I stated in my CWS preview, weather in Omaha determines a lot in style of play. Mike Martin and Mark Marquess both mentioned that very thing in the pre-CWS press conference yesterday. Despite the brusque winds, the early score didn't indicate an offensive explosion like people were expecting. It wasn't until the winds went calm that the bats went nuts.

- No Lou Spry?
I was bummed to see that longtime CWS stat king Lou Spry, who has been the official scorer since I went to games as a 4-year old, was not in the booth next to the press box today. Not to fear though, Nebraska baseball SID Shamus McDonough, who filled in for Big Lou, told me that Mr. Spry is attending the funeral of a friend in San Diego and will be making the long drive back to Omaha and back to his scoring duties on Monday.

- Roles reversal early on.
FSU, the worst defense in the field of eight at .960, had the good gloves early on, with SS Tony Delmonico and 3B Stuart Tapley making a pair of sweet plays on groundouts in the first two inning. Stanford, usually one of the most stout defenses around had a pair of flubs, one an either-way hit-or-error call on 2B Cord Phelps and a straight-up E on 3B Zach Jones. Of course, that got changed around in quick order as the game went on.

- Posey NOT the pitcher of the year.
As wildly talented as FSU's Buster Posey is, his fateful 9th inning appearance on the mound couldn't have gone much worse. Granted, it didn't help that he had two errors occur on his watch, but the seven batters he faced went:
* single
* E6
* Sac Fly RBI
* intentional BB
* 2RBI single
* BB
* E6 (2 unearned runs scored)

CWS08-BusterPitching.jpg
(The wildly talented Posey didn't have luck on his side as his defense let him down when he hit the mound in the 9th)

- Coach Martin remarking on bringing Posey in to pitch in the 9th. "He was the guy I wanted on the mound at that time. It's that time of game where you put the guy you're most comfortable with on the mound, and that was Buster."

- Rockin' to Free.
The Rosenblatt P.A. plays the school fight song when a team scores a run here. For Stanford - those smart, off-beat types in NoCal - they play a recording of the school's marching band performing "All Right Now" by the 70s band Free.

- The 4-hour, 11-minute contest turned out to be the 3rd longest game in CWS history, timewise.

- SU's 11-run 9th inning tied the record for runs in an inning by a CWS team. The previous mark was held by Cal State Fullerton, who turned the 11-run trick on LSU in the 1994 series.

- Holder not holding.
Georgia starter Trever Holder had another dubious start tonight. Although he did have an 8.2inning, 7-hitter in his last start against N. C. State, but prior to that his lines looked like this:
May 31, at Louisville: 4.0inns, 8H, 3ER, 0Ks, 1BB - no decision
May 16, vs. Alabama: 1.2inns, 7H, 6ER, 1K, 1BB - loss
May 9, at Vanderbilt: 6.0inns, 12H, 10ER, 2Ks, 2BBs - loss
May 2, vs. Ole Miss: 5.1inns, 8H, 4ER, 7Ks, 1BB - win

Tonight's line for Holder:
4.0inns, 4H, 3ER, 5Ks, 4BBs - no decision

- Jemile Weeks on the prospects of playing arch-rival Florida State in the loser's bracket game on Monday. "It's always an intense game. But this one is going to mean a lot more. But our goal is to win the whole thing, so we plan on being here for the long haul."

- Lyle Allen on his game-tying hit in the 9th inning, "Coach just said to put a good swing on it and let the ball travel. And fortunately I put a good swing on it."

- Ryan Piesel, asking what he thought about going up to the plate before his big hits. "I was thinking about the text messages I was going to get. Either 'way to go' or 'you blew it out there.'"

- Coach Dave Perno on his game plan vs. Miami today. "We pulled out everything we had today, hit and run early, slash and run, we even had some early sacrifices. We were just able to pull this win out by doing a little bit of everything."

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Eric Sorenson Eric Sorenson
Eric Sorenson is CSTV.com's National Baseball Columnist, and also appears on CSTV as a baseball expert