CWS, Day 11: Fresno bites back

THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES.
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In the words of John Candy from Planes, Trains and Automobiles, "Oh, these dogs are barkin'!"
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Did I not say in my preview with Doug Kroll that there's no way you should count out the Fresno State Bulldogs? No way on Eddie Albert's Green Acre should you. These dogs are doing more than just barkin', they're bearing their teeth and frothing at the mouth now.

Late Night at Rosenblatt Stadium saw the most unlikely of teams make a rather most unlikely turnaround in game two tonight, plating six runs in the 3rd, five runs in the 4th and four runs in the 5th inning to turn what looked like a certain defeat into a laugher.

Then again, if we've learned anything from this CWS, it is that you should never count anyone out.

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(Tommy Mendonca and Steven Susdorf were responsible for four hits, two home runs and seven RBI in tonight's series-tying win)

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GAME CONDITIONS---
68 degrees, 87% humidity, Southeast winds at 10mph.

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LINESCORE---
Georgia - 311 100 400 - 10 15 0
Fresno - 006 540 31x - 19 19 3

WP: Holden Sprague (6-2)
LP: Steven Dodson (5-5)
Save: Jake Hower (1)

Top Hitters-
Georgia:
Too many to list.

Fresno:
Ditto.

Biggest stat:
Fresno State went 10-for-19 with runner's in scoring position tonight. In last night's game one loss, the Bulldogs went 0-for-7.

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(Unlike last night, Holden Sprague pitched effectively and was actually able to make a dent in the radar guns.)


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Offenses running roughshod. Home runs booming out of the stadium. Double-digit run totals. What is this, USC-Arizona State from '98?

Change the bats. Raise the mound. Bring the foul lines in. Isn't that the way the baseball community reacted to the 1998 CWS? Well we saw another offensive onslaught tonight that allowed the Valley Dogs to stay alive in their stunning quest for a national championship.

They gathered 19 runs, 19 hits and 19 million foot-pounds of newfound confidence tonight.

But it certainly didn't look good for the West Coasters early on. The entire stadium had to be saying "Here we go" after three innings of play with Georgia taking a quick 5-zip lead.

The Dogs didn't waste any time in establishing this as their neighborhood as they sent all nine men in the order to the dish in the first inning. leadoff man Ryan Peisel sliced a single to left center with the fourth pitch of the game. After a Matt Olson K, Mr. Beckham and Mr. Poythress, the usual suspects, got back-to-back singles to put the first run on the board.

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(It's no surprise that All American Gordon Beckham kept his UGa Bulldog mates in the game with his timely at-bats and defensive plays.)

Three batters later Joey Lewis smacked an RBI double scoring the two big lumberjacks from 2nd and 3rd. The next inning, Peisel did what any other good leadoff man would do, he got on and scored a run. Along the way, he also picked up a stolen base to keep himself in FSU starter Justin Miller's head.

The third inning saw nine-hole hitter David Thoms punch an RBI single into left scoring Bryce Massanari. Boom! Five runs to none. They might as well have held up a sign with a pen and clipboard below it saying, "Take a cruise to the national title with the Junkyard Dogs."

But then came trouble in the doghouse. Old Mo' put on a white jersey, got eye-bursting angry and transformed into the Hulk - because we warned you that you wouldn't like them when they're mad.

Fresno stormed back with a vengeance, outscoring the the Southern Dogs 15-1 over the next three innings. It got cranking with a Steve Susdorf two-run single, continued with a three-run jack by Tommy Mendonca, picked up more steam with a two-run double by Danny Muno and roared into overdrive with a two-run crush by Susdorf again. That was all the Valley Dogs needed, putting them up by a 15-6 count.

Just to make sure things stayed interesting and fans didn't fall asleep during the three hour, 55-minute game, Georgia loaded the bases in the 7th inning with one run already in and the top of the order coming to the dish. Reliever Jake Hower came in to relieve Holden Sprague and kept the damage to a (relative) minimum, but only allowing two unearned runs and also got a strikeout, a pop-up and a groundout to help keep the dangerous Georgia bats at bay.

Not that they needed any more, but FSU scored another three runs just after "Take me out to the ballgame" was sung, two coming on a single by Alan Ahmady.

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(Reliever Jake Hower's gutsy performance saved not only the game, but also the Fresno pitching staff for tomorrow's deciding game. Strong work Jake)

But the big key was Hower on the mound late in the game. In total, the seldom-used righty (just 22 innings of work this year) gave up just one hit in three innings of work to pick up his only save of the season. And what a time to do it.

His pitching helps keep the Wonderdogs alive for another day. And believe what you've seen, 'coz these dogs are barkin'.

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NOTES---

- The comeback series of '08 continues.
Tonight's win by Fresno marked the 10th comeback victory in 15 games of the CWS.

- Oh what a relief it is. (Groan! Now I'm bringing bad 70s advertising jingles into this)
Of the 15 games in the 2008 CWS, this is the 12th one that was won by a relief pitcher.

- Mendonca bombs.
Tommy Mendonca's third-inning yard call was his fourth home run of the series, tying a CWS record. Nine players have pulled the quad trick, including last year when Louisville's Logan Johnson did it in two games.

- Clutch in the post-season.
Fresno came into tonight's game 4-0 in elimination games during the NCAA tournament, beating three of the best pitches staffs in the country in San Diego, Arizona State and North Carolina along the way.

- Speaking of clutch.
All nine of Fresno State's post-season wins have come against teams ranked in the Top 15. The list of victims is impressive considering they only won two games vs. ranked opponents during the regular season.

- Bad luck.
There's been a number of times that FSU's week and a half here in Omaha has been a case of close-but-no-cigar? Consider the first at-bat of No. 9 hitter Jordan Ribera's. With eight-hole hitter Steven Detwiler on first and the Valley Dogs already behind 5-0, Ribera cranked a huge bomb that was looking to hit off the Desert Dome at the zoo. But alas, the monstrous shot was just foul. You could hear him say "Aaarrrrrgh!"

- Peisel up early and often.
Georgia's Ryan Peisel had three at-bats in today's game before Detwiler and Ribera of Fresno ever got up to bat.

- Batting around.
It happened three different times tonight. Georgia sent all nine guys to the dish in the first inning, scoring three runs and stranding three runners. Fresno returned the favor in the third inning by sending 10 guys up, scoring six runs and leaving just one runner on base. Georgia turned the nine-man trick in the 7th inning as well, scoring four and stranding two on the basepaths.

- Thank Lou
In the middle of the 8th inning, press box official scorer Lou Spry come on the intercom to announce to the writers upstairs, "Just in case you lost track, the pitchers of record are Dodson of Georgia and Sprague of Fresno State."

- Long game, small crowd.
All-day rain meant that the crowd was even smaller tonight than it had been in recent days, as only 17,223 showed up. And to make matters worse, they had to endure a three-hour, 55 minute marathon too. Haven't these fans in Omaha had enough this week?

- These champions are the biggest losers.
Regardless of tomorrow's outcome, we are assured that this year's national champion will set the record for most losses by a title-winning team. Fresno is now 46-31 and Georgia is now 45-24-1. The previous high-water mark for losses in a title team was 23. That was the Stanford team of 1988 which went 46-23.


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QUOTES---
Coach Batesole's opening comment:
What Justin Miller and Holden Sprague gave us with what's left in the tank was pretty huge. keeping it clean on defense was important. I wouldn't put too much stocki in ht e 19 runs, if they score 9 runs in the first tomorrow it'll still be 0-0 in our guys mind.

On his team being road warriors:
"This club has a lot of heart. I keep saying that 'coz it's true. Usually when you go on the road you look forward to getting home and sleeping in your own bed. But we past that point about four weeks ago and kept going and going and going and we're going for another nine innings tomorrow."

On having 9-hole hitter Jordan Ribera come through so big:
"He's a tough kid and his numbers weren't indicative in the way he approaches his at-bats. He's a freshman and with freshmen you keep hoping he gets better and better and better. And he has."

On staff ace Justin Wilson getting the ball tomorrow night:
"He's going to be on three days rest instead of six. But with the adrenaline flowing I'm hoping to get four or five innings out of him. Just having him out there will be good. But what we were able to do tonight was also give Brandon Burke a day off. And he REALLY needed a day off. You could see that yesterday. He's kind of like Spraguey, you saw what he did with a new day. He should be able to give us three outs tomorrow."

Steve Susdorf, on whether he thought FSU would be in this position after the WAC tournament:
"It was tough to think that far ahead, especially after losing two to Sac State. But throughout the season we knew we had the tools to do it. We started to take it one day at a time and one pitch at a time, instead of thinking about the CWS and Regionals at that point.

Erik Wetzel on the turnaround of their season:
That's when we started taking things as a team, not worrying about the number of hits each guy had or the web gems we could make. We started playing as a team and going pitch-by-pitch and game-by-game.

Georgia coach Dave Perno's opening statement:
"We got everything we wanted out of the gate and got off to a quick start. We had a tough time defending the post pattern across the middle (a couple of snickers in the press room). We mismanaged the third inning. It was my bad."

On tomorrow's pitchers:
You're going to see Moreau, Weaver, McCree and Fields. Those are the guys that got us here and this is for all the marbles."

Gordon Beckham on tomorrow's game three:
It'll be a battle of undefeated teams in elimination games. It's going to be a dogfight." (cue the drummer's rimshot here)

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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