CWS, Day 12: It's Fresno!
THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES
... and that ONE is Fresno State!
(Bulldoggin' it. The Fresno players show the hardware on the pitcher's mound in Rosenblatt after beating Georgia 6-1 to win the school's first baseball national championship.)
And you thought Oregon State in 2006 was shocking.
What the bloody hell is going on in college baseball these days? Four seeds winning the brass ring? Guys that hit .256 slamming home six RBI? A starting pitcher actually going more than seven innings in the CWS? A guy that went 0-for-4 getting named the MVP?
But amidst all the chaos, let me just say this: This is Steve Detwiler's world, we're just living in it. The Sophomore from Forest Knolls, California turned this into his own main stage tonight, tearing the cover off everything the Georgia pitching staff had to offer to lead his fellow Dogs to a win on this humid, sticky night.
Oh and I guess he'd go ahead and share the world with Justin Wilson too, since the Bulldog starter threw 129 pitches, giving up just five hits and one run and striking out nine in a dominating role.
In other words, it's just one of those nights that makes legends out of student-athletes.
87 degrees, 61% humidity (though it felt much worse), Winds at 7mph out of the South.
Fresno - 020 103 000 - 6 8 4
Georgia-000 000 010 - 1 6 2
WP: Justin Wilson (9-5)
LP: Nathan Moreau (4-4)
Steve Detwiler: 4-for-4, 6RBI, 2HRs, double.
Gordon Beckham: 2-for-4, RBI, HR
Let's talk about a guy who had a strained ligament in his thumb that will require surgery, a guy who went 2-for-22 in the Regionals and Super Regionals, a guy who was hitting .231 in Omaha and a guy who was considered nearly a sure out every time he strode to the dish.
His name is Steve Detwiler. And even with those cruddy credentials, this is a guy who put on a hitting clinic so complete tonight, I can't wait for the instructional DVD to come out.
All he did was single-handedly account for every one of Fresno State's six runs that crossed the plate. Check out this succession of at-bats:
- HR, 2RBI
- Double, RBI
- HR, 3RBI
What, no RBI on that last at-bat? That amounts to a huge slump for our boy now.
But really, I'm not pulling any punches when I say that this may have been the biggest clutch performance for a .256 hitter in the history of the College World Series.
(Steve Detwiler looked locked-in before his 6th inning at bat.)
(The play that changed the game. Detwiler launches a rocket toward his image on the outfield scoreboard. UGa third baseman Ryan Peisel never flinched, knowing that moon shot was gone from the get-go.)
(His bite is worse than his bark. Detwiler growls after hitting the bomb and being greeted by his teammates.)
And couple that with a gutsy performance from the aformentioned Justin Wilson on the rubber, who went 8.0 innings to get the win despite going on just three days rest.
"I knew from the minute he threw that first ball tonight that he was locked in." Coach Mike Batesole would say. "I knew he was going to be lights out, no matter who was in the other dugout."
Too bad somebody didn't tell Georgia about that locked-in look. Other than a Beckham home run in the 8th inning, the Southern Dogs didn't seem to be themselves at all.
Yet, they also weren't anywhere close to being out of this one. Down just 3-zip in through five, everybody in the stadium knew this was a team that had four come-from-behind wins in Omaha alone. You got the feeling that it was only a question of when for these guys.
But after Georgia reliever Dean Weaver got the first two outs of the 6th inning, he ran into a little trouble. He gave up a sharp double to Steve Susdorf and then walked Alan Ahmady. Then Detwiler went back up to the plate again. And once again, he delivered, this time cranking an absolute no-doubt, bet-the-mortgage blazer well into the left field stands. In fact, Georgia Third Baseman Ryan Peisel never even moved.
That three-run yard call made it 6-0 and you could see the collective shoulders of the Georgia players begin to slump. Their best swings were pop-ups. Mr. Detwilers best swings found the hands of the fans in the stands.
"It was just one of those things. Our balls died at the warning track. Theirs went over the fence." Said Georgia coach Dave Perno.
Needless to say, on offense, It was all about the Steves for Fresno tonight.
In the top of the second inning, Susdorf made it to first on a line shot that just tipped off the glove of UGa First Baseman Rich Poythress. Then, Detwiler started his stunning night with a two-run fence scraper that barely alluded the reach of Georgia Right Fielder Matt Olson, pitting FSU to a quick 2-0 lead after two innings.
A few innings later, Detweiler struck again with a thundering double to the wall that scored Susdorf once again, leading to a 3-0 advantage.
Meanwhile, the usually stout Fresno D was shaky, as frosh Shortstop Danny Muno committed a pair of errors in the second inning that led to a bases-loaded mess for Wilson to pitch his way out of. But that he did, enticing leadoff man Peisel to flyout harmlessly to center field.
In the end, the big Georgia push never came. Beckham got his 28th home run of the year in the 8th, but nobody else could even get the ball beyond an outfielder and there was no momentum to their swings.
Brandon Burke came on in the 9th to get the final three outs of the game and secure a rather unlikely national championship for Fresno State University. These Bulldogs proved to be the tougher Dogs tonight.
And that's just fine for Steve Detwiler's world.
(After Detwiler makes the catch for the last out of the game - in the background - the Fresno bench explodes onto the field for the awaiting dogpile celebration.)
Despite an 0-for-4 performance at the dish tonight and 6-for-24 overall in the Series, the Most Valuable Player of the CWS was 3Bman Tommy Mendonca, who flashed incredible leather all week and hit a trio of home runs along the way. Keep in mind, he's only a Sophomore too.
(Manning the hot corner, Mendonca was in the Dawgs heads all week long)
- Move over ladies.
Make room for a second national title in Fresno. Tonight's win was only the second national championship in Fresno State history. The other one being the ladies softball national title in 1998.
For the fifth straight year the winner of the national championship is a team that was not a National seed.
- Again II.
For the seventh straight year the winner of the national championship is a team from West of the Mississippi River.
- Third time no charm.
For the third time since LSU's last national title an SEC team loses the national title round.
- Gotta Be the Bats.
Much like I heard from Ohio State players last year, the scuttlebutt around Rosenblatt is that Georgia players have been wholly disenchanted with the lack of jump that their Nike bats have given them. So much so that it's been said that their players have it in their heads that their bats aren't as powerful as the ones their opponents swung this year.
(Even Dave Perno said in the post-game press conference, everything Georgia hit just ended up dying on the warning track. Thank you Nike bats?)
I've heard in the past that the big complaint is that Nike puts all their research and development into football equipment and basketball shoes and doesn't put as much money into making the best equipment for baseball.
- On the other hand.
Gordon Beckham DID hit 28th home run of the year tonight, tying him with LSU's Matt Clark for the national lead.
- One last bat note.
In the post-game press conference, Ryan Peisel brought up an interesting quote about the bats that were used in this game. "The thing that scared me about Fresno State was that they played a lot like us. And the thing that scared me the most was that they swung Easton bats and we didn't."
- Gordon rules.
Along with tying the national home run mark this year, Beckham also finished the season with 113 hits, breaking UGa's previous mark of 111 by Joey Side in 2006.
- Freshman jitters.
You'd think by game No. 78 of the season, the Frosh jitters would be gone. But first-year SS Danny Muno had some early problems, committing a pair of errors in the second inning. One on a simple groundout to start Georgia's 2nd inning and another five batters later that helped load the bases.
- Key Play of the Night.
After those two blunders, the Junkyard Dogs had the bases loaded and were threatening to get right back into the game. But Justin Wilson was able to get Ryan Peisel to fly out to deep center to end the threat. Again, another warning track shot.