'08 CWS Diary: Fresno State vs. #8 Georgia

by Eric W. Freeman Jr., BaseballEvolution.com
June 26, 2008

6:00 p.m. – It's been a while, but I'm back, ready to cover the Cinderella story vs. "Dem Damned Dawgs." Fresno State and Georgia battle in tonight's Game 3 of the College World Series, and I don't have to work tonight, so I decided to make something of myself and follow the lead of great journalists like Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite, ready to stand guard against any and all nuances that happen to occur tonight.

6:02 p.m. – In the interest of full disclosure, I'm a die hard LSU fan (and student), and this game tonight honestly holds no interest for me. Fresno State has overcome nearly insurmountable odds going into tonight, facing some of the toughest teams in the nation -- including Rice and North Carolina twice each. If they win tonight, they would be the lowest seed in any collegiate sport to win the National Championship. But the grief and frustration that plowed me after LSU left the bases loaded in the 8th, only to see North Carolina hit a grand slam in the top of the 9th to eliminate the Tigers. So I'm torn. Fresno State winning tonight would be an incredible story, but I would be just as comfortable if the College World Series title stayed in the SEC. Oh well.

6:04 p.m. – I have HDTV. Erin Andrews is on the screen. Enough said.

6:05 p.m. – Georgia was beat down yesterday, winning 19-10 after giving up a five run lead.

6:07 p.m. – Junior southpaw Nathan Moreau gets the ball tonight for Georgia, having pitched in 17 games prior, posting a 4-3 record with a 5.22 ERA. His inside pitching is highlighted as he used it to defeat Vandy in the clincher earlier this month.

6:08 p.m. – Look out for White Sox draft pick Gordon Beckham from Georgia. His glove looks amazingly comparable to his range.

6:10 p.m. – Shortstop David Muno is up first for Fresno State, and he's hitting .391 in the Series. Remember his name. He's a freshman shortstop leading off. That's tremendous pressure.

6:12 p.m. – Muno has fouled off four pitches, and his swing reminds me of Fukudome. Not rushed but total plate coverage. I say that as he grounds out to second.

6:14 p.m. – Fresno State was a four seed in their regional, and ESPN has a graphic of regional seeding equivalents for baseball and basketball. Comparably, Fresno State is a 14 or a 15 seed if seeded by March Madness rules. It only emphasized just how far they've come. I think I'm slowly starting to let my preference known. Was it going to be any surprise? I'm a Cubs fan too. FOREVER THE UNDERDOG!!!

6:16 p.m. – They were also 4 games over .500 going into the WAC tournament and pretty much pronounced dead. Centerfielder Gavin Hedstrom smacks a single just in front of the third baseman and Fresno State's got one on.

6:18 p.m. – Second baseman Erik Wetzel now steps in, hitting .407 in the Series. He flies out to right.

6:20 p.m. – Steve Susdorf hit a two-run shot to right last night against Georgia, but in this first inning he shows me what a left-handed hitter should look like in the box. Before showing me anything, Hedstrom is gunned down by Georgia catcher Joey Lewis, starting behind the plate in place of Bryce Massanari who moved to DH.

6:24 p.m. – We’re now in the bottom of the first, and Fresno State’s pitcher is fat. His name is Justin Wilson, he’s pitched in 22 games, earning an 8-5 record with a 4.34 ERA. But for this running diary, he will be known as Fatboy Wilson.

6:25 p.m. – As Georgia third baseman Ryan Peisel steps in, I can’t help but think that I can’t refer to either of these teams by their mascot name. They’re both the Bulldogs. Well, technically Fresno State is the Bulldogs, whereas Georgia is “Dat dem Dawgs AWYDERE$#%@#,” I guess.

6:26 p.m. – Fatboy’s got some filthy stuff. Meisel struck out like he was John Cusack 25 minutes before the movie ends.

6:27 p.m. – Matt Olson hits the ball straight to second for the second out.

6:28 p.m. – Gordon Beckham steps in with ridiculous numbers. .410 batting average, 27 homers (1 behind LSU’s Matt Clark for the nation’s lead), 76 RBIs, a .519 OBP, and in the CWS, 10-19 with a homer and 4 RBIs. For college?

6:29 p.m. – He smacks a changeup lightly into left field for a beautiful hit. The kind of beauty that comes after a Tony Gwynn single. It doesn’t sell tickets, but it wins ball games and looks like real baseball.

6:29 p.m. – These names are testing my spell check. First baseman Rich Poythress steps in with a healthy .375 average and 75 RBIs. He has 8 RBIs in the CWS, helping Georgia go to 4-1 in the CWS. He promptly flies out.

6:29 p.m. – Steve Susdorf, the Philadelphia Phillies’ 19th pick in the Draft, smacks a line drive that careens off Poythress’s glove and into left for a single.

6:30 p.m. – Next up for Fresno State is first baseman Alan Ahmady, batting .386 coming into the CWS, as Susdorf’s hit is ruled an error by Poythress. Ahmady flies out to left.

6:32 p.m. – Seven first round draft picks have played this year in the College World Series. ::Carsenio-esque:: I did not know that. That is some weird, wild stuff.

6:33 p.m. – YES!

6:34 p.m. – Fresno State has lost two games in Omaha, but the second loss came as a part of the Best of Three format for the final. Poythress flies out to center to end the first, but the announcer brings up the point that Fresno State has played the maximum amount of tournament games possible. They’ve faced elimination at every stage, defeating San Diego 5-1 in the Regional, #3 ranked Arizona State twice in the Super Regional, #2 North Carolina in the CWS to earn a spot in the final, and they won in lieu of going home yesterday against Georgia 19-10. This is truly stunning.

6:35 p.m. – Right fielder Steve Detweiler steps in with one out and a runner on first, and he has a torn ligament in his left hand. Yet, he’s playing in this elimination game. There’s no tendon in there. I don’t know how he was cleared to play. He’s only hitting .256.

6:36 p.m. – The announcer announces that Detweiler is a reliable hitter in clutch situations, including the hit-and-run Fresno State is trying to execute now with a 3-2 count.

6:36 p.m. – I guess I feel stupid?

6:37 p.m. – Detweiler hits Fresno State’s 13th home run in this CWS. He has no thumb on his left hand, and he just took Nathan Moreau deep to right.

6:38 p.m. – I officially feel stupid. I forgot the Cardinal Rule about Omaha – ironically, established by Stanford. Anything can happen in Omaha. Third baseman Tommy Mendonca strikes out hard for out #2.

6:39 p.m. – Catcher Jake Johnson flies out to first, but the damage has been done by Detweiler. 2-0 Fresno State.

6:41 p.m. – Georgia DH Bryce Massanari steps in, as Fatboy pitches against Georgia’s Fatboy. hits a shot to shortstop Muno who bobbles and can’t make the play at first, despite Massanari’s girth. They cut to Massanari’s hot wife Lauren and their new baby. I still love HDTV.

6:42 p.m. – Matt Cerione hits a single to right for Georgia, and now runners are on first and second with no out.

6:43 p.m. – Catcher Joey Lewis, the one that gunned Gavin Hedstrom, strikes out on three straight pitches.

6:44 p.m. – Lyle Allen up next with one out, as the shadows of Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium come into play. He strikes out on three straight.

6:45 p.m. – Erin Andrews again. I’m still in love.

6:46 p.m. – Since Cerione’s hit, including foul balls, Fatboy’s pitched 10 straight strikes. Number 11 is called too high for second baseman Miles Starr. Fatboy is looking more and more like David Wells, in size and facial expression. He’s listed on the Bulldog Web site at 210, and allegedly he’s younger than me by six months and a day.

6:47 p.m. – Miles Starr is battling pretty good, although still at a 1-2 count. He hits it to David Muno, who throws it too high to achieve the fielder’s choice at second. It’s his second error of the inning after playing flawlessly in the CWS up to tonight. Bases loaded, two out.

6:48 p.m. – Ryan Peisel hits a deep shot to center, but is out ten feet short of the fence. Fatboy gets out of the inning, after getting five outs if not for David Muno. I told you to remember the name. So much for pressure.

6:53 p.m. – Fresno State’s nine-hole, catcher Danny Grubb, in only hitting .181. By the way, the “announcer” is Mike Patrick, being joined by Orel Hershiser. Grubb flies out the right for the first out. As Grubb walks back to the dugout, ESPN’s “other” field man stands in front of the gate as Grubb walks past him, obviously pissed.

6:55 p.m. – The shortstop, David Muno, is up as Fresno State gets back to the top of the order. Muno hits to second, and a nice play by Miles Starr gets him out.

6:56 p.m. – Now it’s Hedstrom again with two outs, and Moreau’s having problems with his control. His breaking balls are dipping too low, but it doesn’t stop him from inducing a fly out to center to end the inning. Meanwhile, ESPN’s Bottom line shocks me by reporting that the Kansas City Royals are 9-1 in their last 10 games. Really?!?!?

7:01 p.m. – Matt Olson comes up for Georgia, as Fatboy Wilson’s stuff is still nasty. He misses low with a couple breaking balls, but gets it back up to even the count at 2-2. Olson hits it to Mendonca at third, they show Erin Andrews again (ahhh), and we have one out.

7:02 p.m. – Gordon Beckham hits a shot to deep right, but Detweiler fights off the sun for out number two. Beckham holds the all-time Georgia record for home runs and is a 2nd team Academic All-American. He’ll be a very smart baseball player.

7:03 p.m. – Rich Poythress singles to left with two outs to keep the inning alive.

7:04 p.m. – Bryce Massanari has apparently been mocked for gaining weight during the season, and it shows in Omaha. He’s 3 for 19 up there. But his hot wife Lauren looks stunning in HD. Their daughter’s name is Marley, if you care. Marley Massanari. Nice.

7:05 p.m. – Fatboy vs. Fatboy turns into a great at-bat, lasting eight pitches with an inning-ending strikeout. Bryce is pissed, Lauren looks hotly concerned, and Marley is giggling.

7:09 p.m. – Fresno State has gone from Sacramento State for their final regular season game on 5/16, to Ruston, LA for the WAC Tournament on 5/22, then to the Long Beach, CA Regional on 5/30, the Tempe, FL Super Regional on 6/7, and Omaha on 6/15, making them road warriors for the past 42 consecutive days.

7:10 p.m. – Top of the fourth, second baseman Erik Wetzel up for Fresno State. Moreau gets back into form by striking him out with high heat.

7:12 p.m. – Fresno State third baseman Tommy Mendonca was selected yesterday to the U.S. National Team for the summer, and will head to Gary, NC tomorrow to play ten games before going to Europe.

7:12 p.m. – Left fielder Steve Susdorf steps in with one out and walks.

7:14 p.m. – First baseman Alan Ahmady comes up, strikes out, and screams.

7:16 p.m. – The first pitch to Steve Detweiler is low, Susdorf takes off for second, and Joey Lewis chucks it over second into left, allowing Susdorf to take third.

7:17 p.m. – Mike Patrick: “I don’t know about you, I don’t mess with Detweiler.”

7:18 p.m. – Detweiler screams a double to the wall in center, scoring Susdorf, increasing Fresno State’s lead 3-0 and his own mystique by playing without a tendon in his thumb.

7:20 p.m. – Tommy Mendonca can’t focus on tonight’s game, maybe because of his upcoming U.S. of Play. He strikes out swinging the bat four straight times, with the one foul ball being on a low sinker. End of the inning, 3-0 Fresno.

7:23 p.m. – Matt Cerione steps in for Georgia. He is frozen with a fastball on the outside corner, Fatboy’s fourth strikeout. Cerione takes issue with the call and jaws a bit, but that pitch was good looking. They cut to Cerione in the dugout throwing his bat to the ground, but the audio picks him up screaming “FUCK YOU BITCH!” out to the umpire. Ah, Southern Gentlemen.

7:23.55 p.m. – Mike Patrick: “Whoa.”

7:24 p.m. – Catcher Joey Lewis his a deep ball to center that bounces off the top of the wall and drops in front of the center fielder for a standing triple. He has sufficiently made up for his chuck.

7:25 p.m. – Lyle Allen strikes out again, Fatboy’s fifth. Two out.

7:26 p.m. – Miles Starr strikes out. Fatboy’s sixth. End of the fourth inning.

7:31 p.m. – Fresno State DH Jake Johnson leads off the fifth, as the sun stays out and plentiful. He hits a high bouncer to third, recovered by Peisel and thrown to first for the first out.

7:32 p.m. – Georgia center fielder Matt Cerione shows his range by running down out number two, courtesy of catcher Danny Grubb. He’s down to .179.

7:34 p.m. – Top of the order with two outs, Danny Muno steps in.

7:34 p.m. – The Rays are now beating the Marlins 8-0. That’s not an egregious typo.

7:35 p.m. – Muno flies out to right. I just got a memo in my e-mail: “The Devil Rays are not only just the Rays, they’re also good this year.” Guys, A LITTLE HEADS UP WOULD HAVE BEEN NICE! Carlos Pena’s still on the DL, he’s still on my fantasy team, and the Rays will start sucking when he comes back. It’s the worst kind of karma I’ve gotten used to over the years.

7:38 p.m. – Mike Patrick ended Fatboy’s previous inning by exclaiming, in that Mike Patrick way, “Wilson has six….strikeouts this evening!” I thought he was off by one, as I was sure I wrote down seven different strikeouts. A quick look up at what I just wrote counts seven strikeouts, but only gives credit for six because I trusted Mike Patrick. We begin the bottom of the fifth now, and Orel Hershiser’s talking about Wilson’s seven strikeouts. Fucking Mike Patrick…

7:38 p.m. – Ryan Peisel steps in and grounds to third. Erin Andrews….alright, I’ll stop it. ARE YOU WATCHING ERIN ANDREWS IN HD? I DON’T THINK SO!

7:39 p.m. – Matt Olson, 0-2 tonight, comes in and takes the first two strikes before fouling one off. Fatboy slips off the mound during that pitch and slams his pitching hand in the dirt. Looks like his thumb grazed the mound. He recovers quickly and strikes out Olson. Number 8 for Fatboy.

7:42 p.m. – Gordon Beckham now up, the All-American shortstop. His father was a QB at South Carolina from 1979-82, but it doesn’t stop him from flying out to Detweiler in right. 1-2-3 inning for Fatboy as Fresno State leads after 5, 3-0.

7:46 p.m. – Dean Weaver comes in for Georgia to pitch the top of the sixth. The righty is 6-1 on the season, including 1-0 in the CWS. Moreau’s night is done after five innings and three runs, two of the earned variety.

7:47 p.m. – The umpire stops play, comes up to the mound to talk, but neither Mike Patrick nor Orel Hershiser has any idea what’s going on.

7:48 p.m. – Gavin Hedstrom grounds out to shortstop for the first out.

7:49 p.m. – Erik Wetzel tries to surprise bunt, but Weaver picks it up and throws to first for the second out.

7:50 p.m. – Georgia would be the first team ever to win the title with a losing record in the previous season, as they went 23-33 last year.

7:51 p.m. – Steve Susdorf comes up with two outs and shoots one to left. It bounces off the wall and kicks back in for a double.

7:52 p.m. – Alan Ahmady comes up with two out, two RBIs short of the nation lead. He already owns the single season record, but coming through here with two outs would be clutch, especially with Steve Detweiler on deck.

7:54 p.m. – Ahmady walks, and now runners are on first and second with two out for the 2 for 2 Detweiler, still sans ligament in his thumb. As Orel Hershiser explains, “They’re gonna get one [ligament], and put her in, like Tommy John surgery for your thumb.” Ah, former Dodgers.

7:56 p.m. – After two balls, Detweiler takes strike one.

7:56 p.m. – Tense.

7:56 p.m. – Very tense.

7:56 p.m. – Ball three, high.

7:57 p.m. – LEEGAMENTS! WE DON’T NEED NO STINKING LEEGAMENTS!!! Detweiler homers to deep left, off a high heater from Weaver.

7:57 p.m. – Mike Patrick: “IMAGINE WHAT HE CAN DO WITH TWO THUMBS!”

7:58 p.m. – Ground ball out by Mendonca ends the inning, but Detweiler has all six Fresno State RBIs. In the middle of the sixth inning, Steve Detweiler 6, The University of Georgia 0.

8:00 p.m. – For the crap I’ve talked about Fatboy, he’s pitching really well. And Detweiler has set four CWS records with his performance tonight.

8:00 p.m. – Poythress flies out to center for one.

8:01 p.m. – Massanari flies out to right center for two. No hot wife shot.

8:01 p.m. – Cerione swings at the 0-2, his bat flies into Fresno’s dugout. I’ll say it again. I love HDTV. Especially in slow motion.

8:03 p.m. – They show the Fresno dugout on the next pitch, as the entire team ducks under the net.

8:04 p.m. – They show it twice.

8:05 p.m. – Mike Patrick: “There’s nothing like baseball humor, right?”

8:06 p.m. – Cerione pushes the count to 3-2 after a headhunter. The payoff is chopped to Mendonca, who picks it nicely and fires it to first for the third out. Fatboy gets out of the sixth.

8:08 p.m. – Top of the seventh, Fresno is three innings away from history.

8:08 p.m. – Jordan Ribera pinch-hits for Jake Johnson at DH, as Weaver is still on the hill. Ribera charges it to right field but Olson catches it.

8:09 p.m. – 44,535 people voted in ESPN.com’s poll of tonight’s outcome. 69.3% picked Georgia.

8:10 p.m. – Danny Grubb digs in, 0-2 for the night. He flies out to left field.

8:11 p.m. – Top of the order with two outs, Danny Muno comes up. He smokes one to center for a nice looking single.

8:12 p.m. – Hedstrom bunts nicely to the third base side, but Weaver snatches, turns and fires to first in time by an inch. Still 6-0.

8:13 p.m. – Mike Patrick: “Fresno State would be THE LOWEST SEEDED TEAM IN THE NCAA TO WIN THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP. EVER. EVER. And ever is a long time.”

8:14 p.m. – Matt Cerione flies out to center for out number one.

8:15 p.m. – Joey Lewis flies out to first on the next pitch. Ten straight outs for Fatboy.

8:15 p.m. – Lyle Allen hits one to Muno at short, but he doesn’t lay down the glove and it skittles to left for Muno’s third error. Fatboy doesn’t look worried, but two pitches later, a wild pitch sends Allen to second, and two more pitches later places Ryan Peisel on first with Fatboy’s first walk.

8:16 p.m. – Matt Olson steps up with two out and two on for Fatboy. After the 1-1 count, Fatboy’s up to 111 pitches. Well, he only has two pitches, the fastball and the big curve. But from a lefty, it’s effective. Olson flies out to Hedstrom in center, as Georgia strands two more. Fatboy’s on fire.

8:23 p.m. – Erik Wetzel steps up first for Fresno, and quickly grounds out to second. I’m just wondering if I have a secret power. Every athlete I’ve ever spoken ill of before seeing what they can do ends up putting on a show.

8:25 p.m. – Steve Susdorf is hit in the elbow and advances to first after a quick checkup.

8:27 p.m. – Why was Shawn Chacon suspended from the Houston Astros?

8:29 p.m. – Alan Ahmady hits it sharply to the pitcher who throws it to second, but they can’t turn two. Runner on first for The Detweiler.

8:30 p.m. – The Detweiler just went 4-4. He smacks a single to right field on the first pitch which Matt Olson short hops. Runners on first and third.

8:31 p.m. – Alex McRee comes in to pitch for Georgia. Weaver’s night is done.

8:33 p.m. – Tommy Mendonca hasn’t got anything started tonight, and with an 0-2 count and two outs with two on, Mendonca hits it to deep right, but Olson snares it in.

8:37 p.m. – Gordon Beckham steps in for Georgia, and the shutout is over. He homers to deep right to tie LSU’s Matt Clark for the NCAA’s home run lead. Frankly, he looks like Matt Damon, but I won’t hold it against him.

8:38 p.m. – Rich Poythress flies out to first.

8:39 p.m. – Bryce Massanari flies out to center. Two down.

8:41 p.m. – Matt Cerione has taken his meds, but it hasn’t helped him to take strike three again. Fatboy’s line: 8 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 17 giant veins in his neck after screaming with joy.

8:42 p.m. – Rays: 15. Marlins: 1. Fantasy Points for Carl Crawford: Priceless.

8:45 p.m. – Nick Hom comes off the bench to smack a single into center. Trent Soares pinch hits for Hom.

8:46 p.m. – Danny Grubb is hitting .177 after his 0-3 night tonight. In this fourth at-bat, as Mike Patrick thanks the crew, who are all shown holding cameras pointed at each other, but none of them wave. That’s a professional crew.

8:48 p.m. – Soares takes off for second, and Lewis’s throw is perfect, but the slide kicks the ball out.

8:49 p.m. – Grubb gives himself up to second base, and with the pitcher covering, Soares takes third. One out.

8:50 p.m. – Top of the order, Danny Muno’s fifth at-bat after going 1-4 with three egregiously freshman errors. He takes a called strike three.

8:52 p.m. – Joshua Fields, the nation’s top closer and the Seattle Mariners’ 20th overall pick, comes in at the top of the ninth with two outs. He’s 18 for 18 in save opportunities this season, tied for first in the nation, but the manager’s giving him his due.

8:53 p.m. – Gavin Hedstrom is swinging at 95 mph cheese. Ground ball out to second. THREE OUTS AWAY.

8:54 p.m. – ESPN ain’t cutting to commercial.

8:55 p.m. – Clayton Allison comes in to close it out for Fresno, as Fatboy gets hugs and high fives from his teammates. 129 pitches, one memorable night.

8:58 p.m. – Joey Lewis hits a scorcher to right which takes a funny hop around Detweiler, giving Lewis a double. Mike Patrick remarks that the first mistake for Detweiler had to come at some time in Omaha.

8:59 p.m. – Robbie O’Bryan steps in to pinch hit, and takes the first three balls from Allison before the first strike call. Ball four is wide right, and Allison walks him to put runners on first and second. That’s all she wrote for Clayton Allison, and they go to Brandon Burke, the actual closer in lieu of the senior Allison, from the bullpen.

9:04 p.m. – Tonight is Burke’s 38th appearance, and he has 15 saves on the season. Adam Fuller pinch runs for Robbie O’Bryan, but a ground ball to Danny Muno induces a double play, making up for his horrible performance. His teammates are in shock.

9:05 p.m. – Ryan Peisel steps up with a runner on third, two outs in the bottom of the ninth. After working the count to 2-2, Burke fist pumps after ball three, thinking it to be a strike. The next pitch is a ball, and Peisel walks to first.

9:06 p.m. – Matt Olson steps up with runners on first and third, but on the first pitch, he flies out to – who else? – Detweiler. Fresno State University wins the 2008 College World Series. He shoves the ball in his pocket and runs to the middle of the field for the Dog Pile.

The championship shirts are flying out, the tears are flowing, and the one thing we knew would happen going into tonight’s game came true.

The Bulldogs are National Champions.

Eric lives in Baton Rouge, where he cheers on LSU up close and the Chicago Cubs from afar. Send him questions or comments at eric@baseballevolution.com.