Georgia rallies to take Game 1
Posted: Tuesday, June 24, 2008 7:17 pm
By: By ERIC OLSON, AP Sports Writer
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Gordon Beckham’s teammates had given him a hard time for a week because he hadn’t hit the home run that would make him Georgia’s career leader.
“Tonight,” he said, “was a pretty good time to do it.”
Yes, it was.
Beckham’s two-run shot to left-center started a four-run eighth inning that brought Georgia from three runs down to defeat Fresno State 7-6 in Game 1 of the College World Series finals Monday night.
Matt Cerione and Joey Lewis followed with consecutive doubles for the tying and go-ahead runs, and then All-America closer Joshua Fields pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to finish off Fresno State.
Georgia (45-23-1) now stands one win from a second national championship to go with the one it won in 1990. Fresno State (45-31), 4-0 in elimination games in the NCAA Tournament, will try to keep its improbable postseason run alive when the teams meet in Game 2 this evening.
“We’re a loose ballclub,” Fresno State third baseman Tommy Mendonca said. “We can’t play tense and tight. That’s when errors and mental mistakes come. We can’t be all angry about every little thing. It’s baseball. You’re going to fail. We just have to be calm, be loose, be easy.”
Fresno State appeared to take control in the top of the eighth inning Monday when it scored three runs to go up 6-3 against Alex McRee and two other relievers.
But Georgia, which had rallied in the seventh inning or later to win its first two CWS games, wasn’t finished.
“We never think we’re out of it,” Beckham said. “We showed it tonight.”
Beckham, the eighth overall pick of the draft by the Chicago White Sox, hadn’t homered since hitting two in Georgia’s super regional-clinching win over North Carolina State on June 8.
“I told Coach earlier on in the week that everybody was giving me a bunch of grief for not hitting a home run and breaking that record,” Beckham said. “I told him, ‘Coach I’m going to hit one when we need it most.’ I’m happy it worked out, but we still have to win another game.”
Georgia coach David Perno vouched for Beckham.
“All the way back to his freshman year, Beckham has called his shots,” Perno said.
After Matt Olson singled leading off the bottom of the eighth, Fresno State called on closer Brandon Burke. Beckham sent Burke’s second pitch over the fence for his first homer in Omaha, 27th of the season and school-record 52nd of his career.
“He threw me a first-pitch strike. I choked up after that a half-inch,” Beckham said. “I figured he would come fastball at some point. He threw it. It was out over the plate, and I pulled it.”
As the ball left the bat, Burke shook his head and broke into a big smile.
That smile quickly disappeared.
Burke (4-6) walked Rich Poythress, and then Cerione, who struck out five times against Stanford on Saturday, doubled into the left-field corner.
Poythress made it home from first, coming across the plate for the game-tying run as Danny Muno’s relay throw hit him in the back.
Cerione scored the go-ahead run when Lewis’ bouncer up the middle glanced off the second-base bag and shot into short left field.
Will Harvil (2-1), the fourth of Georgia’s five pitchers, worked a third of the inning for the win.
Fields, who gave up four ninth-inning runs to Stanford on Saturday, rebuilt some confidence with his 12-pitch outing to end the game.
“I tried to forget about everything negative and start over today,” he said.
Steve Susdorf’s nation-leading 32nd double ignited a three-run eighth that gave Fresno State a 6-3 lead.
Mendonca hit his 18th homer and Steve Detwiler followed with an RBI double against Justin Earls.
Jordan Ribera and Detwiler also hit homers for Fresno State.
Georgia’s Trevor Holder overcame a grounder to his right shin in the third inning and gave up three runs on four hits in seven innings, his team’s longest outing by a starter in Omaha.
Holder’s quality start allowed Perno to save pitchers and makes it possible for Stephen Dodson, who has pitched just 32/3 innings at the College World Series, to start a Game 3, if needed Wednesday.
“He laid it out there tonight,” Perno said. “He pitched like midseason form and stayed out of the crooked numbers. It was good on our bullpen, and now we should be fresh.”