Gold bone headed to Fresno pound after win vs. Ga.
Posted: Thursday, June 26, 2008 3:03 pm
By: By ERIC OLSON, AP Sports Writer
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — “Road to Omaha” is the catch phrase of College World Series hopefuls across the country.
For Fresno State, it led to a surprising run to the national championship.
Wednesday night’s 6-1 victory over Georgia in Game 3 of the CWS finals marked Fresno State’s 22nd straight road game since May 11.
Fresno State’s players and staff were on the road 34 of the previous 41 days.
“Who would think we could stay together as a team being home in our own beds seven days and still coming out performing,” said third baseman Tommy Mendonca, who was the CWS’ most outstanding player. “It’s a special group of guys.”
The long journey started with a regular-season series at Sacramento State, then to Ruston, La., for the Western Athletic Conference tournament, on to Long Beach, Calif., for an NCAA regional and then to Tempe, Ariz., for super regionals.
When the team traveled to Omaha, its plane was diverted to Lincoln because of a tornado warning. The Bulldogs had to bus the last 50 miles of their trip.
“The road has become our home,” center fielder Gavin Hedstrom said. “We’ve been so busy trying to do what we’ve been doing winning games, that it’s been a great time.”
With Steve Detwiler providing the offense for pitcher Justin Wilson, the Bulldogs captured their first national championship in a men’s sport.
Detwiler homered twice and drove in all six runs, and Wilson allowed five hits in eight innings to cap Fresno State’s ride to a title.
Mendonca said it’s time to put the underdog talk to rest.
“From here on out, underdog does not mean anything,” he said. “Write it down. Underdog does not mean anything. We showed anything can happen.”
Fresno State was forecast to be a Top 25 team coming into the season, but the Bulldogs lost 12 of their first 20 games. They needed to win the Western Athletic Conference tournament just to make the NCAA field of 64, fought off elimination in regionals and super regionals, and became the first No. 4 regional seed to reach the CWS since the tournament expanded in 1999.
The Bulldogs (47-31) from California not only showed they belonged, they showed they were the best, even though no previous national champion had more losses. The national title was the second in school history. Fresno State won the 1998 softball title.
“They’re a true champion, and they did it the hard way,” Georgia coach David Perno said.
Fresno State knocked off No. 3 national seed Arizona State in the super regionals and beat No. 6 Rice and No. 2 North Carolina twice to get to the CWS finals. By the time the Bulldogs met up with Georgia, the No. 8 seed, in the best-of-three final round, the slogan “Underdogs to Wonderdogs” was being spotted on T-shirts and signs all over Rosenblatt Stadium.
“These guys beat the best,” Fresno State coach Mike Batesole said, “and I guess that’s what you have to do to win a national championship.”
Mendonca tied a CWS record with four homers, drove in 11 runs and made a number of spectacular plays in the field.
But in the finale, Detwiler was the star.
“Everybody was having amazing at-bats and seeing the ball,” he said. “I got lucky and capitalized on a few of them.”
Playing with a torn ligament in his left thumb, he hit a two-run homer on Nathan Moreau’s 3-2 pitch in the second inning that barely cleared the right-field fence, just getting over the glove of Matt Olson.
There was no doubt about Detwiler’s second homer, a high drive that landed three-quarters of the way up the stands in left field.
That three-run shot off Dean Weaver was Detwiler’s third homer of the CWS and 12th of the season.
It also marked the fourth time a player homered twice in a championship game.
Detwiler, who added an RBI double in the fourth, said he didn’t let his thumb injury hinder him.
“It’s mind over matter,” he said. “It’s just a little pain. The pain is temporary. Pride is forever.”
Detwiler caught a fly in right for the final out of the game — just as his teammates predicted in the dugout before they went out for the ninth. He tucked the ball into his back pocket and sprinted to join his teammates in a wild celebration.
Someone suggested he auction the ball. Detwiler just laughed.
This ball, he said, was a keeper.
Wilson (5-5) turned in the best performance of any starter in this year’s CWS. The junior left-hander struck out nine, walked one and held Georgia to three singles and a triple in seven shutout innings.
“When you’ve got a wonderful defense behind you and your offense is outstanding, it can’t get better than that,” Wilson said.
Gordon Beckham ended Wilson’s shutout bid when he homered leading off the eighth. His 28th homer tied him with LSU’s Matt Clark for the national lead.
Wilson, after throwing 127 pitches, gave way to Clayton Allison to start the ninth. Joey Lewis singled leading off and Lyle Allen walked for Georgia (45-25-1).
Batesole called on closer Brandon Burke, who got Miles Starr to hit into a double play.
Burke walked Peisel to put runners at the corners, and got a line out to Detwiler in right to end the game.
A year after Oregon State won its second consecutive CWS title with a surprising late-season run, Fresno State pulled off an even bigger surprise and became the seventh straight champion from west of the Mississippi River.