By TOM STAD
June 26, 2008
Fresno State 6, No. 8 Georgia 1
Fresno State wins series 2-1
Prior to last night’s deciding Game 3 of the College World Series finals, the Fresno State baseball website was promoting a “Welcome Home” celebration at their home park - Beiden Field - tonight at 7 p.m. Maybe that’s just the way you plan a championship celebration before you’ve won the title if yours happens to be the biggest underdog story ever. Now Mike Batesole’s bunch has a national championship to celebrate for real, as Fresno State (47-31) won the NCAA baseball title yesterday with a 6-1 victory over No. 8 Georgia (45-25-1). Tonight’s party in Fresno will put an exclamation point on an improbable 43-day odyssey that started in Louisiana at the WAC Tournament, moved back across the country to Long Beach for the regional round of the NCAA tournament, continued with a trip to Tempe, Ariz., to shock Arizona State in the Super Regional and then concluded in Omaha, where Fresno State completed its improbable run by taking two of three from Georgia to become the 2008 NCAA baseball champions.
Fresno State didn’t just win last night’s game - they won it in style. Junior lefthander Justin Wilson (9-5, 4.14 ERA) pitched eight unbelievable innings, shutting down a Georgia offense that had averaged more than seven runs a game in the College World Series. Wilson had already started twice in Omaha - picking up one win - so he was only expected to pitch about three innings. That plan certainly wasn’t set in stone as Wilson threw 124 pitches and, save for serving up All-American Gordon Beckham’s 28th home run of the year - a solo shot that tied Beckham for the national lead with Matt Clark of LSU - Wilson kept Georgia off the board, allowing just four other hits and one walk while striking out nine. In other words, Wilson pitched the game of his life. He had plenty of help from his offense, which outscored Georgia 25-6 over the last 15 1/2 innings of the series. Last night’s hero was a guy who has been dinged up for quite a while, yet keeps on raking. Sophomore right fielder Steve Detwiler (4-for-4, six RBI, two runs) has been playing with an injured thumb, but somehow found the strength to drive in all six of the Fresno State runs with a pair of home runs, a double and a single. Detwiler set single-game championship records for home runs, extra-base hits, runs batted in and total bases. In a word: Phenomenal.
While Georgia is left to ponder what might have been, Fresno State returns to what will undoubtedly be a packed house in Fresno tonight for that “Welcome Home” celebration (wink, wink). They’ll have a lot of reasons to celebrate. This Fresno State team captured the first NCAA baseball championship in school history (The Bulldogs came up short in three previous trips to the College World Series, in 1959, 1991 and 1998), becoming the lowest-seeded squad to win the NCAA title in any sport and finishing with more losses than any previous NCAA baseball champion. Congratulations to the Fresno State Bulldogs: The improbable - and deserving - 2008 NCAA Baseball National Champions.
Check back tomorrow as we wrap up the 2008 College World Series with notable moments and quotes, our All-Tournament Team, and awards.
Photo by The Associated Press