The ultimate underdog pile

Fresno State wins a baseball championship that had seemed improbable 26 hours before -- and unthinkable a month ago.


King Kaufman
June 26, 2008 3:00PM (UTC)

College World Series games are rarely tidy, but Fresno State's 6-1 win over Georgia in the finale of the three-game championship series Wednesday night was practically tied up in a neat little bow.

Right fielder Steve Detwiler drove in all six runs with two homers and a double, lefty Justin Wilson was dazzling for eight innings and that was that. The Bulldogs, who hadn't even been on the bubble for the tournament before they got in by winning the WAC tourney, celebrated one of the greatest out-of-nowhere runs in college sports history by jumping all over Detwiler in right field, the ultimate underdog pile.

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Wilson took a shutout into the eighth, gave up a leadoff homer to first-round Chicago White Sox draft pick Gordon Beckham, who pulled into a tie for the national lead with his blast, and calmly retired the side to finish his night. He struck out nine, walked one and sidestepped three errors by his shortstop, Danny Muno.

Detwiler, playing with an injured thumb that will require major offseason surgery, hit a two-run homer in the second inning to put Fresno State on the board, added an RBI double in the fourth and gave the Bulldogs a commanding lead over the other Bulldogs with a three-run shot in the sixth. Nothing to it. He added a single, just to keep things neat: 4-for-4.

These things never end this way. No matter the lead in the College World Series, it seems like there's always a wild rally, a nail-biting process of hanging on or not. Fresno State's Bulldogs led 6-0, but hadn't Georgia's Bulldogs led 5-0 in Game 2 of the three-game set Tuesday, only to look up two innings later and find themselves down 11-6, on the way to a 19-10 loss? Hadn't Georgia rallied from 6-3 in Game 1 Monday with a four-run eighth-inning rally? That's how you do it.

Of all teams, the Fresno State Bulldogs, who had come from so far out, who had been on the verge of elimination several times in the tournament, weren't going to cruise to a victory in the championship game. Nothing this crazy could seem so easy.

Sure enough, with Wilson out of the game, Georgia opened the ninth with a double and a walk against Clayton Allison. Nobody out, and one more base runner would bring the tying run into the on-deck circle. Rally caps, everyone!

Closer Brandon Burke came in and got David Thoms to roll one to Muno at short, who declined to make his fourth error and instead started a 6-4-3 double play. Burke walked Ryan Peisel, then got Matt Olson to hit a fly ball to right field, where -- who else -- Detwiler caught it.

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Of course he did. Any other finish wouldn't have been tidy.


King Kaufman

King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon. You can e-mail him at king at salon dot com. Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

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