June 26, 2008

THE BULLDOG-PILE:

Bulldogs overcome deficits, injuries to shock college baseball world (Tim Griffin, 6/26/08, ESPN)

Fresno State outfielder Steve Susdorf knew he wanted to come back for his senior season for a reason. But he couldn't have imagined it would have turned out quite so satisfying.

Steve Susdorf (No. 27) decided to come back for his senior season, and he's glad he did.

After he became a part of the most improbable college sports championship story in recent years, Susdorf was glad he listened.

"This is a fairy tale come true," Susdorf said as he held the championship trophy on Wednesday after the Bulldogs vanquished Georgia 6-1. "This is phenomenal. I can't describe it."

The hyperbole around Fresno State's wild charge to the NCAA baseball championship probably isn't overstated. The Bulldogs' emergence from underdogs to wonderdogs will go down in history as one of the most memorable title runs in college sports history, maybe even in all of sports history.

Fresno State, which brought home the school's first men's national title of any kind, entered the NCAA tournament as a No. 4 seed in the Long Beach regional. Its RPI ranking of 89 suggested it was more likely to go "two and barbecue" in the first round as to make a long run.

The Bulldogs became the first No. 4 seed ever to make the College World Series, but they accomplished so much more. They gave hope to all the directional schools and the low majors who are always a part of the 64-team tournament.

"In college baseball, everybody has a chance," Susdorf said. "We just got hot at the right time."


A lot of commentators have noted that the Fresno State team did not lack motivation and that they all seem to have a lot of "heart." Well, remember how Villanova once won the NCAA basketball title over Georgetown? They were an eight seed, and what Fresno State just accomplished is equivalent to a twelve seed winning the basketball tournament. Sometimes heart gets you places.


MORE:

Thousands at Beiden tribute (George Hostetter and Paula Lloyd, 6/26/08, Fresno Bee)

More than 5,000 fans packed the stands and the playing field at Beiden Field this evening to greet the NCAA champion Bulldogs.

Throughout the mile-long parade route and when they walked onto the field, the players were greeted with roars of "Fresno State, Fresno State."

The estimate of people in the stadium doesn't include those who lined the parade route on Barstow Avenue and Cedar Avenue, 10 to 12 deep in some places.

A unofficial estimate put the crowd at about 10,000.

Bulldog players and coaches rode in golf carts and on fire trucks in the parade. Despite crowd control efforts by law enforcement, many fans broke through to shake the hands of players and of Bulldog coach Mike Batesole. The constant refrain was "You're No. 1" and "We love you."

Posted by Matt Murphy at June 26, 2008 9:11 PM

oj,
I've alway hated one of the "Valley" State Colleges (now called "State Universities")Sacramento and rooted for the Southern one, Fresno.
While your post is most appreciated, I just wish I'd violated my no email policy to send you this article. It contains the really important info not copied in your post.
Mike
http://www.sacbee.com/100/story/1040867.html

But there was no need for late-inning heroics Wednesday or back-end options to save the day.

Those types of performances were used earlier in Fresno State's run to get to Wednesday, with players such as seldom-used Jake Hower of Roseville and Kris Tomlinson coming through.

For the most part Wednesday, Fresno State needed only outfielder Steve Detwiler and pitcher Justin Wilson.

That, and more steady defense. Pitching on three days' rest, Wilson lived up to his big-game reputation with seven shutout innings before finally allowing a run in the eighth.

With his fastball traveling in about 90-mph and his offspeed pitches crisp, Wilson struck out nine batters and allowed just five hits against a Georgia team that entered with a .311 average and feasted off fastballs in the CWS.

Often, Wilson would put batters away with an inside fastball that seemed untouchable – too fast to catch up to and with too much natural movement from the left-hander to lock on.

"What he did off three days of rest was unbelievable," Fresno State catcher Danny Grubb said. "They weren't going to touch him. Not when Justin's throwing like that. He found energy somewhere. Man, he was amazing."

Detwiler supplied the offense, going 4 for 4 with two homers and driving in all six runs.

Moved up two spots in the lineup because Georgia started a left-handed pitcher, the right-handed Detwiler smashed a two-run homer to right field in the second inning, then connected with a three-run homer to left field in the sixth.

In between, Detwiler supplied an RBI double in the fourth. Take away Detwiler on Wednesday, and Fresno State would have gone 4 for 31.

And Detwiler did it with a torn tendon to his left thumb, suffered two months ago. He also was hitting just .231 (6 for 26) in the CWS.

http://www.sacbee.com/100/story/1040848.html

OMAHA, Neb. – By the time Steve Detwiler had batted for the fourth time Wednesday night, he had a stadium full of friends.

He already had homered, doubled and homered again despite a torn tendon in his left thumb. He already had chiseled his images – his trot, his smile, his high-fives at home plate, his scream at second base – into Rosenblatt Stadium's foundation.

The College World Series never has had a champion like this. Fresno State, a team that wouldn't have reached the postseason without winning the Western Athletic Conference tournament, a team with 31 losses, is the NCAA champion. It is one of the greatest upset stories in American sports.

Fittingly, Detwiler caught the last out in right field. And as the celebration began, he put the ball in his back pocket. It's hard to believe there was room in there, with the game and the title already tucked away.

That was the first word Steve Detwiler spoke as a baby, not "Mom" or "Dad," but "ball." He was a baseball junkie from the beginning, running the bases backward in diapers, yelling, "Jose Canseco! Jose Canseco!" his favorite player.

Detwiler grew up a fat kid, no other way to say it, short and 40 pounds past plump. He took a verbal beating every day. Years passed, and the kids at Sun Valley Elementary School in San Rafael never let up.

The few friends Detwiler had picked on him, too. His little sister, Samantha, called him "Bubble Butt," and compared to the other names, it was almost cute.

It sounds funny now, but they say that's why Steve Detwiler smiles so much, why he's 24-hour friendly, why you'll see Southerners give up on college football before you'll see him make fun of another human being.

His parents weren't in Omaha to see their son cheered for simply walking to the plate. Robert Detwiler works in construction. Lori Detwiler approves mortgage loans. They already had flown from San Jose to Omaha and back, twice, and the Bulldogs went so far they literally could not afford to miss any more work. Robert's buddies had chipped in to buy him the second plane ticket.

Wednesday night, they watched the game from a bar near their home everyone calls "The Saloon," with so many friends you'd have sworn it was New Year's Eve, except louder. The place was drenched in Bulldogs red.

Samantha, who just graduated from San Rafael High School, was on a senior trip to Mexico for most of the CWS. She found a restaurant with a TV that could get ESPN, and she'd yell, "Mi hermano!"

"Look at his eyes," she'd say, "Those are my eyes."

When Detwiler's name was announced in the eighth, the fans gave him a huge ovation. The tendon he tore April 1 will require surgery he delayed until the end of the season. When he swings and misses, the pain is awful, but it didn't hurt much Wednesday. He singled to right, making him 4 for 4

Posted by: Mike at June 26, 2008 10:26 PM

Mike:

Hi, thank you for the info. OJ didn't post this, I did.

Detwiler, in particular, is a great story. Going 4 for 4 with two home runs with a mangled thumb? After 2 hits in all the previous CWS games? And of course Fresno State is the lowest-seeded team to win an NCAA championship, anywhere, ever.

They could make a movie out of this.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at June 26, 2008 10:38 PM
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