Thursday, June 26, 2008
Best in The West and The Rest...Congrats Fresno State
Were they really underdogs or just plain underestimated? Fresno State took a big bite out of the SEC's last chance to prove that they deserved 9 NCAA tourney bids by dominating Georgia 6-1 in the championship game. Conventional wisdom casts a vote for Fresno State being highly underestimated. These dogs were no bull. They had more heart, more talent, more gamers and seemed to have a huge edge in just about every offensive and defensive match-up the entire tournament. How the heck could anyone call them underdogs?
We have a few ideas. First, The NCAA and it's media lemmings think that Fresno State is not in a power conference...if there is such a thing outside of the Pac 10, Big West and West Coast Conference. What? The NCAA and the media don't consider anything west of the Mississippi a power conference? HMMMMM. Let's see. Four out of the last Five World Series have been won by West coast teams in the Pac 10, Big West and now the WAC. Seven, count em, seven straight World Series Champions reigned from west of the Mississippi. So how many teams fom the ACC and SEC will be picked next year we wonder?
Now, we do understand that there is some good ball being played in Florida, North Carolina and anything within 100 miles of East Cobb, GA, (ground zero for baseball talent in the east) but even that has to be put into perspective...and perspective is not the NCAA's strong suit. We just think that the East gets a little too much attention. Miami and LSU aside, the power is in the numbers guys. California and the West have more talented baseball players because between the states of Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah and New Mexico, there are 47.4 million people all enjoying more warm weather, more sunshine and more playable baseball days than any where else on this planet. The more you play, the better you get. There aren't that many people in the entire southeastern states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi...and their weather is not nearly as predictable either.
Second, Fresno State doesn't have the tradition of an Arizona State, Texas or LSU. We understand that. Wichita State won in 1989 and had to live down its underdog status as well. In fact there are a lot of similarities between Wichita State and Fresno State. Both have a great fan base that draws well over 2,500 fans per game. Both were scrappy, but talented teams that peaked at the right time. Both are the first in their conference to win a national championship. Fresno States win was the first men's championship in any sport for the school.
Third, the media thinks that if you give a team an underdog image, then that will boost ratings if the underdog continues to win. ESPN's rating should have been through the roof then, because the "Wonderdogs" never lost.
The game was almost a one man show. Steve Detwiler went 4 for 4 with a HR and drove in all 6 Bulldog runs and did so with a torn ligament in his left thumb. "It's mind over matter," Detwiler said. "It's just a little pain. The pain is temporary. Pride is forever."
However, he did need some defensive support and Justin Wilson did his part and shut down this dangerous Georgia squad on 127 pitches of grit and determination.
The tournament MVP was no surprise. Tommy Mendonca was the heart and soul of this team. He epitomized the toughness and moxy that this team had throughout the series. Plus, he can play. He is as good a third baseman as you will ever see on a stage this big. His 4 HR's in the Series tied a record.
In the end, the team that won deserved to win. In a best of three series, and double elimination format to get to the finals, you can't argue that the best team did not win like you can in other single elimination formats. It's hard to sustain upest after upset agaist a team or teams when you have to beat them twice. Fresno beat FOUR top ten teams twice in San Diego, Arizona State, North Carolina and Georgia. Georgia head coach Dave Perno was asked if he for one minute thought that Fresno State was deserving of an underdog tag and he replied, "No way. They are a very good team".
So was Georgia. You have to be impressed with their All Americans in SS, Gordon Beckham and RHP, Joshua Fields. Beckham tried to do what he could to bring life back into the Georgia dugout, but it just wasn't enough. Perno would have liked the opportunity to use Fields in the last game, but they needed runs and Fresno States depleted pitching staff seemed to zap the energy right out of the Georgia bats with every out they recorded.
It was a truly great series...as it is every year...
Congrats Fresno State...thanks for bringing the trophy back to California.