Before the Georgia baseball team left for Omaha and the College World Series, shortstop Gordon Beckham said that he hoped his next home run, which would set the Georgia career record, would be a big one.
His two-run shot Monday certainly qualified.
With Georgia down 6-3 in the eighth, Beckham launched his 52nd career homer to pull his team within one.
As it has all year, the rest of the Georgia offense responded, and RBI doubles from Matt Cerione and Joey Lewis sealed the 7-6 Georgia victory in Game One of the championship series.
“I told coach earlier on in the week you know, every one was giving me grief for not hitting a home run and breaking that record and our school record and all that stuff,” said Beckham, one of three finalists for the Golden Spikes award.
“I turned to coach and said, ‘I’m going to hit it when we need it the most.”
Georgia starter Trevor Holder gave his team seven strong innings, even after taking a Danny Muno line drive of the shin in the third. Holder left with the game tied at three.
But Georgia reliever Alex McRee, who had been spectacular in the postseason, appeared to give Fresno State their “Wonderdog” title back in the eighth, giving up three runs in 0.2 innings.
“I had a bad feeling about it, he’s been out there so much, and fatigue is going to get him at some point,” Georgia coach Dave Perno said. “I probably should have went with my hunch which was (Stephen) Dodson.”
Up 6-3, Fresno State would send closer Brandon Burke in for the bottom of the inning, their fifth pitcher of the game.
After surrendering Beckham’s home run, Burke would allow Cerione (who struck out five times in Saturday’s game against Stanford) to tie the game before Lewis drove in the winning run.
Cerione and Lewis have often proven big for the Athens version of the Bulldogs this season, but rarely on the same night.
“It’s a big game and they’re good players. Joey’s been doing a great job swinging the bat in our lineup for about a month now, and been a huge boost down at the bottom,” Perno said. “I’m very excited for him and Matt tonight.”
Last week, Georgia had four days off, the most in College World Series history, while Fresno State has now played the last three days, putting a definite strain on the pitching staff.
Five pitchers combined to limit Georgia’s offense for most of the game Monday, allowing just three runs through the first seven against a team that had been averaging over 10 runs a game in NCAA play. But it wasn’t enough in the end.
“I think if you had told me before the game that we were going to hold the bats they have to seven runs with the arms we have I would have taken it in a second,” said Fresno State coach Mike Batesole.
The Bulldogs from Athens are now just a win away from their second national championship, and the first since 1990. Like he wanted, Beckham hit his home run when his team needed it most.
“He’s our leader, if he goes we’ll go, and the time that he picked you couldn’t have asked for a better time to get going,” Lewis said. “We see what he does and go from there.”
Senior Nick Montgomery is scheduled to get the start for Georgia in tomorrow’s 7 p.m. ET game, while Fresno State will likely use a committee of pitchers.
For more coverage of the dog-meet-dog College World Series, visit The Red & Black online.