UCLA has hired former Cal State Fullerton assistant Rick Vanderhook to replace Brian Green as assistant coach. Green left for Gary Henderson’s staff at Kentucky on June 18, and since then Vanderhook had been rumored as a potential replacement. Bruins head coach John Savage confirmed Monday evening that the Bruins have hired Vanderhook, who spent 21 years at rival Fullerton. He brings toughness, experience and a keen baseball mind to Westwood, where he will serve as the hitting and outfield coach.
Vanderhook was the odd man out on the coaching carousel last summer. After Fullerton head coach George Horton left for Oregon, Vanderhook chose not to join his staff in order to vie for the Titans’ head job; everyone from Horton to Dave Serrano lobbied on his behalf and assumed he was the heir apparent. But when Fullerton made it clear Vanderhook was no longer a candidate, Serrano left UC Irvine to return to his alma mater at Fullerton, leaving Vanderhook without a spot on the staffs at Oregon or Fullerton.
The 47-year-old Vanderhook has won three national titles at CSF–one as a player (in 1984) and two more as an assistant (in 1995 and 2004). He should be a perfect fit at UCLA, a program that is trying to get where Vanderhook has been 10 times–Omaha.
Eight days after Butch Thompson left High Point to become an assistant at Mississippi State, the Panthers finally found their man. High Point hired Craig Cozart, who spent the last 12 years at Central Florida, to be its head coach. Cozart was an assistant under Jay Bergman and moved up to interim head coach when Bergman was fired this spring.
"During his coaching career, he has proven to be an outstanding recruiter and has also demonstrated a strong ability to develop players," High Point athletic director Craig Keilitz said in a statement. "I truly believe that things happen for a reason, and I could not be more excited about the direction of our baseball program under Coach Cozart."
In other news, Florida Atlantic has scheduled a press conference for Tuesday to announce a replacement for retiring head coach Kevin Cooney. The Owls are expected to elevate long-time assistant John McCormack to the head job. McCormack is FAU’s associate head coach and recruiting coordinator and has served on Cooney’s staff for 17 years.
Michigan State head coach David Grewe was named the new associate head coach for Louisiana State on Thursday. Grewe, a former assistant under LSU coach Paul Mainieri at Notre Dame, will be LSU’s pitching coach and recruiting coordinator. LSU’s volunteer coach, Javi Sanchez, was also promoted to full-time assistant coach. Sanchez, 26, played catcher at Notre Dame with Grewe in 2003 and 2004.
During Grewe’s three years coaching Michigan State, the Spartans went 75-85, including a 42-53 mark in the Big Ten Conference. He coached seven players who were selected in the MLB draft, including three this year. He has also distinguished himself at Notre Dame and MSU as one of the nation’s top recruiters. The move is significant because Grewe gave up a head coaching job at a Big Ten school for the chance to be an assistant at an SEC school. The SEC had nine schools represented in the NCAA Tournament this year, including the Tigers and national runner-up Georgia, while the Big Ten sent just one.
OMAHA–Georgia coach David Perno knew what was at stake. For everything his team accomplished in 2008, Perno acknowledged heading into the College World Series finals that his team needed to win the national championship to secure its place in history alongside Georgia’s 1990 national title team, for whom Perno was a player.
"No one’s going to remember who loses this series," Perno said the day before the finals began. "Everybody’s going to remember who wins. That’s life. It may be cold. North Carolina’s done a phenomenal job the last two years, but everybody’s going to remember Oregon State; that’s just the way it is."
That bitter reality already started to sink in Wednesday in the aftermath of Georgia’s 6-1 loss to Fresno State in the national championship game.
"This is a lonely place," Perno said. "As hard as we fought, as much as we accomplished, we didn’t get it done. So obviously it’s still behind the ’90 team. If we would have pushed through last night or tonight, it would be the best team Georgia’s ever had. But it’s not." [...] Continue Reading »
OMAHA–The first time Fresno State faced an elimination game in the 2008 NCAA tournament, it responded with a dominating 5-1 win against San Diego. The first time Fresno faced an elimination game in Omaha, it responded with a dominating 6-1 win against North Carolina to reach the College World Series finals.
The sixth and final time Fresno State faced an elimination game in the postseason, it responded with an utterly dominating 6-1 win against Georgia tonight, clinching its first national championship. My vote for CWS Most Outstanding Player, junior lefthander Justin Wilson, and sophomore outfielder Steve Detwiler turned in performances for the ages. Wilson, pitching on three days’ rest after throwing 112 pitches Saturday against UNC, went eight innings and struck out nine while throwing 129 pitches. Third baseman Tommy Mendonca was officially voted the Most Outstanding Player.
Detwiler, who entered the championship series in a 4-for-39 funk while playing through a completely torn ligament in his right hand (near his thumb), went 4-for-4 with two homers and a double, and he drove in all six of Fresno’s runs. Detwiler set championship series records with three homers and nine RBIs in the three games against Georgia.
Fresno State becomes the second team in the six-year history of the CWS’ best-of-three Finals to lose the first game and come back and win the series. Oregon State did the same thing against North Carolina in 2006.
We’ll have much more on Fresno’s remarkable national championship following the postgame festivities.
OMAHA–If you’re watching the national title game on ESPN right now, you don’t need me to tell you that Steve Detwiler is putting on a simply unbelievable performance. After entering the finals on a 4-for-39 skid while playing through a completely torn ligament in his hand, Detwiler has now broken the records for most homers (three) and RBIs (nine) in a championship series. He’s got six RBIs already today, having launched a two-run homer to right in the second, an RBI double to left-center in the fourth and a three-run hoemr to left in the sixth.
It’s 6-0 Fresno State in the seventh, and Justin Wilson is in complete and utter control for Fresno, which still has no action in its bullpen. Wilson has thrown 100 pitches through six innings, and he’s thrown a remarkable 69 strikes. He has eight strikeouts and no walks and has set down the last eight batters he’s faced.
It ain’t over ’til it’s over, but it ain’t looking good for Georgia, whose body language and poor-quality at-bats are not encouraging.
OMAHA–Fresno State has built a 3-0 lead heading into the bottom of the fifth inning, and the big story is the stellar performance of Justin Wilson. The lefthander has shown good stuff considering he’s on three days’ rest, but more impressively he has pounded the strike zone. Wilson has yet to issue a walk and has struck out seven through the first four innings. He worked around Joey Lewis’ one-out triple in the fourth by striking out the side, getting Matt Cerione, Lyle Allen and Miles Starr all on fastballs. Fresno coach Mike Batesole said yesterday Wilson would be fueled by adrenaline, and that’s been some pretty powerful fuel so far.
Georgia looks antsy. The Dawgs need to do a better job working the count. Granted, Wilson is making that hard to do by throwing plenty of strikes, but UGa. just has no rhythm offensively.
OMAHA–More than four months after it began, the college baseball season will end today–assuming the weather cooperates. Today is one of the hottest, muggiest days of the CWS, and the temperature at first pitch will be close to 90 degrees. Once again, there are scattered thunderstorms in the forecast for this evening. But if all goes well, Fresno State or Georgia will be crowned national champion in the next six hours or so.
Both teams are starting lefthanders on three days’ rest, though Georgia’s Nathan Moreau threw less than half as many pitches as Fresno’s Justin Wilson on Saturday. There won’t be any surprises in Georgia’s bullpen: Coach David Perno said yesterday exactly who he’s going to throw after Moreau today. It’ll be Dean Weaver, Alex McRee and Joshua Fields, the team’s three bullpen mainstays all year long. Fresno closer Brandon Burke got a much-needed day off yesterday and will throw at least an inning today, maybe two or three; it is the national championship game, after all. Here are today’s picks: [...] Continue Reading »
OMAHA–In the highest-scoring College World Series game since 2001, Fresno State erased an early five-run deficit and rolled to a 19-10 win against Georgia, forcing a decisive third game of the CWS finals. Fresno trailed 5-0 heading into the third but exploded for six runs in the frame, capped by Tommy Mendonca’s three-run homer to right field. Georgia tied the score at 6-6 in the fourth, but it was pretty much all Fresno from that point on. FS scored five in the fourth, highlighted by Danny Muno’s two-run triple, and four more in the sixth, capped by Steve Susdorf’s two-run homer.
Perhaps the most jarring statistic is that Fresno State committed three errors after playing spectacular defense for its first five games in Omaha. Of course, none of them were particularly relevant. A 19-hit attack made them even less so.
The feelings I expressed earlier about this being a great show for college baseball have long since been replaced by feelings of fatigue. This has been a long game, lasting nearly four hours after the start was delayed 26 minutes by rain.
We’ll have plenty more on this game shortly.
OMAHA–You know it’s been a good College World Series filled with exceptional performances when filling out an all-tournament ballot becomes an impossible chore. Ballots were distributed this evening in case Georgia wins tonight (if Fresno wins, these votes will be discarded and we’ll vote again tomorrow), and I find myself wishing we had an all-CWS first team and a second team. How can you choose between Gordon Beckham and Danny Muno? Dustin Ackley and Rich Poythress? Ryan Peisel and Tommy Mendonca? There is one DH slot, and I’d love to give it to Joey Lewis, but I’ve got to find a way to get both Peisel and Mendonca on this team, so Lewis is out.
Fresno State continues it’s eye-opening onslaught, sending 19 batters to the plate in the last two innings to build an 11-5 lead. The five-run fourth was highlighted by a two-run triple by Muno (seriously, how can he not be on the all-tournament team? But how can Beckham not be?). The outburst prompted a nice text message from John Manuel: "Man, Fresno is impresive. Good show for college baseball."
My sentiments, exactly.
OMAHA–If there’s one thing we’ve learned in the 2008 College World Series, it’s that no lead is safe. Georgia taught us that lesson against Miami. Louisiana State reiterated it against Rice. North Carolina emphasized it against LSU and Fresno State. Georgia hammered it home against Fresno last night.
So really, no one should be surprised that Fresno has already erased an early 5-0 deficit tonight. The "WonderDogs", as they’re known by many of their fans, erupted for six runs in the bottom of the third to take a one-run lead over Georgia.
The big blow was Tommy Mendonca’s three-run homer to right against reliever Stephen Dodson, turning a 5-3 hole into a 6-5 lead for Fresno. If Fresno State wins the national title, Mendonca’s got to be the Most Outstanding Player; between his incredible glove work and his clutch home runs, he’s been pretty darn outstanding. Mendonca now has four home runs in Omaha, tying a CWS record held by eight other players. Most recently, Louisville’s Logan Johnson did it last year. The thing that jumps out to me about Mendonca’s power is how easy it is. He’s not taking enormous hacks, just using his leverage and strong wrists to hit long home runs to all fields. This was his second home run to right field, but he also has two homers to left-center. Mendonca, who now has 19 homers on the year, has legit big league third baseman tools.
Like I said–no lead is safe. Georgia has already erased Fresno’s narrow lead, scoring a run on Matt Olson’s leadoff double and Gordon Beckham’s RBI single in the fourth. We’re all tied up at 6-6; what a fun championship series to watch.
OMAHA–Make it 85-36. That’s the margin by which Georgia has outscored its opponents in the first inning this season, after UGa.’s three-run first inning. Georgia DH Joey Lewis is making a strong bid for all-CWS honors; his two-run single to center field gives him three straight multi-RBI games.
Georgia caught a break in the second on a bad call at second base, turning a first-and-second, no-outs situation into a runner-on-first, one-out situation. That’s a pretty significant difference. Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered, as Erik Wetzel grounded into an inning-ending double play.
OMAHA–We just got word that the start of today’s game will be delayed at least an hour, and that might be a bit optimistic. Georgia is taking infield as we speak. The rain has stopped altogether, and it looks like the nasty weather has moved on to Iowa–at least for now. Keep your fingers crossed.
Bradley has hired Elvis Dominguez to replace longtime coach Dewey Kalmer, who retired after the season. Dominguez has spent the last seven years as the head coach at Eastern Kentucky, and he has recruited and coached eight players that reached the major leagues during his 18-year college coaching career. EKU produced a first-round pick this year in All-America lefthander Christian Friedrich.
“First of all, we are extremely appreciative of the tremendous run and numerous contributions that Coach Kalmer has made during his nearly three decades at the helm of the Bradley baseball program and now wish Dewey and Carol a wonderful retirement,” said Bradley director of athletics Ken Kavanagh. “We welcome Elvis and his family to Bradley athletics and hope that they have a similar long run on the Hilltop. [...] Continue Reading »
OMAHA–The weather has been a significant factor at the College World Series this year, and it looks like it might affect tonight’s game as well. Already, several rain storms have passed through the area today, and the forecast calls for scattered thunderstorms all night. As I post this, a thunderstorm is hammering the area around the media hotel. All of us media types are itching to see some baseball tonight, but a postponement wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for Fresno State, which could use a day to rest its pitching staff. Fresno will start righthander Justin Miller tonight against Georgia’s Nick Montgomery, and I would expect to see plenty of Holden Sprage on the Fresno side as well.
John clinched the picks title last night, and when I asked for his pick today, he smugly replied, "Does it matter? I’ve already won this thing." To spare my dignity, I’m not going to post our records at the bottom of this post. Suffice it to say John’s the winner, and congratulations to him. Looks like I owe him a steak. To the (irrelevant) picks: [...] Continue Reading »
OMAHA–After Fresno State broke a 3-3 tie with three runs in the top of the eighth, Georgia answered right back with four in the bottom of the frame to win the first game of the CWS Finals, 7-6. It was one of the best games of the CWS so far, with sparkling defensive plays and clutch hits on both sides, but in the end Georgia’s big stars carried the Dawgs to the victory. All-America shortstop Gordon Beckham’s two-run homer got Georgia’s eighth-inning rally going, and All-America closer Joshua Fields nailed down the save in the ninth, while Fresno closer Brandon Burke could not hold a three-run lead an inning earlier.
We’ll have plenty more on this terrific game shortly.
OMAHA–It’s been a nice, brisk game so far, as we have finished five innings and it’s just 7:39 CT. Steve Detwiler gave Fresno State its first lead of the Finals in the top of the fifth, launching a two-run homer to right field off Trevor Holder. I would estimate Detwiler’s shot as the second-longest of the CWS so far, behind only Chad Flack’s game-winner. Detwiler’s shot landed about three or five rows from the top of the bleachers just in front of the scoreboard; Flack’s shot landed just to the left and behind the bleachers, from what I can tell.
It’s 3-2 Fresno State heading into the sixth. Holder is still in the game for Georgia, while Fresno is on to its third pitcher of the day, lefty Kris Tomlinson.
OMAHA–Before today’s game began, Andy Gardiner of USA Today posed me an interesting question: Who should be the all-CWS third baseman? Fresno State’s Tommy Mendonca and Georgia’s Ryan Peisel have both been superb in Omaha, as Peisel entered the game batting .500 with both of Georgia’s home runs here, and Mendonca came up huge with the bat the last two games against North Carolina while also playing superlative defense.
As the game started, Andy and I began casually doling out points to Peisel and Mendonca each time one of them did something that stood out. They’ve kept our unofficial scorecards busy here in the early going, as Peisel made fine defensive plays on grounders in the first and third, and Mendonca responded with fine plays in the second and third. The best play of the lot came on David Thoms’ line drive down the third-base line in the third inning, when Mendonca reacted impossibly fast and laid out to rob Thoms of a double. In case you’re keeping score at home, Peisel doubled to left field in the first, taking second base in heads-up fashion on a little flair over Mendonca’s head. Mendonca is 0-for-2.
In other news, Sean Bonesteele is out after giving up one run on two hits over the first three innings. Georgia squared up plenty of balls against him, but that Fresno defense came up big repeatedly, and Bonesteele retired the final seven hitters he faced. That start was exactly what Fresno needed today. Now righty Jake Floethe is on for the first time in the CWS. Floethe is 1-1, 8.51 in 24 innings this year.
OMAHA–Fresno State has elected to start righthander Sean Bonesteele today over righty Justin Miller. I figured Bonesteele would shoulder much of the load today anyway, so it makes sense to start him and see how long he can go. Bonesteele’s overall numbers aren’t impressive (2-2, 6.75), and he allowed two earned runs in two innings in his only CWS appearance.
OMAHA–Yesterday’s blog criticizing the locals for not showing up at Rosenblatt Stadium in the same numbers this year as in recent years elicited some good responses. The best was from Brian Bodner of Omaha:
"Maybe if tickets were available to the average fan for face value instead of in the hands of scalpers going for twice that, then there would be more fans. It’s hard to blame local interest when games are sold out. The problem is that the tickets are mostly in the hands of season ticket holders and scalpers. Not everybody has $40 a ticket for multiple CWS games. I’m well over $250 for three games for two people after taking into account paying for parking, water/sodas, etc. Imagine the effect on a family of four? It’s a poor economy to have the same expectations of years past when the cost to attend games keeps going up."
Well said, Brian. Let’s get to today’s picks: [...] Continue Reading »
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