Tonight in Omaha at 4 pm PT, the final series of the College World Series begins. And if you've been reading this blog, you know it's the Battle of the Bulldogs, Georgia versus Fresno State.
Georgia comes in as a big favorite after going 3-0 through its bracket, beating Miami once and Stanford twice. Georgia is 44-23-1 and has two first round draft picks on its team in shortstop Gordon Beckham (White Sox) and closer Joshua Fields. Georgia has won the CWS once before, back in 1990, defeating Oklahoma State in the final.
Fresno State is the longest of long shots to make it to the College World Series. Fresno State is 45-30 and they have the most losses of any team to ever play in the championship series. Throughout the regional (where Fresno State was a #4 seed), the super-regional, and the opening games of the CWS, Fresno State has looked it was going to fold up. But these Bulldogs have shown a penchant for hitting with runners in scoring position and have played well defensively. In the opening games in Omaha, Fresno State beat #2 seed North Carolina twice and Rice in its other game. (Rice is the last team from Fresno State's conference, the WAC, to win the CWS back in 2003. The Owls play in C-USA now.)
Clayton Allison, who had been shut down for two weeks with tendinitis, pitched Fresno State into the final. Allison is a 27th round pick for the Dodgers.
I've been to both Athens and Fresno in my lifetime and I would have to say that the two cities are about as dissimilar as two American cities around.
Athens, which I visited once back in 1985, is a protoypical college town. UGA dominates the city. The college has lots of building that look sufficiently old-timey collegiate. Like just about every SEC school, football is king and Sanford Stadium on campus has a listed capacity of a little over 92,000. For most of us, Athens, Georgia is the home of R.E.M.
Fresno is the sixth-largest city in California (about 480,000) and the city is beset with high unemployment and crime rates. It's the biggest city in the United States that does not have an Interstate Highway passing through it. For most Californians, Fresno is the city you pass through on the way to Yosemite (the airport for the city has changed its name from Fresno Air Terminal to Fresno Yosemite International Airport). Fresno's most famous contributor to the arts would like be William Saroyan. Or possibly Cher. Fresno State's campus isn't unattractive, but it's not going to make you think you are the University of Virginia.
The green V you see on Fresno State's uniform stands for "Valley" and is designed to show the school's support to improve the Central Valley of California.
I suggest you head to your local market, buy some raisins to eat while watching the game and try to avoid losing your religion at the same time.