OMAHA, Neb. — Fresno State coach Mike Batesole has made clear his philosophy of playing baseball one pitch, one out, one game at a time.
That mantra became clear to the players late in the season when the Bulldogs lost two in a row to Sacramento State. Playing for a national championship was unfathomable at that point, second baseman Erik Wetzel said.
"Going to the WAC tournament, I think it was tough to think that far ahead, especially since we had just lost two to Sac State, which wasn't something we thought should happen," Wetzel said.
"But I think we just started to take it one game at a time really and started to learn to just play every out and every inning as one pitch at a time instead of thinking about the College World Series, the super regionals and all that."
The Bulldogs are 15-4 since losing those two games to Sacramento State. The late-season surge includes wins over No. 2 national seed North Carolina (twice), No. 3 Arizona State (twice), No. 6 Rice and No. 8 Georgia.
Fresno State had only two wins over ranked teams during the regular season.
Pop at the top
When the top of the lineup came alive, Fresno State stayed alive in the College World Series to force a deciding Game 3 against Georgia.
Batters in the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 holes — Danny Muno, Gavin Hedstrom and Erik Wetzel — went 0-for-13 with one run scored in a 7-6 loss to Georgia on Monday. Wetzel walked and scored on a Steve Susdorf double.
But in Game 2 on Tuesday, the same trio went 7-for-13 with six RBIs and seven runs scored in a 19-10 win.
"Every time you get runners on, good things happen," said Wetzel, who had two hits Tuesday and is tied for the school record of 112 hits in a season. "Players start to feed off that."
There was another important turnaround for Fresno State. It went 10-for-19 with runners in scoring position on Tuesday, including an 8-of-13 effort in the first seven innings. On Monday, Fresno State was hitless in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Georgia coach David Perno shouldered some of the blame for a disastrous six-run third inning that set up Fresno State for a come-from-behind 19-10 victory Tuesday.
"We mismanaged the third inning, the six runs," Perno said.
A one-out, two-run hit pulled Fresno State within 5-3 and left runners on second and third. Reliever Stephen Dodson came in and got Alan Ahmady to pop up for the second out.
"We had a free base open and we pitched to the guy," Perno said of No. 6 batter Tommy Mendonca, who had a hit in his previous at-bat and came into the game leading the CWS in RBIs and home runs.
"I don't have a problem with that that early in the game with a lead, but he threw his third best pitch. That's my bad there," Perno said.
Mendonca took advantage, hitting a three-run homer to put Fresno State ahead 6-5.
"I think that kind of deflated him (Dodson), took a lot out of him and they didn't let up that next inning. They came right out after him, boom-boom, and he was reeling at that point," Perno said.
Fresno State scored three more runs off Dodson before Will Harvil came in to pitch with one out in the fourth.
Getting on the scoreboard first hasn't necessarily been a sign of good things to come at the CWS. Ten of the 15 games have seen come-from-behind victories.
Georgia knows the drill. Three of its wins came in games it which it fell behind early. It overcame a 4-3 ninth-inning deficit against Miami, a 3-2 seventh-inning deficit against Stanford and a 6-5 eighth-inning deficit against Fresno State in Game 1 of the championship series.
On Tuesday, Georgia led 5-0 in the third before Fresno State came back to win.
Fresno State and Georgia were both 5-0 in elimination games in the NCAA tournament going into the CWS' final game Wednesday. ... Georgia had allowed double figures in runs in all three of its NCAA tournament losses. For the season, it had outscored opponents 85-36 in the first inning. ... Georgia's Gordon Beckham set the school's single-season record of 112 hits with a single in his first at-bat Wednesday. ... Fresno State's 19-10 win over Georgia produced CWS finals records for most runs by one team, most combined runs in a game, most hits by one team (19), most combined hits (35) and longest game (3 hours, 55 minutes). ... Fresno State will end the year with a nation-leading 78 games played.