Saturday, June 9, 1990
Georgia left-handers Stan Payne and Dave Fleming denied Oklahoma State a national championship Saturday by pulling the plug on the Cowboys' hitting machine.
On a sunny, 78-degree afternoon that saw the College World Series overall attendance record fall, Payne and Fleming combined to stop the previously rampaging Cowboys on five hits in Georgia's 2-1 victory in the championship game at Rosenblatt Stadium.
"When you only score one and get five hits," Oklahoma State Coach Gary Ward said, "you look at your offense and say, 'Hey, where are the bats? Where's the beef?' "
Payne, a freshman, and Fleming, the Bulldogs' ace, kept the Cowboys' bats quiet, refusing to be overwhelmed by an offensive attack that had piled up 35 runs on 46 hits in its first three CWS games.
"I never let that worry me," Payne said. "I've never been more nervous before a game, but I just tried to go out and pitch my game. I went out there and tried to do my best, and the best thing happened."
The Bulldogs posted a College World Series ERA of 1.40.
The victory, before 16,482, closed out a 52-19 season for the Bulldogs, who became the first team from the Southeastern Conference to win a national championship. Oklahoma State lost for the third time in the championship game under Ward and finished 56-17.
Saturday's crowd, third largest in CWS history, brought total attendance for the nine-day tournament to a record 138,426, bettering last year's 132,865.
Payne, making his first CWS appearance, held Oklahoma State to four hits in six innings. Fleming pitched the final three innings and finished off the Cowboys by striking out the side in the ninth. Together, they struck out 10, allowed more than one hit in just one inning and threw three double-play balls.
Equally important was the manner in which Payne and Fleming attacked the Oklahoma State lineup.Early Strikes
By consistently throwing first-pitch strikes, the Georgia pitchers deprived the Cowboys of their favorite tactic-working the count in their favor to get good pitches to hit.
"They're the type of team that likes to sit back and wait for fastballs," Payne said. "I was getting my curveball across, especially early in the count, and I was able to stay ahead of them."
The Bulldogs gave Payne the lead by scoring one run in the fourth and another in the fifth. The Cowboys cut the 2-0 deficit with a run in the sixth, and opened the seventh inning with Brian Kelly's double.
Kelly's hit ended Payne's afternoon of work, but he had already exceeded Georgia Coach Steve Webber's expectations. Webber had considered starting Fleming, on two days' rest, but decided to go with Payne.
"We didn't feel Dave could pitch nine innings, particularly the way Oklahoma State strings out the count," Webber said. "We didn't want to put Stan in a critical situation late in the game because he hadn't pitched out here.
"Our plan was to start Stan, let him go as long as he could, and then bring in Dave. Everything just fell into place, but it's easy to fall into place when you pitch that well."Nearly on Empty
Fleming had pitched complete games in a win over Mississippi State and a loss to Stanford earlier in the tournament.
"I didn't know how much I had left," he said.
Enough to shut down the Cowboys. He worked out of a touchy spot in the seventh, after Kelly moved to third on an infield out. The Oklahoma State runner tried to score when Danny Perez hit a one-hopper to Georgia shortstop J.R. Showalter.
Showalter's throw to catcher Terry Childers easily cut down Kelly to preserve the lead.
A double play, after an Oklahoma State hit and a walk, ended the eighth. Fleming wiped out the Cowboys in the ninth by striking out Jeromy Burnitz, Kelly and Steve Dailey.
"That's probably the hardest Dave has thrown all year," Childers said. "He could smell it, and he just pumped it in there."
Moments after Dailey looked at strike three, Fleming disappeared beneath a pile of celebrating Bulldogs.
"I ate a lot of grass," he said, smiling. "But it was worth it."
The championship game capped a five-game string of impressive Georgia pitching performances. The Bulldogs' 1.40 ERA was the lowest by a CWS champion since Arizona State's 1.37 in 1967, and they allowed only 26 hits in 45 innings.
Right-hander Mike Rebhan, who defeated Stanford twice, was named the tournament's outstanding player. Fleming finished 1-1, plus a save. Payne, the only other pitcher the Bulldogs used in the tournament, came through with the game of his life.
"Give credit to Georgia's people," Ward said. "They took a team that averaged 10 runs per game for 10 games and did a good job with them. They made quality pitches, got people out, made the plays on defense and played awfully well."
Oklahoma State also played well and got clutch pitching from Dennis Burbank, 10-2. Georgia had a chance to break to a big lead in the fourth inning when Jeff Cooper walked, Showalter singled and Burbank hit Brian Jester to load the bases with none out.
Cooper scored on Bruce Chick's sacrifice fly, but Burbank struck out Doug Radziewicz and retired Ray Suplee on a grounder to kill a potential big inning.
"When Burbank gets us out of that inning," Ward said, "I felt that we were going to win it."Never Sure
The Bulldogs added to their lead in the fifth when Childers singled, moved to third on McKay Smith's double and scored on Cooper's single.
Georgia picked up just one more hit - Childers' single in the seventh - off Burbank and reliever Ritchie Moody.
"That was a game we were never sure of winning until the last out," Cooper said. "Oklahoma State is a team that can explode at any time."
Fleming and Payne kept the Cowboys misfiring Saturday, making Oklahoma State the first team to lose five times in the CWS championship game. Three of the losses - in 1981, 1987 and this year - were under Ward.
"We were just fortunate today to have two good pitchers who could stop their hitting," Webber said. "That's what this game boiled down to."
Grimacing catcher Terry Childers blocks home plate and tags out Oklahoma State's Brian Kelly in the seventh inning to preserve Georgia's one-run lead . . . Cowboys Coach Gary Ward called the attempt to score from third on a ground ball to shortstop good baseball. "In 2-1 games, " he said, "you can find all kinds of hairs to split. "