Dodgers draftee Allison shows mettle
Fresno State righty tosses gem in elimination game
OMAHA, Neb. -- The last time Clayton Allison pitched, his Fresno State Bulldogs were a loss down and their backs against the wall. It was June 8, and the other side featured one of college baseball's great offenses in Arizona State. Allison pitched four innings, and he thought things were going fine. The problem was the results didn't justify it.
"I pitched really well and gave up five runs," said Allison. "I was shocked. I came back the next day, and I couldn't throw a baseball for four or five days."
For the third time in his career, the senior had developed shoulder tendinitis sometime between his shutout of San Diego the previous weekend and his start against the Sun Devils. The next day, pain in the front of his shoulder -- the "long head of my bicep" -- relegated Allison to the bench.
The right-hander went to Omaha conflicted. Part of him wanted, needed, to pitch and help his Bulldogs in the College World Series. The other was cognizant of continuing his baseball career, which he received the opportunity to do after being drafted in the 29th round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft by the Dodgers. Allison said he did think about the negative ramifications that an injury could have on his pro career.
"It was a thought, it went through my head ... I mean, a senior has to sign," Allison said. "But this is the College World Series, I was ready to go out and perform and do what I had to do."
With that in mind, Allison went out and pitched on Sunday night, and like two weeks ago, it was a do-or-die situation for the Bulldogs after losing to North Carolina on Friday. The winner of the rematch would head to the championship series, the loser would call it an end to their season. After a positive bullpen session three days ago, Allison felt he was ready to go out there.
Facing a Tar Heels team that entered the game averaging 5.5 runs per game in Omaha, Allison scattered six hits over six innings, allowing just one earned run. The big right-hander got the win in Fresno State's 6-1 victory over North Carolina, pushing the Bulldogs into the championship series against Georgia.
"That was a gutsy performance when we needed one the most," said head coach Mike Batesole. "That was a really, really special peformance by Clayton Allison. It was a mental win when he didn't have much physically."
Closer Brandon Burke said after the game that the team had a feeling early on that the game would go its way, thanks to the starter.
"It was Allison's entire composure and focus," Burke said. "For him to come out and go six innings, that's when we knew we had a chance. That was one of the gutsiest things I have ever seen on a baseball field."
After the game, Allison reflected back on the medical treatment he received during his two-week layoff to allow for his Omaha gem.
"A lot of prescription drugs, a lot of rehab, and the trainers have been great," Allison said. "They do an awesome job, and they're always there to help us out. I ice six, seven times a day. It's been a lot of ice, a lot ibuprofen ..."
The list continues. It's been a month of surreal experiences for the senior, from his start Sunday, to the "freakin' electrodes" hooked to his shoulder all week, dating back even to the First-Year Player Draft the first week of June.
"[Draft day] was a great experience," he said. "I've been dreaming about it for a long time. Coming as far as I have and being rewarded like that is pretty special."
Allison grew up in Visalia, Calif., a town in the heart of San Joaquin Valley best known for being nearly halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It's an Oakland A's town, thanks to years of affiliation between the Visalia Oaks and Oakland. While Allison grew up an Athletics fan -- Eric Chavez, Barry Zito and Rich Harden all passed through Visalia -- he said he has a connection to the Dodgers, as well.
"The Dodgers are my National League team," Allison said with a smile.
The Bulldogs will start the championship series of the College World Series on Monday, which Batesole said will be his team's 39th consecutive day on the road since the NCAA Tournament began. Despite the tiresome journey, Allison said he won't need long after Omaha to begin to think about the next step with the Dodgers.
"That's one thing I want to get done early on," he said. "It won't take long, that's for sure."
It will take at least a few days, and Allison is sincerely hoping at least to Wednesday, which would be the third game of the championship series, if necessary.
"Maybe I'll be able to pick up a ball by the end of the week," Allison said. "It [would] definitely be a relief appearance, but I'll have to see how everything responds [Monday]."
Batesole and the Fresno State team say they don't need Allison to beat the Bulldogs; for 39 days, the senior right-hander has been inspiration enough.
Bryan Smith is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.