2020 has been a tough year, so as the year winds down, the Sports Central team wants to remind our viewers of all the great things we’ve seen from valley athletes and teams so far this century. Each weekday through Dec. 30 during our 6 pm newscasts on KSEE24 and CBS47 (and during our 11 pm newscasts on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day), the Sports Central team is counting down the 20 best central valley sports stories over the last 20 years, something we’re calling 20 in ’20. Checking in at No. 16 on the list on Friday is the Fresno Grizzlies’ national championship season in 2015.
After winning their division and making the playoffs in their inaugural Triple-A season in Fresno in 1998, 16 years of mediocrity followed for the Fresno Grizzlies.
In 2015, however, the rebuilding Houston Astros (and their fully-stocked minor league system) had replaced the San Francisco Giants as the Grizzlies’ parent club. With an offense anchored by 2015 PCL MVP Matt Duffy, power-hitting first baseman Jon Singleton and table setters like future big leaguers Tony Kemp and Jonathan Villar, Fresno cruised to division title, winning by a comfortable 13.5 games over Sacramento.
The Grizzlies then opened postseason play by disposing of El Paso in four games in the PCL semifinals.
In the next round, the PCL Championship Series, they had to come from behind.
Down 2-1 to Round Rock and facing elimination, Fresno survived a pitcher’s duel in Game 4 at Chukchansi Park. The next day, in Game 5, in front of a spirited crowd, the Grizzlies got home runs from Tyler White and Alex Presley, and a big seventh inning two-run double from Robbie Grossman to capture their first-ever Pacific Coast League title.
Two days later, the story got even better as the Grizzlies won the Triple-A national championship in El Paso, 7-0 over Columbus.
“This is the best collection of talent we’ve had, and Tony D’s a winner,” said Grizzlies president Derek Franks. “He said from Day One he was gonna get us a championship. He looked me straight in the eye and said he was gonna do it.
“And he did it, and he delivered.”