One of the best things about advancing to the College World Series, Sean Harrell said, is doing it with guys he grew up with.
Outfielders Harrell and Shawn Ward and infielder Paul Bordon will be representing Columbia County when their No. 9 Georgia College & State team plays for the Division II championship. All three are from Martinez; Harrell and Bordon played at Lakeside, while Ward went to Evans.
The Bobcats face UC San Diego at 5 p.m. today in the first day of the College World Series.
"It's really special when you can keep playing the game with guys you grew up with," said Harrell, a senior All-American. "I've been telling people for years baseball is good in Columbia County."
Georgia College & State is one of eight remaining teams competing in the double-elimination tournament. The champion will be crowned, Saturday, May 29.
"Pitching and defense are going to rule," Harrell said. "I think runs are going to be at a premium. It's going to be old-fashioned baseball."
At 39-15, Georgia College & State has the worst record of any of the remaining teams. Harrell said that mark is deceiving, because his school lost its first four games and started at 15-10 before hitting a hot stretch. The Bobcats won the Peach Belt Conference regular season title outright. Then, they won four games -- losing none -- to claim the Southeast Regional title for the school's second College World Series appearance, first since 1995.
"We just started out not playing good baseball," he said. "Our starting rotation is completely different. Our lineup is settled."
Harrell and junior all-conference performer Ward are two reasons for Georgia College & State's success. Harrell, who bats second in the lineup, led the conference in hitting (.453) and runs (77). Ward, the team's cleanup hitter, is batting .364 and was second in the conference in homers (16) and RBI (82).
"Shawn's a tremendous athlete and a great guy to have in the middle of our lineup," Harrell said. "He can do so many things."
Bordon, a senior third baseman, is hitting .255 with 10 RBI and 21 runs.
For Bordon and Harrell, the College World Series likely marks their final time playing together. Harrell said he's just happy the extra work he put in last summer helped extend his season.
"This is the time where it really pays off," he said. "It's really cool to see the benefits of working out so hard."