Originally created 06/16/04

Schedule helped prepare Cats

OMAHA, Neb. - Georgia coach David Perno has enjoyed playing the underdog role during the Bulldogs' foray into NCAA postseason play, but he'll have nothing on Arizona, Georgia's opponent Friday in Game 1 of the College World Series.

The Wildcats enter the 2 p.m. contest with a record of 35-25-1, but that's deceiving considering Arizona has played one of the nation's tougher schedules.

Despite that challenge, the Wildcats still won enough games to qualify for the postseason before earning the program's first trip to the College World Series in 18 years.

"I'm honestly not all that shocked," Arizona coach Andy Lopez said. "I think if you ask the athletes, the thing we talked about in practice in October is what we needed to do to get to the College World Series."

Talk about a difficult trip.

Besides their Pac-10 schedule, the sophomore-laden Wildcats didn't duck anybody out of conference, with road series at Cal State Fullerton, UC Irvine, Baylor, Notre Dame and Long Beach State.

"Our strength of schedule really helped us," Wildcats pitcher John Meloan said. "We have played so many good teams, it got us used to playing the best teams under the toughest situations. It prepared us for what we faced (against Long Beach State in the Super Regional)."

Arizona advanced to play Georgia with Sunday's 4-3, 11-inning marathon victory over Long Beach State. The game took nearly five hours to play.

"We were pretty fired up," said Meloan, who is 9-0 for the Wildcats. "We need to make a run at a national title. We have shown we can beat anybody, anywhere, at any time."

Lopez has been in this position before.

By beating Fullerton, he became just the third coach in NCAA history to take three different programs to the College World Series (Pepperdine, Florida and Arizona).

"I call it 'the process.' I joke with these players all the time that you can deny 'the process' but you can't avoid it," Lopez said. "When it comes to the programs I've coached, 'the process' is getting the best players you can find and then find the best schedule to play."

And as for possibly being underdogs against Georgia?

That's fine with Lopez, too.

"I don't mind wearing the glass slipper for a little while longer," he said.

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