Originally created 06/14/06

As long as Georgia falls behind, it has a chance

If coach David Perno isn't careful, he's going to turn Georgia into a baseball school.

It's doubtful anything will ever overshadow football, but the baseball team is making College World Series appearances look routine.

Two of the past three years. Three times this decade. Five times in the past 20 years.

The Bulldogs have booked another trip to Omaha, Neb., thanks to Monday's win, an 11-6 victory against South Carolina.

The win wasn't surprising, really, considering the Bulldogs lost the first game of the super regional three days ago. That left them where they are most comfortable, playing from behind, facing elimination, staring at the off-season.

Instead of losing, instead of going home, instead of watching the CWS on TV, the Bulldogs did what they've been doing for the better part of two months.

They won.

Then they won again.

And with that second victory, they're making another CWS appearance. They've put themselves in line to win a national title.

"These kids are unbelievable," Perno said. "It's a special group and a special team."

This team does seem capable of great things in Omaha. There's nothing plain about the team heading to the plains.

The starting pitching is deep. The bullpen is practically unbeatable. The seniors lead through words and example. The underclassmen contribute throughout the lineup and on the mound.

The offense explosive, the defense without many holes, the pitching economical.

South Carolina walked nine Bulldogs and hit two more batters on Monday. By comparison, the Bulldogs walked two, instead relying on pitch placement and nine gloves to keep the aggressive Gamecocks off the bases.

And the Bulldogs have no problem playing from behind.

Trailing in the count? No problem.

Trailing in the game? No sweat.

Trailing in elimination series? They have them right where they want them.

Just ask Florida State and South Carolina.

Georgia was one game from going home in both the Athens regional and super regional. Instead, the Bulldogs demonstrated the grit and resolve and verve they so often displayed throughout their late 13-game win streak and the SEC Tournament.

Perno began reshaping his team from the top about this time last year. He had played in the College World Series as a Bulldog. As coach, he wants his players to experience college baseball's ultimate reward.

So Perno was not about to duplicate last year's disappointment. That team finished a mere five games on the plus side of .500 and missed the SEC Tournament. The season ended in late May.

Armed with a contract extension he signed early in the season, Perno revamped his staff. He hired hitting coach Doug Sisson in June, and one month later, he had pitching coach Roger Williams in the fold.

At some point this season, the players began to believe. They started to hit. They started to pitch. They started to win.

As a result, this season is about to stretch into late June.

The Bulldogs might not be the best team in Omaha.

Rice, Fullerton State, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Clemson are all mighty.

The Bulldogs might run into tough times. Their pitching might run out, the hitters might fall into a funk, and they may lose twice and return home.

It's highly doubtful.

Not with these guys. Not with this team.


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