Monday, May 30, 2011

Dawgs Chasing Beavers


The Georgia baseball team received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament and will be the No. 3 seed in the Oregon State Regional in Corvallis starting Friday.

This marks the 10th overall NCAA regional bid for the Dawgs including their sixth under head coach David Perno in his 10 seasons. Georgia (31-30) has played the nation’s toughest rated schedule and has an RPI of No. 16 according to several of the nation’s leading websites that follow college baseball. Georgia played 35 games against this year’s NCAA field and posted a 15-20 record. The Dawgs had 34 games against ranked opponents this year, going 16-18 and that is the most games and wins of any team in the Southeastern Conference that garnered three national seeds. Georgia has already made one trip West this season, beating 10th-ranked UCLA on the Bruins campus along with the USC Trojans on their campus and then St. Mary’s at Dodger Stadium.

Georgia will face No. 2 seed Creighton (44-14) Friday at Goss Stadium in the first-ever meeting between the two clubs. The game time has not been announced. The host and top seeded Beavers (38-17) battle No. 4 seed Arkansas Little-Rock (24-32). Each of the 16 regionals features four teams playing in a double-elimination format conducted from June 3-6.

Georgia is 1-6 all-time versus the Beavers. They first met at the 2006 College World Series and then Perno and OSU coach Pat Casey scheduled a home-and-home series for 2007 (Athens) while the 2008 series was played in Portland as the Beavers stadium was undergoing renovations following back-to-back College World Series title.

“I was a little surprised we’re going out there to Oregon State with so many ACC teams hosting, and they usually match SEC teams with them, but this is a great opportunity to go West and have some fun,” said Perno. “We showed what we’re capable of doing this past weekend at the SEC Tournament. I’m looking forward to catching up with Coach Casey. We’ll start getting prepared for Creighton and the rest of the teams in the regional. However, we don’t worry too much about who we’re playing; we try to focus on doing what we do well.”

The Dawgs are 46-28 all-time in the NCAA Tournament with six appearances in the College World Series.  Perno has led the Dawgs to the College World Series in 2004, 2006 and the CWS Finals in 2008. Perno’s teams are 26-15 in the NCAA Tournament. The last NCAA appearance for the Dawgs came in 2009 when they went 1-2 at the Tallahassee Regional.

Bolstered by a third place showing at the SEC Tournament in Hoover Ala., the Dawgs qualified for a spot in this year’s 64-team field by finishing with the NCAA-required record of at least one game over .500. Georgia went to the SEC Tournament Wednesday with a 28-28 record and then dropped its opening game to third-ranked Vanderbilt 10-0 where it was held to one hit. The Dawgs fought back to defeat Auburn Thursday, top-ranked South Carolina Friday and third-ranked Florida Saturday to reach the semifinals before the Gators stopped Georgia’s run. In the SEC regular season, Georgia went 16-14 to finish with the fourth best league mark behind SEC tri-champions Florida, South Carolina and Vanderbilt, all who went 22-8 in the conference.

The Dawgs are led on the mound by junior right-hander Michael Palazzone (10-4, 3.20 ERA) and sophomore left-hander Alex Wood (5-7, 4.53 ERA). Also, sophomore right-hander Tyler Maloof ranks among the NCAA leaders in saves with 18 in 19 opportunities. Offensively, Georgia is paced by sophomore shortstop Kyle Farmer (.304-7-53), junior second baseman Levi Hyams (.318-4-37) and junior left fielder Zach Cone (.284-3-32). Georgia is one of the SEC’s top defensive clubs and is on pace to set a school record with a .974 fielding percentage.

“We’re glad we’re in, and we were kind of on edge there watching it and seeing all the ACC sites filling up with teams, and then finally our name popped up and we’re excited to be going to the West Coast,” said Hyams. “We made a good run at the SEC Tournament and hopefully we can do it again. We did pretty well in our first trip West this year, and I think we have a lot more in the tank.”

There are 30 Division I conferences that received an automatic berth in the field of 64, along with 34 at-large selections. The 16 Regional winners advance to Super Regionals (June 10-13) played at various campus sites (announced on June 6 at approximately 11 p.m. ET). The eight Super Regional winners earn a spot to the 65th College World Series (June 18-29) at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb.

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