June 9, 2008

2008 Super Regionals

Dawgs' Bark Loud and Clear

Georgia reaches Omaha for third time in five years


By Tyler Estep
The Red & Black

Tyler Estep is a senior journalism student and the University of Georgia and a senior sportswriter/former sports editor at The Red & Black. He's one of the biggest Braves fans on the planet, and his dream job would be to cover them for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has no (successful) history of actually playing sports, but, hey, that's why he's a writer.

ATHENS, Ga. - After a nine-run first inning, it seemed Georgia's penchant for dramatics would be rendered moot for the day, as the Bulldogs coasted to a 17-8 win Sunday and clinched a berth in their third College World Series in five years.

Things remained relatively quiet for the next four innings, but bad blood in the sixth and some fireworks in the seventh added that feel of suspense that has typified Georgia baseball all season.

After N.C. State's Dallas Poulk and Jeremy Synan homered in the sixth, Georgia (41-23-1) followed suit. Shortstop Gordon Beckham led off with a solo shot before catcher Joey Lewis hit his second pinch-hit homer of the series, both coming off of N.C. State reliever Drew Taylor.

When Taylor hit Georgia's Lyle Allen in the back with the very next pitch, there was an uproar with an exchange of words, warnings to both dugouts and a chorus of boos when Taylor was pulled from the game.

"It was blatant, it was obvious he threw at him, and it put us in a tough situation," said Georgia coach Dave Perno, who has been involved in all but one of Georgia's six Omaha runs. "We were just counting outs at that point, 12 outs, 12 outs till we go to Omaha, nine outs. And all of a sudden he hits him, and he woke the bats back up."

"We put it on them after that," Beckham added, smiling.

Beckham's homer was his 25th of the season, making him the fourth player in Bulldog history to record 100 hits in a season and leaving him at 50 career homers, one shy of the school record (first baseman Josh Morris hit 51 from 2004-06).

He didn't wait long to hit his next one.

Senior third baseman Ryan Peisel led off the following inning with a home run, and after senior Matt Olson singled, Beckham tied the school record with a two-run shot. That made for the eighth overall pick's sixth multi-homer game of the season and earned him a curtain call in his final game at Foley Field.

"I was obviously thinking about it with the first couple of healthy hacks I had," said Beckham, a Golden Spikes finalist. "But with two strikes I was just thinking don't strike out and make yourself look like an idiot."

It took three N.C. State pitchers to retire the side in the first, with starter Eric Surkamp failing to record an out and the Bulldogs sending 14 batters to the plate. After a single, a hit batsman and two walks, two-RBI hits from junior Bryce Massanari and freshman Lyle Allen set the pace for the most runs Georgia has scored in an NCAA inning since the 1990 World Series.

All eight of Georgia's hits in the inning were singles, with Peisel singling and scoring twice in the frame.

Fresh off a complete-game shutout of Georgia Tech in the Athens Regional, Georgia starter Nick Montgomery extended his NCAA scoreless innings streak to 14 before Poulk and Synan's homers chased him after the sixth.

Montgomery, who wasn't a weekend starter during the regular season, is now 4-2 on the season, including 3-0 against the ACC. Working with a big lead, the senior transfer from Young Harris (Ga.) said he definitely altered his game plan.

"You definitely want to throw more strikes and let them play behind you, and all today…everyone was making plays," he said. "I really didn't have to do much today except get it into their hands."

Perno (a player on Georgia's 1990 national championship team, an assistant on the 2001 team and head coach in 2004, 2006) said that the '08 edition of Omaha-bound Bulldogs is "without a doubt" the most balanced he's been involved.

His Bulldogs are now 8-4 against the ACC this season, but Wolfpack coach Elliott Avent was less than enthusiastic when asked how they compared with the juggernauts of his league, including a possible first-game matchup with Miami.

"I could say something, but that's not fair," he said. "Georgia's a great baseball team, they'll find out in maybe a week how they really compare."