June 17, 2008


Brilliant Bulldog Bullpen

Georgia relievers continue to shine


By Ben Trittipoe



OMAHA, Neb. – In the modern age of baseball, a quality bullpen can be the difference between championships and not participating in the postseason. Just ask the New York Yankees and Mariano Rivera.


Thanks to its bullpen, Georgia has advanced to the championship round of Bracket One at the 2008 College World Series. The Bulldogs earned their second straight come-from-behind victory Monday night as they defeated Stanford, 4-3, in Game 6 at Rosenblatt Stadium.


A quartet of relievers – left-hander Alex McRee and right-handers Dean Weaver, Stephen Dodson and closer Joshua Fields – has largely been responsible for that success. Over 11 innings in two games, the Georgia bullpen allowed just one run, that coming on a solo home run by Miami’s Yonder Alonso against McRee on Saturday.


“It’s been like this all year,” Georgia head coach David Perno said. “They change the momentum of the game because they have good, quick innings, they make great pitches and they get the tough outs. They go through the meat of the order. Stephen Dodson was probably the key and Alex McRee came through, got those good left-handed hitters out at the top.


“When you stop a team like that, you give us a chance to get our offense going. We’ve got enough weapons in our lineup that we’re eventually going to break through and score. In most cases, if a team only scores in one frame, we’re going to have a lot of success.”


Dodson was the first out of the bullpen Monday as he relieved starter Nick Montgomery in the fourth inning with two runners on base, no outs and Stanford leading 3-0. Dodson got two popups and a fielder’s choice grounder to get out of the inning, and he allowed just one hit and walked two over 3 2/3 innings to keep the Bulldogs in the game.


Georgia trailed, 3-2, in the top of the seventh when McRee replaced Dodson with two outs and a runner at first. He got a groundout to end the seventh and, after the Bulldogs scored twice in the bottom of the inning to take the lead, McRee (7-1) struck out two – including Stanford star Jason Castro – of the three batters in the eighth. Fields then came on in the ninth and battled out of a self-made jam to pick up his 17th save.


“They’re tough,” Stanford head coach Mark Marquess said of the Georgia relievers. “They give you a different look. The right-hander Dodson … got a lot of outs with his slider to our right-handers and got left-handers out too. I thought that was the key. I think he settled them down. The lefty [McRee], he was tough. I was glad to see the left-hander come out, but it’s no cakewalk when the big guy [Fields] comes in.”