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Bulldogs bound for Omaha

Georgia hammers N.C. State to earn spot in College World Series

POSTED: June 20, 2008 5:01 a.m.
The Associated Press/

Georgia players celebrate with fans in right field after the win.

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ATHENS — Just as he’s done all season, Gordon Beckham stared down a dramatic moment in an elimination game.

Only this time, the Bulldogs led by 10 runs and weren’t in need of a rescue.

But the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year wanted to make the most of his last at-bat in Athens, so he hit a two-run homer into a row of cedar trees in left-center field.

"I was just trying not to strike out," Beckham said. "Fortunately, I got a good pitch to hit."

Georgia scored nine first-inning runs, and Beckham homered in the sixth and seventh to help the Bulldogs beat North Carolina State 17-8 Sunday and advance to the College World Series for the third time in five years.

Improving to 16-0 in elimination games at Foley Field, Georgia (41-23-1) has won six of seven since falling to Lipscomb in a May 30 upset.

N.C. State (42-22) was trying to advance to the College World Series for the second time in school history and the first since 1968.

Beckham’s 26th homer marked the sixth time this season that he’s hit two. The No. 8 overall draft pick by the Chicago White Sox, Beckham finished 3-for-4 with four RBIs.

"It’s obvious that he’s a great player," N.C. State coach Elliott Avent said, "but when guys like that are clutch, it takes them to another level."

Ryan Peisel, Bryce Massanari and Joey Lewis also homered for Georgia. The Bulldogs, winners of the SEC regular season title, will play Miami next week in Omaha, Neb.

Nick Montgomery (4-2) won his second straight start as he and three other Bulldog pitchers held N.C. State to nine hits.

"After the first (inning), our mindset was to chip away at their lead," Wolfpack first baseman Pat Ferguson said after going 0-for-1 with two walks. "We scored those three runs in the sixth, but they made it tough when they came back and answered with three more."

Closer Joshua Fields, the No. 20 overall draft pick by the Seattle Mariners, had a messy ninth, loading the bases before Matt Payne’s two-run single ended the scoring.

Most of the crowd of 3,512 gave standing ovations to Beckham, Peisel, Matt Olson and Fields as they were introduced for the final time.

It was clear that Beckham, though, was the favorite as fans stood and chant "Gordo-Gordo" before his final at-bat. A third-year shortstop from Atlanta’s prestigious Westminster School, Beckham met their expectations with a two-run homer.

"This is an emotional day from the standpoint that we know it was the last day for a lot of great players," Georgia coach David Perno said. "I’m just glad we had that big first inning and went out in style."

Wolfpack starter Eric Surkamp (5-3) failed to retire a batter, giving up two hits, five runs and two walks before Massanari’s two-run single made it 3-0 and chased the left-hander.

Sam Brown didn’t fare much better, giving up six hits and four runs in two-thirds of the first. Joey Cutler got the final out of the inning.

The Bulldogs were convinced that N.C. State reliever Drew Taylor intentionally hit Lyle Allen with a pitch in the sixth. Allen was the first batter Taylor faced after the Wolfpack left-hander gave up a pinch-hit homer to Lewis for the second time this weekend.

So Massanari was proud that he hit one of three homers in the five-run seventh.

"We wanted to make them sorry for Lyle getting hit," Massanari said. "It woke up the sleeping dogs. After that, we just wanted to pour it on and embarrass them."



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