OMAHA, Neb. — The 2008 Georgia Bulldogs have already established themselves as one of the school’s greatest teams.
To become known as a team for the ages, there’s one thing left to do.
That task begins today when the Bulldogs (44-23-1) open the College World Series best-of-three championship round against Fresno State, which defeated North Carolina, 6-1, Sunday.
"No one’s going to remember who loses this series," Georgia coach David Perno said Sunday. "Everyone is going to remember who wins. That’s just life. It’s that simple. It’s maybe cold, however you want to say it.
"North Carolina has done a phenomenal job the last two years, but everybody remembers Oregon State. That’s just the way it is."
The Tar Heels were runner-up to the Beavers the past two years.
Considering the Bulldogs finished 22-33 a year ago, just making it to the College World Series for the third time in five years was a major accomplishment. They’re the first team to make it to the CWS finals after having a losing record the previous year.
"It’s been quite a run," Perno said, "and hopefully we can finish it out."
The Bulldogs, batting .330 in three CWS games, enter the finals with five players batting .400 or higher in Omaha. Leadoff man Ryan Peisel, who’s hitting .500, has seven RBIs and both of Georgia’s home runs.
Georgia will be looking to get more out of its starting pitchers. None has worked more than four innings in the CWS, and Trevor Holder, Nick Montgomery and Nathan Moreau have combined for a 6.75 ERA.
"I can’t be so quick to the trigger on bringing in our bullpen in the third or fourth inning," Perno said.
Holder (8-4) will start today, with Stephen Dodson and Chestatee graduate Alex McRee ready to go in relief. Montgomery (4-2) is the probable starter Tuesday. If a third game is necessary, Moreau (4-3) or Dodson (5-4) would get consideration.
"I’m not concerned with Game 3 right now," Perno said. "If it comes to that, we have plenty of options."
Perno will also be looking for improvement from All-American closer Joshua Fields, who gave up four runs in the ninth inning of Saturday’s 10-8 win over Stanford. Fields has allowed nine earned runs in 6 1-3 innings over six appearances in the NCAA tournament.
Fields has played perhaps the biggest role in the Bulldogs’ run this season, Perno said. The Atlanta Braves picked him in the second round of the 2007 draft, and Perno figured he was as good as gone. But Fields came back to school, established the Southeastern Conference career saves record (42) and was the 20th overall pick in this year’s draft by the Seattle Mariners.
The Bulldogs had already returned shortstop Gordon Beckham, the eighth pick overall by the White Sox, in addition to a battle-tested pitching staff.
"When Josh decided to come back, I was like, ‘We better be good or I might not have a job,"’ Perno said. "We did a nice job and really banded together with the leadership. But it wasn’t so much the leadership as it was the performance from those guys. I demanded the performance. Go out and have your best season. And that’s what they’ve done."