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Georgia State ready for the dance, Georgia Tech
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Georgia Tech
vs. Georgia State

When: 7 tonight

Where: NCAA Regionals in Atlanta

ATLANTA — Georgia Tech has a huge head start over Georgia State in NCAA postseason tradition.

Georgia State will make its first NCAA tournament appearance tonight when it plays host Georgia Tech, which will be playing in its 23rd NCAA tournament in the last 25 years.

The new kids in this weekend’s NCAA regional battle of Atlanta say they’re not dazzled by Georgia Tech’s long history in the tournament. After all, each school has the same total of College World Series titles — zero.

"Even though this is our first time at the dance, our kids feel we belong here," Georgia State coach Greg Frady said Wednesday. "We’ve had a very good season, a school record-breaking season. We have confidence in the things we can do and if we do the things we can control we can find ourselves progressing through this tournament."

Elon (40-16) will play Southern Mississippi (35-23) in today’s opening game of the double-elimination regional at Georgia Tech’s Russ Chandler Stadium, followed by the game between Georgia Tech (35-17-1) and Georgia State (39-20).

Georgia Tech has the home-field advantage, but Georgia State’s players could almost walk to the game.

"What is ironic, their home field is closer to our campus than our home field," Frady said. "We’ve played there the last three years. We’ve had a little bit of success on their field. We feel confident and good about that."

The two Atlanta schools split two games in the regular season. Georgia State beat the Yellow Jackets 10-1 at Georgia Tech on March 24. Georgia Tech won 18-2 at Georgia State on April 15. The Panthers also won at Georgia Tech in 2007.

"It helps us with our confidence," said Georgia State senior outfielder Michael McCree. "Just watching them on TV and hearing all the hype about them makes you think they’re 10 times better than you, but when you match up on the field you realize it’s just the game of baseball.

"It makes the game a lot easier, just knowing we know we can play with these guys. We’ve done it before."

The Panthers bring a school record-tying eight-game winning streak into the NCAA tournament. They won the Colonial Athletic Association tournament for the first time and have the most wins in school history.

"Our fan base is electrified right now," Frady said. "You can only imagine how thrilled we all are."

That thrill is not so hard for Georgia Tech players to appreciate.

"I had a chance to play for the first time last year," said Tech sophomore pitcher Deck McGuire, who was named by coach Danny Hall on Thursday as the Yellow Jackets’ starter in tonight’s game.

"I can only imagine it’s going to be a huge rush come (tonight)," McGuire said. "The atmosphere is going to be unlike anything you’ve seen before. It’s a whole new intensity level, even past the conference tournament. It’s going to be a lot to take in all at once."

McGuire is a big reason Georgia Tech is the No. 1 seed in the regional.

McGuire, 10-1 with a 3.15 ERA, was named Atlantic Coast Conference pitcher of the year by the league’s coaches and on Thursday was named a first-team All-American by Collegiate Baseball. He’s a finalist for the national pitcher of the year award given by the College Baseball Foundation and a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award given to college baseball’s top player.

The growing list of honors makes McGuire a target for a team trying to win respect.

"There’s a little pride in knowing you want to beat some of the bigger name guys," McGuire said. "It’s tough to consider myself one of those yet, but I’m sure there’s a little added incentive for some guys."

Hall said Georgia State deserves credit for its "tremendous accomplishment" of winning its first spot in the NCAA tournament.

"Their coaches, players and school are to be commended for that accomplishment," Hall said. "But they’re our first opponent and certainly we look at them as standing in our way for where we want to get to."

Georgia Tech and Georgia State are only two of four state schools in the NCAA field. Georgia will play Ohio State today in Tallahassee, Fla. Georgia Southern will play Gonzaga today in Fullerton, Calif.

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