Athens Regional Preview

Athens Regional Capsule
Foley Field, Athens, Ga.
No. 1 Georgia (35-21-1)
Eighth appearance, at-large, Southeastern Conference regular-season champion, No. 8 national seed
No. 2 Georgia Tech (39-19)
24th appearance, at-large, fifth place in Atlantic Coast Conference
No. 3 Louisville (41-19)
Third appearance, automatic, Big East Conference tournament champion
No. 4 Lipscomb (32-28)
First appearance, automatic, Atlantic Sun Conference tournament champion

It’s boom or bust for Georgia in the coach David Perno era, as the Bulldogs reached the College World Series in 2004 and ’06 but failed to make regionals in ’05 and ’07. This is an even year, which means Georgia must be poised to get back to Omaha. The Bulldogs challenged themselves in the nonconference schedule with series against Pac-10 heavyweights Arizona and Oregon State, but they dropped competitive series to both. They rebounded by winning their next seven series to take control of the SEC race, and they cruised to the regular-season title by 3 1/2 games. But the Dawgs faltered down the stretch, dropping nine of their final 15 games, including an 0-2 showing in the conference tournament. Georgia’s greatest asset is its deep pitching staff, which includes three juniors who have pitched on weekends for the better part of three years in righties Stephen Dodson (5-3, 3.80) and Trevor Holder (7-4, 4.48) and lefty Nathan Moreau (3-2, 5.06). The bullpen is one of the nation’s most versatile, anchored by SEC pitcher of the year Joshua Fields (2-2, 1.52 with 16 saves and 53 strikeouts in 30 innings) and bolstered by seven quality relievers who all know their roles. The top half of the lineup is very dangerous, led by national player of the year candidate Gordon Beckham (.394/.507/.798 with 23 homers and 57 RBIs), but the bottom half of the order can be exploited.


Georgia Tech tied Miami for the most homers in the ACC (90), but the Yellow Jackets did much of their damage against the soft part of their schedule (just 33 of their 90 home runs came in 30 conference regular-season games) and they struggled against the ACC’s elite teams. Tech played its best baseball down the stretch, however, winning quality series against Coastal Carolina, Clemson and Virginia over the final three weekends and out-slugging North Carolina State in the ACC tournament opener. Georgia Tech bludgeoned Georgia in the first two midweek meetings between the teams this year before the Bulldogs won a low-scoring meeting in mid-May. Four Jackets recorded a dozen or more homers on the year, led by sophomore first baseman Tony Plagman (.320 with 16 homers) and standout freshman shortstop Derek Dietrich (.333 with 14 homers and 66 RBIs). The pitching staff lacks depth and consistency, but lefthander David Duncan (7-3, 4.47) and righties Zach Von Tersch (7-5, 4.14) and Deck McGuire (8-1, 3.41) are all capable of dominating on the right day.


Louisville went all the way to Omaha as a No. 3 seed last year, and while the Cardinals lost seven senior starters and a dominant senior closer from that team, several key holdovers remain. Sophomore lefthander Justin Marks (9-1, 2.21) and senior righty Zack Pitts (6-5, 4.74) were Louisville’s top pitchers a year ago and anchor the staff again this year. Redshirt sophomore third baseman Chris Dominguez (.369/.430/.689 with 20 homers and 74 RBIs) has as much raw power as any hitter in the country, and he followed up his freshman All-America 2007 campaign by becoming a better all-around hitter this spring, though he still struck out twice as often as he walked. Senior second baseman Justin McClanahan (.369 with 10 homers and 56 RBIs) showed promise as a utility player last year but emerged as an impact bat in a starting role this spring. Louisville’s deep bullpen is anchored by fifth-year senior B.J. Rosenberg (5-4, 4.08 with nine saves), who took a medical redshirt last year and settled nicely into the bullpen this spring after struggling as a starter early.


Lipscomb finished third in the A-Sun’s regular-season standings behind Florida Gulf Coast and Kennesaw State, two provisional members of the conference who weren’t eligible for the A-Sun tournament. Lipscomb took advantage of their absence to win the conference tournament, averaging more than 10 runs per game in their 4-1 run to the automatic bid—its first NCAA tournament appearance. The Bison will have a hard time matching up with the powerful, experienced teams in this regional, but they do have two of the best players in the A-Sun in junior catcher Caleb Joseph (.345 with 14 homers and 53 RBIs) and junior righty Brandon McClurg (6-5, 2.70). McClurg threw a no-hitter on March 29 against Kennesaw State and gives the Bison a chance to compete against Georgia.