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Post Diamond Dawgs stars don’t shine in Omaha

Monday June 19, 2006

Yep, the Diamond Dawgs made a quick exit from the CWS. There’s no need at this point to run down individuals, but many of the familiar names that propelled the Dawgs to Omaha didn’t have much to say once they got there. It’s not that they played poorly or were dominated. They played two quality teams very close and had to feel good about their chances of winning at least one of them. Described by Coach Perno as a team that relied on the big inning, Georgia managed only one multi-run inning in their two games and immediately gave those runs back.

Rice and Oregon State did what many teams over the past two months couldn’t: prevent Georgia from stringing hits and runs together in overwhelming scoring bursts. Such explosive innings helped Georgia avoid elimination against FSU and South Carolina in the postseason. In the final game of the season, three double plays were key in killing any momentum the Dawgs tried to create. The double plays “ripped our hearts out,” said Perno. “We had three big double plays at the worst times.” The final double play came on the last at-bat of the game in which Georgia had the winning run at the plate. Even down to the end, they were still in the game but just couldn’t come up with the big plays. Against the level of competition in Omaha, that’s the formula for a quick trip home.

The future? Georgia will have a good bit of turnover. That’s just the nature of college baseball. There is a nice core in place, and guys like Beckham and the freshman pitchers will be experienced vets next year. While Georgia should be proud of its second trip to Omaha in three seasons, the goals for next season should be humble but very clear: return to the SEC and NCAA Tournaments. For all their success since 2001, Georgia has only made consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament once in program history (2001-2002). The CWS trip in 2004 was followed by a disappointing 2005 that was just a game or two away from the postseason. The highs have certainly been good, but it’s time to level out some of the lows and establish some consistency in the program. Even without knowing the makeup of the team heading into next season, I don’t consider those goals to be unreasonable for a program with Georgia’s recent success.

Given the limited scholarships and turnover due to the professional draft that completely changes college rosters from year to year, establishing continuity and sustaining postseason-quality success from year to year is one of the toughest jobs a college coach has, and it’s what separates the very best.

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