2008 Season Review

SEC Champion Bulldogs End Season
In Omaha As College World Series Finalists


    When the 2008 baseball season began, Georgia insiders knew the Bulldogs had a majority of the pieces in place to entertain thoughts of returning to the College World Series (CWS). While every program talks about getting to Omaha for the CWS, the Bulldogs deliver when reaching the postseason.

    Under head coach David Perno, the Bulldogs now have made three trips to Omaha in the past five years including playing for the 2008 national championship after reaching the CWS Finals. Georgia posted a 45-25-1 record and earned a consensus number two final ranking in the national polls, marking the second best finish in school history. Perno became only the 12th coach in NCAA history to take three teams to the CWS in his first seven seasons at the helm.

    Few outside the program considered Georgia a title contender in 2008. After all, they were coming off a 23-33 campaign where the offense batted just .279 and mustered 42 home runs. Despite welcoming back 19 lettermen including five starters and 11 pitchers, the Bulldogs were not on the national radar and began the year unranked. Then, there was arguably the nation's toughest schedule to contend with as well. Georgia had a season-opening series with top-ranked Arizona, road series with two-time NCAA champion Oregon State and Florida State, the annual tilts with Clemson and Georgia Tech plus the 30-game Southeastern Conference schedule.

    In his 12th season at Georgia including his seventh as head coach, Perno knew if the Bulldogs could be at or above .500 entering league play, his team would be poised for a memorable campaign. His leaders would have to produce on and off the field, and they did just that. Shortstop Gordon Beckham and closer Joshua Fields enjoyed two of the greatest seasons ever by a Bulldog. They were named All-Americans, SEC Player and Pitcher of the Year and eventual First Round draft picks by the Chicago White Sox and Seattle Mariners respectively. Beckham's school record 28 home runs led the country, as did Fields' school record 18 saves. Seniors Ryan Peisel, Matt Olson, Jake Crane and Nick Montgomery were consistent contributors, and the SEC rotation remained the same the whole year in juniors Trevor Holder, Stephen Dodson and Nathan Moreau. The Bulldog offense tallied a .309 batting average and 96 home runs and the defense fielded .971.

    Following an SEC-opening loss to No. 21 Arkansas in Fayetteville that gave the Bulldogs a 6-7 overall record, Georgia's veterans stepped forward. In the fifth inning of game two with Arkansas, Georgia found itself trailing 10-1. The Bulldogs had enough losing and mounted a thunderous comeback, winning 15-11 and continued the thrashing in the series finale, taking game three 13-2. The Bulldogs would roll out to a 14-3-1 SEC start before dropping a series at Florida, but the league title was already in sight.
 

    With a week to go in the SEC season, Georgia went ahead and clinched the SEC title at No. 16 Vanderbilt, giving the Bulldogs three league crowns this decade, the most by any school. Georgia concluded SEC play with a school record 20-9-1 mark and headed to the SEC Tournament as the top seed. With a few holes in its lineup and rotation due to injuries, Georgia made a quick exit, dropping two straight and headed home for an NCAA Regional.
 
   The Bulldogs garnered one of the 16 host regional sites and with their SEC title picked up the number eight national seed. Staying true to the regional format, the rival Yellow Jackets were the two seed at Foley Field with Louisville and Lipscomb rounding out the field. Georgia was stunned by the Bison 10-7 in the opening round and now had to win four straight to capture the regional or its season would be over. The Bulldogs responded with four victories including beating Ga. Tech twice, the first time via an 8-0 shutout and then an 18-6 rout for the title. Montgomery tossed Georgia's only complete game of the year and in shutting out Tech secured his place in Bulldog lore. It was Georgia's first shutout of Tech since 1969 and only the third ever in Bulldog postseason history. Next, Georgia welcomed No. 15 N.C. State to Athens for a Super Regional. After taking the opener 11-4, the Wolfpack ensured more Foley Field drama by taking game two 10-6. In the pivotal game three with the winner advancing to the CWS, Georgia used a nine-spot in the first inning to cruise to a 17-8 victory. A record 93,152 fans came to Foley Field in 2008 and were a part of this memorable season.

Georgia in the 2008 MLB Draft
Gordon Beckham, SS: 1st Rd., Chicago (A.L.)
Joshua Fields, RHP: 1st Rd., Seattle
Trevor Holder, RHP: 10th Rd., Florida {Did not sign}
Stephen Dodson, RHP: 10th Rd., Colorado
Nathan Moreau, LHP: 11th Rd., Baltimore
Ryan Peisel, 3B: 12th Rd., Colorado
Nick Montgomery, RHP: Free Agent, N.Y. (A.L.)
Matt Olson, OF: Free Agent, Kansas City

    Georgia would stay awhile in this CWS trip, 16 days to be exact, winning their first four contests. The Bulldogs won their bracket, beating top-ranked Miami and then seventh-ranked Stanford twice. In the CWS Finals against eighth-ranked Fresno State, Georgia rallied for a 7-6 win before falling in the next two games, 19-10 and 6-1 to leave Omaha one victory short of a national title. What a difference a year makes.

    Eight teams advance to the CWS annually, and only one team walks off the field for the last time with a victory. The Bulldogs didn't leave Omaha with that final win, but they were winners nonetheless, capturing the hearts of legions of Georgia fans across the country.
 


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