Before Monday's winner-take-all third game of the Athens Super Regional, Georgia head coach David Perno told the Bulldogs that no team deserved a trip to the College World Series more than the 2006 version of the Bulldogs.
A few hours and a dog pile in the center of the infield later, the Georgia Bulldogs got what they deserved – their second trip to Omaha in the last three years with an 11-6 win over South Carolina to win the Athens Super Regional 2-1 after dropping Saturday's first game, 15-6.
Before Monday's winner-take-all third game of
"I told these guys before they started in the lounge that I was on the '90 team, I knew the '87 team, on the '01 team I was an assistant coach and then the '04 team," said Perno, who was the Bulldogs' head coach in 2004. "There wasn't a more deserving team to go to Omaha than this one and that they needed to find a way to get it done because they deserved it more than any other team in our program's history."
Georgia, 47-21, now advances to the College World Series for the fifth time in school history and will play No. 2-seeded Rice at 2 p.m. Saturday at Omaha's Rosenblatt Stadium.
After failing to take advantage of chances to put South Carolina away early, the Bulldogs put the Gamecocks, 41-25, to rest with a seven-run seventh inning to cash in their chips for Omaha in front of a Foley Field record crowd of 4,392.
This year when facing elimination, the Bulldogs 8-1 and 11-0 all-time at home when facing elimination that includes a 5-0 mark the last two weekends.
"We've been saying all year that you never back a dog into a corner," said Georgia right fielder Bobby Felmy, who homered and tripled for Georgia Monday night. "We've done pretty well in elimination games, but that's because we never quit and we never get ahead of ourselves. We always stay the course and don't panic."
Georgia certainly didn't panic after its offense hit a dead-end when scoring chances presented themselves in the first few innings.
Despite control problems from South Carolina starter Wynn Pelzer who walked 9 batters, hit two and gave up seven hits, Georgia only led 4-3 after six innings, stranding a total of nine runners in the first six innings.
South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner sent Pelzer (5-5) back to the mound in the seventh inning where he game finally got away from the Gamecocks as Georgia scored seven times to lead 11-3, starting with a solo homer by Felmy to lead off the inning.
"We just weren't able to overcome that big seven-run seventh," Tanner said.
After Georgia loaded the bases to finally remove Pelzer from the game, USC reliever Chase Tucker gave up a two-run single to Jonathan Wyatt and a two-run triple to Joey Side that blew the game open with a 9-3 Bulldog lead.
"Once Wyatt got that hit, I knew that the pressure was off me," Side said. "I just had to try and get my job and try to get through that at-bat with getting somebody in. He made a mistake and left me a change-up over the plate."
Felmy tripled off the wall for the 10th and 11th Bulldog runs of the inning.
"My velocity was still there. But I struggled with command the whole night and it came back to bite me right there," Pelzer said.
Though the Bulldogs, who scored two of their first four runs off wild pitches, struggled to find clutch hits early, they were kept in position to win thanks to two freshmen once again baffling opposing hitters when the tide was high. After Jason Leaver gave up three runs in the first three innings, Trevor Holder held the Gamecocks scoreless for the next two, allowing a hit to improve his record to 5-3.
Though giving up a run a piece, Rip Warren, Nathan Moreau and Joshua Fields were still able to close out the game. Warren pitched the sixth and seventh innings, giving up a solo homer and was replaced with Moreau with two outs in the seventh who gave up a run before Fields took his place over the final inning and a third.
"Our guys fought hard. Quite honestly, we got beat by a better team," Tanner said.