May 26, 2008
The Lipscomb Bisons will truly have Georgia on their mind this week.
The Bisons, playing in their first NCAA Baseball Regional, will face the top-seeded Georgia Bulldogs in Athens, Ga., Friday afternoon at 2 p.m. CDT at Foley Field. Also in the field of four are Louisville and Georgia Tech.
More than 150 fans, friends and family members filled the Hall of Fame room in Allen Arena to overflowing to listen to the selection show on ESPN Monday morning. Many in the party had little or no sleep, having driven all night from Deland, Fla., site of the Atlantic Sun Tournament.
"For us to have that many people here on such short notice was special," said Lipscomb coach Jeff Forehand. "The following we had at the rally and the following we had at the tournament which was so far away from here is a tribute to our players."
It may be the first time the Bisons, who are the No. 4 seed, have ever experienced an NCAA Tournament in baseball, but they plan to get some attention.
"Athens is the next step," said Forehand. "We are five games away from Omaha, Neb., and the College World Series. I don't know that if in two years time that we had a realistic shot to say that.
"We are not going down to Georgia to be happy with being in Georgia. We are going down there to win three games and go to a Super Regional. Anything can happen in a four-team tournament."
The Bisons advanced to the NCAA Tournament with a 10-9, 15-inning decision over Gardner-Webb Sunday afternoon.
"We have prepared for this all year long," said Forehand as he addressed the audience. "We prepared to win the conference championship. The coaches and I played through the championship game 160 ways, but not one time did we play through 15 innings. It was a total team effort."
This will be the ninth NCAA postseason appearance for Georgia, their fourth under coach David Perno, the 2008 Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year.
This is the fourth time Georgia has been selected as one of the 16 regional sites. They have won the previous three in 2001, 2004 and 2006, advancing to the College World Series each time.
"Georgia has just raised the bar to a certain extent," Forehand said. "For us the opportunity to go play them is special. All the experience Georgia has in postseason is definitely a plus for them. The atmosphere we will experience there is something we don't see very often.
"We know what we are up against. We know we are going to have to play a really good game. If you are in a regional everybody in it is going to be a very good team and very formidable. We are going to have to do a lot of preparation, but I think our guys are ready for the challenge."
Bisons catcher Caleb Joseph doesn't think the team will be intimidated by the surroundings.
"Emotionally and physically we are drained from the Atlantic Sun Tournament, but our spirits are high," Joseph said. "We are as confident as we have ever been. To see your name on that television made every nick, scratch and bruise go away because we know we are playing in a regional."
Georgia, the SEC Champions, is 35-21-1. Georgia Tech, from the Atlantic Coast Conference, is 39-19 and Louisville, the champion in the Big East, is 41-19. The Bisons, the Atlantic Sun Champion enter the tournament with a 32-28 record.
The Bulldogs are familiar with every team except Lipscomb.
"It will be a challenge," said Perno. "We've got a tough regional, but I'm not complaining too much. They are called `regionals,' so I knew we had a chance to see Georgia Tech again, and we've faced Louisville recently too. We know each other and we'll start preparing for Lipscomb today."
The Bisons have never attempted to schedule a game with Georgia though they have played Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
"We are going to open the 2009 season with Georgia Tech," Forehand said. "We tried to play Louisville last year and couldn't work a time out. We need to continue to try to play teams of that caliber during the season as preparation for the next step."
The Bisons plan to leave for Athens Wednesday afternoon after practicing at Ken Dugan Field that morning. They will practice in Athens Thursday.