May 29, 2008
ATHENS, Ga. _ Just in case the Lipscomb Bisons needed another reminder of the challenge ahead all they had to do was take a look in left center at Foley Field.
Painted in white are five baseball diamonds commemorating the five College World Series visits made by the Georgia Bulldogs, the last in 2006. The Bulldogs, the No.1-seed, face the Bisons, the No. 4 seed, here Friday afternoon at 2 CDT in an NCAA Regional. Georgia Tech and Louisville will play at 6.
The games will be televised live on CSS. Fans wanting to watch their game with fellow Bisons followers are invited to Arlo's in the student center for a special viewing party.
The Bisons went through a spirited workout Thursday afternoon. They found no reason to be intimidated by their surroundings. They are 5-6 over the past two seasons against SEC teams under Lipscomb coach Jeff Forehand with a 2-1 record against LSU, a 1-1 record against Tennessee, 1-0 record against Auburn, an 0-1 finish against Alabama and a 1-3 worksheet against Vanderbilt.
The Bisons are one of only four teams making their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The others are Dallas Baptist, an independent; Mount St. Mary's from the Northeast Conference; UC-Davis from the Big West Conference.
"We have a lot of older guys who are weathered," said Bisons catcher Caleb Joseph. "A lot of it has to do with being comfortable in an SEC setting and we are. All we can do is play a solid game and hopefully things will bounce our way.
"I don't think teams are going to overlook us. Georgia may take us likely but I don't think so. Georgia is a great team. They are well-coached. They are going be prepared. It is good being the underdog, but I wouldn't categorize us as that."
Georgia is planning to start right-hander Stephen Dodson, a junior with a 5-3 record and a 3.80 earned run average. The Bisons are starting left-hander Rex Brothers, 3-5, 5.69 ERA.
Leading the Bulldogs, the No. 8 seed nationally in the tournament, are Joshua Fields, SEC Pitcher of the Year, and Gordon Beckham, SEC Player of the Year.
Forehand and his coaching staff have spent time studying the Bulldogs, the SEC Champions. Scouting reports are a help, but both teams are at a preparation disadvantage since they have never met in a baseball game.
"When you haven't played a team and compiled your own report it is kind of hard to get your own idea of how to attack by looking at DVDs or what others say," Forehand said. "We know the Georgia players who are having good years, but we are getting most of our information off of the stat pages.
"Coaches sometimes over think it because we all want to have all the knowledge of what is going on. I think the scouting reports do the coaches more good than the players. The game is played on the field. We will see how it goes."
Forehand and his players have enjoyed the ride this week, but they are ready to simply play baseball.
"It has been a whirlwind," Forehand said. "Most people probably understand we are a small school that had some favor in a 15-inning game.
"We have never been in an NCAA Regional in a setting like this. But the closest thing is playing SEC games in the middle of the week. But we haven't experienced the energy level and the intensity level of a regional."
The Atlantic Sun had earned multiple bids for the NCAA Tournament in baseball the last nine years in a row. But this time around the Bisons are the sole representative.
"Our conference is pretty good," Forehand said. "Hopefully, we can represent the Atlantic Sun Conference extremely well."