Georgia’s baseball team has had an up-and-down season, from a No. 1 ranking to an eight-losses-in-nine-games tailspin. I chatted with coach David Perno in an otherwise empty dugout before practice one day last week and, although I should have posted this sooner, wanted to share some of what he had to say:
On this season’s attendance, which set a school record Sunday: “Yeah, it is [gratifying]. We’ve come a long way. Even a good year like ’01, even that year, the place wasn’t sold out until the [NCAA] Regional. So it’s been fun to watch. And I don’t think obviously you can just give this team the credit. It started with the ’04 team; they created a lot of interest. And the ’06 team and the ’08 team. . . . I didn’t want people to come for the promotions or the marketing; I wanted them to come because we’ve got a good product and are fun to watch. I’ve always been a big believer in that.”
On this topsy-turvy season: “[On balance], we’re where we should be. We obviously have some returners and some guys who have been around and done a great job for us. But by the same token it was a relatively new pitching staff, and your shortstop and third basemen are true freshmen, [although] those two have done a great job. . . . At the same time, when we were No. 1, we weren’t No. 1. But it’s not that we can’t finish there. . . . It just seems everything bad spread throughout our team [recently]. Bad baseball is contagious — just like good hitting is contagious. . . . We’re still a little disappointed we’re out of the [SEC regular-season] race, but at the same time we’re really anticipating regrouping and getting a fresh start and playing our style. We haven’t really put everything together [at one point] all year. It was always something: either struggling defensively, or striking out 15 or 16 times a game, or walking too many. We’ve never pitched like we’re capable, played the kind of defense we’re capable and swung the bats like we’re capable, all at the same time. If we can get this team to do that together, I think this team could be very special and tough to beat in the postseason.”
Speaking of the postseason: “I think we can get where we ultimately want to be [which is the College World Series]. I think we’re good enough to do that. The team has shown those capabilities. Now, we just got to improve our seed. I think we’re good enough and very capable of making some noise in the postseason, because of our starting pitching and our bullpen and our lineup.”
On the season’s biggest surprise: “I did not expect to hit the home runs; that is the surprise. Everyone thought we didn’t have any power. And all of a sudden we’re going to shatter every school record. . . . Before it’s all said and done, we’re going to have five guys with double-digit home runs and probably two with 20-plus.”
Next up, as you probably know: The Bulldogs play Georgia Tech at Turner Field on Tuesday night.