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Georgia Baseball talks Omaha hopes, NC State series

Palmber-Thombsby:Palmer Thombs06/07/24

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ATHENS, Ga. — When Georgia Baseball started its season, Wes Johnson believed his team could go far. There were doubters out there that saw 18 transfers and 28 newcomers in total and wondered what chemistry might look like. Sure, Charlie Condon was incredible, but it takes more than one man to take a team to the College World Series.

Heading into it’s 58th game of the season, Georgia is just two wins away from reaching that goal of Omaha. It’s a place the Bulldogs haven’t been since 2008, and one all members of this year’s squad understand would mean a lot for the program.

“Yeah, you know, the first thing we want to talk about is tomorrow, but yes, I’d be naive not to say that yeah, if we got there and we win that second game, for these guys, especially this group – you look at Charlie Condon, you look at Corey Collins, Fernando Gonzalez, I mean, I could go through all the guys that have been here a while – it would mean the world to them, right?,” Johnson told reporters Friday at Foley Field, less than 24 hours away from first pitch.

“You know, for us, it just shows that you can come in – I heard the term so many times when I got here about rebuild, rebuild, rebuild – you just know that you don’t have to rebuild,” the first-year head coach added. “That you can go out and if you do your due diligence and run your models and everything else you can find a team that can win in your ballpark.”

That’s exactly what Johnson did in year one. He attacked the transfer portal and built a team around winning at Foley Field.

Power hitters like Condon and Collins were gifted to him. Gonzalez adds experience behind the plate and his fair share of offensive ability as well. However, Johnson also added the liked of Slate Alford, Kolby Branch, Dylan Goldstein and others in the portal to bolster the Bulldog attack.

Standing between UGA and the College World Series however is NC State. Seeded tenth nationally, the Wolfpack won the Raleigh Regional with ease – trailing only once, and early in their first game at that – to advance to this weekend’s Super Regional in Athens. They took two of three from Clemson, North Carolina and Virginia, split a two-game set with Florida State and swept Wake Forest in their final five ACC series. Four of those five teams are also playing in Super Regionals and all five made the NCAA Tournament.

“They’re a good squad, and we talked about that today: you’ve got 16 teams left in College Baseball so everybody’s going to be good. Everybody’s got talent, and everybody is playing good baseball right now. I think that’s the most important thing: if you’ve made it this far, you’re a good group and playing good right now,” Condon said about NC State. “As a staff, I know they’ve got a couple of good starters and some good bullpen arms too. Know they’re a left-handed bat heavy offense that can swing it pretty well. I think it’s going to be a shootout this weekend. It’s going to be really fun with a lot of good ballplayers all over the field. I’m really excited to get it started.”

Condon is absolutely correct to be excited about getting the series underway. It’s an exciting opportunity and a return to what Georgia Baseball should be: competitive at the highest level. Sunday gave the Bulldogs reason to celebrate, advancing out a regional by beating their rival in extra innings. Monday was a much-needed day off after a late night and an emotional victory, but come Tuesday, focus was entirely on the Supers.

“Coach told us after the game, ‘Enjoy it because these moments mean everything and they last forever.’ He told us that, and we took an off day, got away from the field and really enjoyed it. Got back after it on Tuesday and practiced,” Collins said. “First thing it was, ‘Hey, back to a new week, a new opportunity ahead of us.’ That’s been how we’ve approached it. We talk about enjoying it and the reason we’ve been able to do the things we’ve been able to do, but in the long run, we’ve got a chance to make some more that are bigger than that moment.”

Those bigger moments await in Omaha for the winner of this weekend’s best-of-three set. Whether it’s the Bulldogs or Wolfpack moving on remains to be seen.

“It means the world. We fell in love with this place the first day we stepped on it. We wanted to bring this back here for as long as we’ve been here,” Collins said about being on the Super Regional stage and having the ability to host in Athens. “To us, it means everything; it means the world. Seeing this guy (Condon) grow and come up like he has, I really couldn’t have drawn it up any better. It’s just awesome to be back in Athens. We love it.”

“We worked really hard through the offseason and into the spring. It was really getting everybody to buy into what this program is and what it looked like before,” Condon added. “We really believed that for a very long time and that’s why we’re here – the persistence of this group, and the willingness to never quit and get better. This has kind of been the vision for a while.”

First pitch is set for Saturday at 12:00 p.m. ET on ESPNU. Game two will also start at noon on the same TV network with details of game three to be announced if necessary.

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