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Georgia looking to change old trend


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Georgia had a choice to make after losing to Fresno State in the College World Series championship series last June.

The Bulldogs could continue the trend of having a bad year after a trip to the CWS, or they could decide to write their own positive chapter in the Georgia history books.

The 2009 season certainly is still young, but if the first 27 games of the season are any indication, the Bulldogs are dead set on the second option. There's no doubt where they want to end the season.

The goal is perfectly clear.

"I think as talented as this team is right now, anything that doesn't take us back to Omaha is a failure as far as I'm concerned," Georgia first baseman Rich Poythress said. "We have to be sure to take things one game a time, but we want this road to lead back to Omaha."

If the Bulldogs continue at the current pace, Omaha once again will be on the program's June itinerary.

The Bulldogs still have much to do the rest of the season, but here are a few things to ponder. They currently have a 24-3 record and a 7-2 conference mark. The Bulldogs' RPI sits at 18 but that number definitely should improve by playing LSU this weekend.

Critics have suggested the Bulldogs haven't played much of a schedule thus far. But sweeping even an average Arizona team on the road in dominating fashion was pretty impressive. The Bulldogs also have taken care of business in SEC play the last two weekends and most recently swept a decent Clemson in a two-game mid-week set.

Even with the Bulldogs impressing a lot of people so far this season and somehow leaving something to be desired in the eyes of others, there's no question the toughest part of their schedule remains. However, this isn't the Georgia we're used to. This team has swagger.

The Bulldogs have several veterans on the mound and at the plate, while the newcomers have quickly bought into Perno's system. As a result, team chemistry is great and there's strong focus entering each game.

This year's mindset is a stark contrast from previous Georgia teams coming off a trip to the College World Series.

"The veterans are just motivated more than ever and I think they kind of feel like the national title was ours last season," Perno said. "The other energy comes from the newcomers. They don't really care if they start or don't play, they just want to be part of helping the team get back to Omaha."

While the newcomers have been outstanding additions to the program, the veterans are the biggest reason the Bulldogs have experienced a wealth of success. Bryce Massanari and Joey Lewis have been consistent contributors at the plate, while first baseman Rich Poythress is on another level.

Poythress had a productive campaign as a sophomore last season. But with hitters such as Gordon Beckham and Ryan Peisel not in the lineup this season, some doubters expected the hard-hitting first baseman to have a rather down year at the plate. It has been anything but that.

Poythress is arguably the leading candidate to win National Player of the Year honors and is hitting .451 with 13 homers and 49 RBIs. He also is slugging .905 and has a .552 on-base percentage.

The junior has brought other qualities to the diamond, too.

"He's just in great shape, more focused and wanted to make sure he had a good junior campaign at the plate," Perno said. "Something else I've noticed is that he's made a transformation from a leadership standpoint. He has really responded well this season."

In terms of surprises, the Bulldogs are very pleased with third baseman Colby May and shortstop Levi Hyams. Both freshmen, May is hitting .343 with nine homers and 30 RBIs, while Hyams is hitting .296 with a pair of homers and 16 RBIs. He also has a .960 fielding percentage.

Consistent pitching also has played a huge part in Georgia's success this season. Senior Trevor Holder has continued where he left off last season, while fellow weekend starter Alex McRee is having a solid campaign and reliever Dean Weaver has almost been unhittable.

Overall, the Bulldogs have almost done everything right.

"We've really only had about two bad days this season and that's it," Perno said. "I thought we'd have a good record this season but I certainly never would've imagined that we'd get off to this good of a start with several newcomers."

Consistency finally has arrived at Georgia and opponents beware.

The Bulldogs want to finish their job in Omaha.

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