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Georgia's balanced squad top team in Athens

6/6/2006

Athens Regional

1. Georgia (41-19) -- Seventh appearance, at-large, SEC, No. 7 national seed
2. Florida State (42-19) -- 44th appearance, at-large, ACC
3. Jacksonville (42-17) -- 10th appearance, at-large, won Atlantic Sun regular season
4. Sacred Heart (26-28) -- First appearance, automatic, won Northeast tournament

Athens Regional schedule
At Foley Field
Athens, Ga.
Friday, June 2
Game 1 -- Florida State 18, Jacksonville 0, 8th inning, susp., rain
Saturday, June 3
Game 1 -- Florida State 18, Jacksonville 0
Game 2 -- Georgia 11, Sacred Heart 0
Game 3 -- Jacksonville 4, Sacred Heart 3
Game 4 -- Florida State 6, Georgia 4
Sunday, June 4
Game 5 -- Georgia 15, Jacksonville 8
Game 6 -- Georgia 7, Florida State 1
Monday, June 5
Game 7 -- Georgia 3, Florida State 2
Georgia (44-19) advanced to the super regional round.

Athens Regional notes

Georgia appears to be repeating the late-season run that led it to Omaha in 2004. The Bulldogs won 12 straight late in that season and ran off 13 consecutive wins as the 2006 regular season came to a close. Junior first baseman Josh Morris is one of four players in the tournament to hit 20 homers this year, and he anchors a lineup that led the SEC with a .311 average thanks to junior outfielders Jonathan Wyatt (.357) and Joey Side (.343, 10 homers), who bat 1-2 in the order. Junior right-hander Brooks Brown brings power stuff to the rotation (7-3, 3.86, 105 strikeouts), but Georgia's biggest weapon is a bullpen combo of senior left-hander Rip Warren, who led the team with eight wins and a 3.10 ERA in 27 appearances, and closer Joshua Fields, who saved 14 games and recorded a 49-7 strikeout-walk ratio in 43 innings with his upper-90s fastball.

Florida State is the only team in the country to appear in the super regionals every year since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1999. Keeping that streak alive might be difficult for a club that didn't win a three-game series against a team that made this year's NCAA Tournament until it beat North Carolina State twice on the final weekend of the regular season. Junior center fielder Shane Robinson led the ACC in runs and Florida State in batting, but his junior stats (.350, 74 runs, 90 hits, 31 steals) were down from his stunning sophomore campaign (.427, 96 runs, 122 hits, 49 steals). Right fielder Jack Rye actually emerged as more of an offensive threat with a .345/.473/.617 year that included 12 homers. Junior right-handers Bryan Henry (9-3, 2.65, 97 strikeouts) and Tyler Chambliss (11-4, 2.87, 107 strikeouts) serve as the twin aces, though the third spot in the rotation has been a revolving door based on matchups and hot streaks.

Jacksonville blasted through the Atlantic Sun regular season, but got bounced from the tournament in three games. It played without injured third baseman Daniel Murphy (.394-6-54), though he delivered a game-winning pinch-hit in Jacksonville's first tournament game. The Dolphins need his bat back in at least a DH role if they're to end a 16-game losing streak against Florida State, a team that swept four midweek games between the two teams in 2006. Jacksonville will throw sophomore left-hander Matt Dobbins (12-0, 2.79), the A-Sun pitcher of the year, against FSU. He's a great story after spending his freshman year as a part-time outfielder/DH and making just three appearances as a pitcher.

Sacred Heart appeared in five NCAA Division II regionals before moving up a level, reaching the D-II World Series in 1976 and 1992. This marks the first NCAA Tournament appearance at the Division I level for the Pioneers, which finished their season with a season-best seven consecutive wins. The streak stops here for a team that ranked fourth in its league in runs (282) and ERA (5.52).

Will Kimmey covers college baseball for Baseball America.