The Diamond Dogs will begin N.C.A.A. tournament play in the Classic City on Friday, when the Red and Black will host the Sacred Heart Pioneers at Foley Field beginning at 7:00 p.m.
Sacred Heart, not Restless Heart.
Contrary to what you may have heard, the Sacred Heart Pioneers are a Division I college baseball team, not a group of missionaries who came through Walnut Grove during one of the later seasons of "Little House on the Prairie." The squad from Fairfield, Conn., opened the season on an 0-11 run before righting the ship and going 26-17 down the stretch.
Although the Pioneers have made a pair of Division II World Series appearances, most recently in 1992, this is S.H.U.'s first foray into the N.C.A.A. baseball playoffs at the Division I level. Sacred Heart earned a spot in the postseason field by winning the tournament championship of the Northeast Conference.
One of Sacred Heart's fellow members of the N.E.C. is Fairleigh Dickinson, all of whose poems can be sung to the tune of "The Yellow Rose of Texas."
S.H.U.'s primary offensive weapon is first baseman Jeff Hanson, who is the squad's statistical leader in batting average (.354), slugging percentage (.563), on-base percentage (.450), runs batted in (40), and bases on balls (20).
Over the course of the campaign, Sacred Heart has been outhit by a narrow margin (492-488) but outscored by a wider gap (341-282). In 2006, the Pioneers are 25-16 in games played in Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island, but just 1-12 in games played in former Confederate States.
In closing, I note with sadness that not all the recent news related to Georgia baseball has been pleasant, as 28-year-old Jody Friedman, a Diamond Dog pitcher in 2000 and 2001, died in a boating accident over the weekend. A memorial service has been scheduled and those interested in information on the service should contact Carl Friedman at (941) 792-8446. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Friedman family in this difficult time.