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A Season-Ending Expression of Thanks to the Diamond Dogs

Although I thanked the Diamond Dogs generally for their successful season, I wanted to give them full credit for their achievement this spring, especially in light of the fact that, quite frankly, no news has been good news in Bulldog Nation since Georgia’s win last Monday night, so it’s high time we celebrated something positive.

Due partly to the way that it ended, the Classic City Canines’ stellar season has been met with a response that was less than entirely favorable, as The Realist retains his reservations about David Perno despite my best efforts to defend the Georgia coach and College Football Resource (who, to his credit, paid tribute to Uga VI, both at his own site and at The FanHouse) erroneously characterized the Red and Black as Fresno State’s "fringe top 25 opponent" even though Georgia arrived in Omaha as one of the top six nationally-seeded teams to have reached the College World Series.

Accordingly, I would like to thank the Diamond Dogs, one and all, for their contributions in 2008:

Thank you, Stephen Brock, Justin Earls, Steve Esmonde, Justin Grimm, Brent Hallman, Will Harvil, Jason Leaver, Alex McRee, Stephen Ochs, Dean Weaver, and Ryan Woolley, for your contributions, large and small, to the Bulldog bullpen. While there were some letdowns along the way, the Georgia relievers performed extremely well through the heart of the Red and Black’s conference schedule, which had a great deal to do with the Diamond Dogs’ S.E.C. championship.

Thank you, Jake Crane, for making the most of your opportunities. As though catching Joshua Fields were not service enough for one man, Crane proved productive in limited action. Despite starting only three games and being absent from the lineup altogether in 20 outings, Crane hit .310, boasted a .474 on-base percentage, sported a .985 fielding percentage, and was successful on both of his stolen base attempts.

Thank you, Adam Fuller, for making a little mean a lot. Fuller posted anemic offensive numbers (.193 batting average, .264 on-base percentage, 20 strikeouts to five walks, only one home run), yet he did what he could while on the basepaths (often as a pinch runner), successfully executing six of seven steal attempts and scoring nearly as many runs (11) as he had hits (16).

Thank you, Michael Demperio, for providing solid defensive play up the middle and for starting to come around, ever so slightly, at the plate just before being lost for the season to injury.

Thank you, Nick Montgomery, for stepping up and filling the role of starter when your team needed you most. Montgomery’s stellar outing against Georgia Tech in the regional was a clutch performance that long will live in Bulldog baseball lore.

Thank you, Robbie O’Bryan and Miles Starr, for plugging away, getting your chances, and contributing what you could as you both worked your way increasingly into the lineup.

Thank you, David Thoms, for missing a family wedding to be in Omaha and for justifying your absence with the quality of your play in Rosenblatt Stadium. When Demperio went down, Thoms stepped up to fill the void without missing a beat.

Thank you, Matt Olson, for continuing to fight hard in spite of a late-season slump at the plate. Olson still managed to hit .309 for the season as a whole and made just three errors in 157 chances. I also remain grateful to Olson, even a season later, for stepping up and serving as Odysseus against Auburn in one of the few bright spots of the dismal 2007 campaign. (I hate Auburn.)

Thank you, Lyle Allen, for making spectacular plays in the outfield so regularly that they almost came to appear routine. We know they weren’t, but Allen made it look easy while making 119 putouts without being charged with so much as a single error.

Thank you, Matt Cerione, for playing outstanding defense in the outfield, as well, and for bringing intensity and passion to the ballpark every day. The competitive flame burning in Cerione sometimes got the better of him at inopportune times, but he is a fiery guy who gives his team some spark.

Thank you, Bryce Massanari, for getting better in the midst of a tumultuous time. The loss of a loved one and the added responsibility of new fatherhood did not slow Massanari down; in fact, the birth of his daughter corresponded with a surge in production that greatly aided the Diamond Dogs’ efforts to rebound after stumbling down the stretch.

Thank you, Stephen Dodson and Nathan Moreau, for keeping the other team well enough in check---opposing batters hit .267 against Dodson and .268 against Moreau---to give the Diamond Dogs a chance to win. Although both starters had earned run averages above 4.50 and records exactly at .500 (5-5 for Dodson and 4-4 for Moreau), they pitched enough innings to keep the Red and Black in the mix, which is all you can ask of a starting pitcher, especially in a college game.

Thank you, Trevor Holder, for anchoring the Georgia pitching rotation as the regular Friday starter, leading the team with eight victories, and providing quality innings that contributed mightily to the Red and Black’s outstanding record in weekend series.

Thank you, Joey Lewis, for creating a special father-son College World Series memory---my son, Thomas, will always think of Lewis as "the dirty helmet guy"---and for demonstrating that a dirty helmet can help a hitter at the plate.

Thank you, Rich Poythress, for coming through in the clutch. However quietly, Poythress cobbled together a solid resume of achievement in the shadow of his more well-known teammates, letting his bat do the talking in the service not of individual accolades, but of team goals.

Thank you, Joshua Fields, for always, always, always closing the deal. Fields might give up three runs if Georgia had a four-run lead, but, if the guy at the plate represented the winning run, you could bet your bottom dollar that Fields would extract the requisite out from him. When I saw Fields take the mound with Georgia in the lead, I knew the Classic City Canines weren’t going to lose.

Thank you, Ryan Peisel, for looking like a marble monument to leadership who climbed down from atop a pedestal, strode to the plate, demonstrated the determination to take care of business, and accepted the responsibility anytime you fell short of your own expectations.

Thank you, Gordon Beckham, for being quite possibly the best baseball player ever to don a Georgia uniform. Beckham played with heart and, as long as he was in the lineup, you knew the Diamond Dogs never truly were out of a game until the final out was recorded.

Thank you, David Perno and the rest of the coaching staff, for guiding the Georgia program to as lengthy a period of sustained success as Bulldog baseball has ever known. While there remains room for improvement (especially in odd-numbered years), two top three national finishes in the last five years represent a real accomplishment, for which we are grateful.

Between back-to-back losses in the College World Series finals, the passing of Uga VI, and the arrests of multiple football players for assault, this has been, to put it mildly, a lousy last several days in Bulldog Nation, which is why it is all the more imperative that we celebrate what the Diamond Dogs managed to do between late February and late June. Congratulations on a great season, guys, and thanks again for everything.

Go ‘Dawgs!