The amount of respect that Perno has for Lopez is not surprising, given the fact that Lopez helped him get his job. After Ron Polk left Georgia in 2001, Lopez phoned Georgia athletic director Vince Dooley to recommend Perno as Georgia's next head coach. Three years later, Perno will have to beat his idol to advance in the winner's bracket, and he'll try to do it with a team that is very different from Lopez's Arizona squad.
While the Wildcats rely on offense, Georgia's strength is its pitching staff. All three of starters have ERAs under 4.25, including normal Sunday starter Paul Lubrano (5-4, 4.22), who will get the nod in Friday's game against the Wildcats. The senior lefthander did not pitch in the Bulldogs' 2-0 Super Regional sweep of Georgia Tech but will throw Friday because he has the freshest arm. Sean Ruthven (7-1, 2.94) and Michael Hyle (7-2, 3.10), a pair of righties, round out a strong rotation that is complemented by a very solid bullpen. Lefty closer Will Startup posted 10 saves, including two in the Super Regional, and allowed just 49 hits in 73 innings. Perno will use him for more than one inning at a time, evidenced by his three inning save in the Super Regional opener against Georgia Tech. Bo Lanier (4-1, 2.61) and Johnny Dobbs (5-2, 3.61) are reliable set-up men that provide quality innings to bridge the gap between the starters and Startup.
Offensively, the Bulldogs are what Lopez describes as a "big, physical SEC team". First baseman Josh Morris is the main power threat with 16 home runs and 68 RBI, both tops on the team. Justin Holmes and Josh Smith are the table setters for Morris with each hitting over .300 at the top of the lineup. Holmes is the team's leading hitter at .328 and combines power and speed to produce a tough out in the second spot. His 17 stolen bases lead the Bulldogs and his eight home runs are third on the squad. Marshall Szabo is the other Georgia regular hitting over .300.
The Bulldogs were not nationally seeded, but they will be a tough opponent. Their pitching staff is solid from start to finish and their offense averages over seven runs a game. After surviving a brutal SEC, Omaha will probably seem like a picnic to Georgia, but it shouldn't take the Wildcats for granted. Arizona won't be expected to win, but that's nothing new for Lopez's squad. After shocking the folks in South Bend and Long Beach, Arizona would like nothing more than to add the residents of Omaha and Athens to its list.