After magical 2006 Dawgs may rebuild in 2007

OMAHA – In the last seven games of Georgia's baseball season, which ended Monday thanks to an 0-for-2 at the College World Series, freshman shortstop Gordon Beckham had three hits and two RBI.........

Beckham was a .298 hitter with 49 RBI from the No. 3 spot in the batting order entering the postseason. By the last game, he had been dropped to the No. 8 hole, and he grounded into the double play that completed the Bulldogs' 5-3 loss to Oregon State on Monday in Rosenblatt Stadium.

"He had a tough couple weeks here, but I just looked him in the eye and said, ‘Keep your head up, you're the guy and you're going to get us back here.'"

Just like that, the magical 2006 season was gone, and Perno had turned his attention to 2007, when he will have to rebuild the team that just made the school's second trip to the CWS in three years. The fourth-year seniors who are leaving Perno's program have won 122 games, including 47 this year, which is second-best in school history.

"It's the most successful team in the University of Georiga's history," Perno said. "It was a joy to coach this team and a joy to be around them, not only this year, but the last three years have been quite a run. I hate to see it end."

The Bulldogs' quick exit from Omaha, thanks to two-run losses to Rice and Oregon State, hasn't dampened Perno's optimism about the future of the program.

"I told the guys to keep their heads up," said departing senior Bobby Felmy. "A lot of them have three more years, and if anyone can take them back, it's Coach Perno. He's going to get them back there in the next year or two."

This season marked the first the Bulldogs (47-21) have made trips to the College World Series in such quick succession.

"I think this group has made a name for ourselves in the postseason. We play well. We're in the toughest league in the country, and, if you can win late in the year, that's how you earn your respect."

A mostly new group will have to carry on the tradition Georgia has established in the last three seasons. In starters Joey Side (center field), Felmy (right field), Jason Jacobs (catcher), Brooks Brown (pitcher), Mickey Westphal (pitcher) and Rip Warren (pitcher), the Bulldogs will lose 162 runs, 154 RBI, 270 hits and 23 wins.

If first baseman Josh Morris leaves, add 62 runs, 68 RBI and 84 hits to that total.

"We're going to have to have some new guys step up," Perno said. "It's going to be fun. It's going to be an interesting challenge, but we look forward to it."

Who's Gone?

CF Joey Side*
RF Bobby Felmy
C Jason Jacobs
P Brooks Brown**
P Mickey Westphal
P Rip Warren

Who's Back?

2B Matthew Dunn
SS Gordon Beckham
3B Ryan Peisel
LF Jonathan Wyatt
P Trevor Holder
P Jason Leaver
P Nathan Moreau
P Josh Fields

Who's on the fence?
1B Josh Morris***
* Sixth-round MLB pick, will leave
**First-round MLB pick, will leave
***12th-round MLB pick, could decide to stay or go
(Only major contributors from 2006 listed)

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