ATHENS — It’s Saturday night, in Athens. Time to tee it up between the foul lines!
Did you know that they say that before games here at Foley Field? Well, the first part they do, not the foul lines part. That’s my own goofy addition. But they do have a pretty inspirational pregame routine here, and it even includes “Baba O’Riley” by The Who like they play before Georgia football games at Sanford Stadium.
Once again, it’s that type of atmosphere that’s greeting the No. 4-ranked Diamond Dawgs as they get ready to face Florida State in the second round of the NCAA Athens Regional here tonight. First pitch scheduled is scheduled for 7:06 p.m. An over-capacity of 3,344 is expected.
Like last night, when the Bulldogs were getting ready to blast Mercer 13-3 in the first round, Georgia fans are filling the parking lots around Foley and the Dan Magill Complex and tailgating as if it were a football Saturday on campus.
This is what I love about UGA fans. They recognize a winner when they see one. I don’t mean Georgia’s 45-15 record and No. 4 national seed, which is impressive. I mean the players and the personalities that populate this team.
Guys, if you haven’t been keeping up, this is a fun team to watch, a good group to root for. It’s a special team, from their star pitchers like Tony Locey and Emerson Hancock, the latter of which is throwing tonight. There’s the star, Aaron Schunck, who strides to the plate to the walk-up music of Funky Monkey and clubs the ball all over the place. Or, leaves his post at third base to go to the mound to save the closest and most important games.
There’s the blazing Tucker Maxwell in center field, who steals bases at will and has hit a dozen homers from his lead-off spot as well. There’s the impeccable middle infield pickers of shortstop Cam Shepherd and L.J. Talley, who have few enough errors between them to count on one hand. There’s “Big John” Cable, DH-ing doubles every time you turn around.There’s Mason “Moose” Meadows, who had his face smashed with orbital fractures from a foul ball earlier this season but came back two weeks later to continue throwing out base runners and get the timeliest of hits.
It goes on from there. Zac Kristofaz, the giant-killing reliever, Cole Wilcox, the flame-throwing freshman. They’re all loose and fun. Everybody went to the barber before this weekend’s regional and dialed up their own funky cuts in one way or another. A lot of mohawks and Seventies ‘Staches going on.
And talk about a team that plays well at home. Did you realize the Bulldogs improved to 29-3 at Foley Field this season after ast night’s win? They did. And Hancock, who’s on the mound tonight, is 5-0 with a 0.55 ERA when toeing the home rubber.
This is a team that should be embraced. You have the diehards, like the guys in UGA’s “Left Field Lounge,” who have been doing it all season; and the Randy Butler family of Athens who have attended pretty much every home game in their seats behind home plate; and those crazies up in the Green House behind the right field incline formerly known as “Kudzu Hill.” But increasingly you’re seeing the good folks from Atlanta drive over to take in their games.
I can vouch for it people, it’s worth driving over to see.
I don’t know far this group will go, but they look like they won’t stop ’til Omaha, and maybe not even then!
Come see for yourself. But you might have to scalp a ticket out on Sanford Drive.