ATHENS, Ga. — In the fall, McKay Smith made a swing through Athens and played golf with former Georgia baseball teammates David Perno and Brian Jester. They reminisced about their days as members of the Bulldogs only national championship baseball team, in 1990, and looked a bit to the future.
“(Perno) told me this is the best team he’s ever had, and he wa s ex p e c t i n g s o m e go o d things,” said Smith, who was the Bulldogs’ starting center fielder in 1990 and now works for Morgan Stanley in Augusta, Ga. “I glad to see it’s turned out that way.”
Smith is back in Augusta this week watching on television as Perno, Georgia’s seventh-year head coach, and Jester, who is Perno’s director of baseball operations, make a run at another title. The eighth-seeded Bulldogs play unseeded Stanford today at 2 p.m. on ESPN2 in the College World Series. If Georgia wins, it will advance to the national title series. If Georgia loses, it will get one more chance to beat S t a n f o r d o n S a t u r d a y , thanks to its position in the winner bracket.
The Bulldogs already have beaten the Cardinal once in this tournament and two wins would mirror the two victories it got over Stanford in the 1990 College World Series. There are other similarities as well, members of the 1990 team said this week.
Like the 1990 team, which leaned on members of the 1987 CWS team (which went 0-2 in Omaha), this year’s team has players like Gordon Beckham, Joshua Fields, Ryan Peisel and Matt Olson, who got a taste of the CWS in 2006 but left with a bitter taste after being swept out of the event.
In 1990, it was veterans Jester and Smith who refused to let their teammates settle, said 1990 second baseman Joey Alfonso.
“They said, ‘Guys, we made it in ’87, and we were just happy to be here, and that’s not what we want to do this time,’ ” said Alfonso, now a teacher at Apalachee High School in Winder, Ga. “I think that went a long way for us to have some leadership saying, ‘We’re thinking more here.’ I think that’s part of the leadership this team is getting.”
Smith senses the teams’ togetherness is similar, he said.
“In 1987, some of us who were around would probably tell you that was probably a little more talented team, but as a group there was just more camaraderie and a better fit between the upperclassmen and the younger guys (in 1990),” he said.
Jester sees a similarity in the offensive production. The 1990 team’s big hits came from the lower part of its lineup, he said, from players who hadn’t hit the ball that well all season.
“The guys you really didn’t expect to have any kind of firepower really came through,” Jester said.
Enter Matt Cerione and David Thoms in 2008. Cerione and Thoms each had crucial hits in the Bulldog’s c o m e - f r o m - b e h i n d w i n a g a i n s t S t a n f o r d o n Monday.
Terry Childers was one of those bottom-of-the-order wonders in 1990. The starting catcher and No. 8 hitter, Childers was 2-for-4 and scored a run in Georgia’s 2-1 win over Oklahoma State in the national championship game.
“It just seems like (this year’s team) has a great chemistry, and they have a good mix of some guys who have been around and some newer players,” Childers said. “They just play with a lot of enthusiasm.”
The most important similarity, Jester said from Omaha this week, is the Bulldogs’ record at this point in the tournament.
“Obviously, we were 2-0 then, and we’re 2-0 now,” he said. “That’s some pretty good karma.”