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UGA hits the road

Arkansas-Little Rock has some recent experience as the underdog.

The Trojans are coming off a victory over Florida International that made them the first No. 8 seed ever to win the Sun Belt tournament championship. Now UALR is headed to the NCAA tournament regional in Corvallis, where the team will face top-seeded Oregon State in the opening game on Friday night.

The Trojans (24-32) have never been to the tournament before.

The top-seeded Beavers (38-17) are a formidable opponent, having won back-to-back College World Series titles in 2006 and 2007.

Fourth-seeded UALR won four straight in a march through the Sun Belt tournament, including the 7-6 victory in the championship game. Reliever Garret Graziano was named the tournament's most outstanding player after going 2-0 with one save and a 1.59 ERA in three relief appearances.

"The sky is the limit for this team," Norwood said. "I would say that things started to turn around for this team about two weeks ago. We just started getting the clutch hits that hadn't been happening earlier in the season. Add to that the fact that we just started pitching better as well."

The Beavers and Trojans are joined in the Corvallis regional by No. 2 seed Creighton (44-14) and third-seeded Georgia (31-30). The Bluejays and Bulldogs play in the regional's opener at Goss Stadium on Friday afternoon.

The winners of the 16 double-elimination regionals will move on to the best-of-three super regionals. Those eight winners advance to the College World Series, which begins June 18 at the new TD Ameritrade Park Omaha.

Creighton, a Jesuit school of about 6,000 located in Omaha, swept the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season and tournament championships for the first time, clinching both titles at TD Ameritrade Park. The Bluejays started playing at the new ballpark in April and are 14-4 in the 24,000-seat stadium.

The Bluejays are making their ninth NCAA tournament appearance, and first since 2007. They'd like nothing better than to return to their home ballpark later this month for the College World Series.

Georgia was an at-large pick after finishing fourth in the Eastern Division of the Southeastern Conference. The Bulldogs, who won the College World Series in 1990, have been to the tournament 10 times, including six postseason appearances under coach David Perno.

Perno has led the Bulldogs to the College World Series in 2004, 2006 and the CWS Finals in 2008.

Georgia was struck by tragedy this season when center fielder Johnathan Taylor broke his neck in a collision with a teammate during a March 6 game against Florida State. Taylor watched from his wheelchair Saturday as Georgia secured the winning record necessary to make the tournament with a 4-3 victory over Florida.

The Bulldogs all wear a JT 2 decal on their batting helmets in Taylor's honor, and the team keeps a framed photo of him in its dugout during games.