For a club that barely finished with a .500 record last season, Georgia's baseball team is certainly getting a lot of preseason love.
The Bulldogs -- who open the season Friday against Presbyterian -- come in at No. 16 in ESPN's preseason power rankings released Wednesday. They are also 18th in Collegiate Baseball's preseason poll, No. 11 in Baseball America and No. 25 in the USA Today/ESPN coaches' poll.
The attention is undoubtedly a product of the way Georgia (33-32, 16-14 SEC in 2011) finished last season, rallying out of a major hole to reach the finals of the SEC tournament and grab an at-large spot in the NCAA tournament. Now the Bulldogs return most of their starting position players from that club, as well as their top two starting pitchers in Michael Palazzone and Alex Wood and closer Tyler Maloof.
Because of the team's considerable veteran presence and the confidence that came with last season's postseason run, Bulldogs coach David Perno sees reason for all the optimism.
"We just kind of picked up where we left off last year," Perno said Wednesday. "We had a great finish and had a lot of momentum and these guys came back extremely hungry and have done everything that we’ve asked and more."