The dog mask awaits as Georgia, N.C. State battle for College World Series bid

Georgia's Charlie Condon (24) during Georgia's game against Army during the first round of the NCAA Athens Regional Tournament at Foley Field in Athens, Ga., on Friday, May 31, 2024. (Kari Hodges/UGAAA)

Credit: Kari Hodges/UGAAA

Credit: Kari Hodges/UGAAA

Georgia's Charlie Condon (24) during Georgia's game against Army during the first round of the NCAA Athens Regional Tournament at Foley Field in Athens, Ga., on Friday, May 31, 2024. (Kari Hodges/UGAAA)

ATHENS — The dog mask.

One must get to the bottom of such phenomena when the wearers-of-said-mask are among 16 college teams still competing in the NCAA baseball tournament. Georgia is one of those 16 teams.

So is N.C. State, which may or may not have a mask of its own. The teams and their canine-oriented mascots meet in the Athens Super Regional at noon Saturday at Foley Field for the first game in a best-of-three series to determine who advances to the College World Series. The Bulldogs (42-15) are seeded No. 7, and the Wolfpack (36-20) are No. 10. The sold-out game will be televised on ESPNU.

The Bulldogs’ dog mask will be ever-present in the home team’s first-base dugout this weekend. Its frequent use not only is hoped for but is expected.

If a Georgia player makes a particularly significant play – namely, hits a home run – he ends up having the rubber dog mask pulled over his head before he even reaches the top step of the dugout by mobbing teammates. Notably, the Bulldogs are third in the nation in homers with 145 and average 9.3 runs per game.

So the dog mask has endured a lot of use this season.

“We might have to run it through the washer before too long,” said Georgia star slugger Charlie Condon, who could not confirm whether he’s donned the mask for all of his nation-leading 36 home runs. “It doesn’t stink that bad, I don’t think. The more we use it, the more you want it on your head to do its purpose. But we take it off pretty quick.”

Added senior Corey Collins: “You can’t see out of it anyway. You’re just walking blind. It’s kind of dangerous.”

Georgia baseball players and coaches gather on the mound at Foley Field on Friday at the end of their 90-minute practice in advance of Saturday's NCAA Athens Super Regional. (Photo by Chip Towers/

Credit: Chip Towers

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Credit: Chip Towers

It’s kind of fun, too, and that’s totally the point. It’s why the mask received the early-season endorsement of first-year coach Wes Johnson.

“We could have a whole segment on that,” Johnson said with a laugh after Georgia’s practice Friday. “The guys just wanted a prop in the dugout, right? I just said, ‘hey, when did we become the German Shepherds? I thought we were the Bulldogs.’ But there’s been a lot of fun with that.”

Yes, the mask resembles a German Shepherd, not a bulldog. But this fun-loving baseball team does not to quibble over such details. The mask has a job to do, and it’s doing its job.

Credit senior pitcher Brandt Pancer, a Suwanee resident and first-year transfer from Stanford, for the concept. He thought, “we need something funny” for a prop. Pancer went online and ordered it off Amazon and brought it to practice one day.

“We were like, ‘All right, OK,’ and then we started doing it,” Collins said. “As you see, Tre Phelps fell in love with it, as we all did. Logan Jordan also has taken it to heart. So, it’s a great team thing.”

Jordan is the de facto “Bestower of the Mask” in the dugout. He makes sure it always is at-the-ready at arm’s length. Phelps, a homer-hitting freshman from Kennesaw, tends to don at the mask at the end of home-field victories, at which time he imitates the territory-marking action that real male dogs utilize.

Taste considerations notwithstanding, it is an accurate metaphor for the way Georgia has performed at home this season. The Bulldogs have a gaudy record of 32-5 at Foley Field this season.

Believe it or not, there is some method to this madness. It speaks to philosophy Johnson brought with him from LSU and previous stops in the SEC and MLB. Generally, that is to have fun, stay loose, play to win.

“I want our guys to have fun,” said Johnson, who was pitching coach for LSU on its run to college baseball’s national championship 50 weeks ago. “We have enough serious things in life we have to deal with on a daily basis. So, that’s the dog mask. The guys came up with it. I just laughed when I saw it was a German Shepard.”

About that, Pancer requests some grace. Apparently, there were no bulldog masks available. And with the season opener at hand, time was of the essence. The Dogs needed a dog mask, so he ordered one.

Seventeen weeks later, Georgia is still playing baseball. That’s a significant accomplishment considering the Bulldogs – and many of these same players – managed to win only 29 games a year ago. That, and an annual inability to advance in the postseason, ultimately cost former coach Scott Stricklin his job. Georgia failed to move past the first-round regionals the four times in 10 years they earned bids, twice as regional hosts. He was fired almost exactly one year ago.

Historically, though, the Bulldogs have been very good about getting to Omaha, Nebraska, for the CWS once they reach this stage. Georgia has won four Super Regionals (2001, ‘04, ‘06, ‘08) and also punched its ticket to the CWS in 1990 when district regionals were the route. The Bulldogs won their one and only national championship that year.

As coincidence would have it, the Bulldogs had to get through N.C. State the last time they won a home super regional to advance to Omaha. The Wolfpack pushed them to a third game in 2008, but Georgia jumped to a 9-0, first-inning lead in the deciding game and cruised on from there.

Nobody is expecting anything easy this time either. N.C. State is scrappy ACC team that has a seasoned pitching staff and enough power in the lineup to see its Nos. 2, 3 and 4 hitters combine for 52 home runs.

Little ol’ Foley Field is known for giving up its share of those. But, as always, Georgia has “The Mask,” not to mention Condon, Collins and four other Bulldogs who have recorded double-figure homers this season.

Somebody’s going to don the mask. The question is just who and when.

“We’re electric; we have fun,” Collins said. “You know, we just go out there and hang loose. It might look like we’re a relaxed team, but really we’re very focused. That’s just what we do.”