PWD Intro: Tonight, I spent about 30 minutes talking Bulldog Baseball with Michael Rebhan. Rebhan was a starting pitcher for the 1990 Georgia Bulldog College World Series Champs. Rebhan was named Most Outstanding Player of the CWS after beating the Stanford Cardinal and Mike Mussina twice. Those two wins helped power Georgia into the finals vs. Oklahoma State. I asked him about the 1990 team and the latest edition of the Bulldogs. Below is Part 1 of the interview. Part 2 is here.
(Video Above: Michael Rebhan vs. Stanford in the 1990 College World Series. It's the final inning of the semi final game.)
PWD: In 1990, were you guys expected to make a big run?
MR: The 1990 pre-season polls ranked Georgia 15th or 16th. In '89 we had a decent season. We were the #6 seed in the SEC tourney, and the team made it to the tournament finals versus Auburn. Unfortunately, Auburn had Frank Thomas, and they beat us 2-1 in the championship game. We weren’t good enough for an at-large bid, but we had almost everyone coming back so we felt really good about our chances in 1990.
PWD: What made the 1990 team special?
MR: Looking back, that team had great leadership. We had a number of players from the 1987 College World Series team, and we added some key freshman.
We had such high expectations, but we got off to a disappointing 2-3 start. Shortly after that, we had a 14 game winning streak. During the streak, we proved that we belonged and could win. Throughout the season, we had dramatic come from behind wins. Much like this  team, we had several guys step up in the clutch. It wasn’t always the same guy [producing], and that’s part of what helped us become such a tight knit team.
The biggest key to our run was leadership. It’s also the key to this season’s run.
PWD: What role did Dave Perno play on that 1990 team?
MR: He was one of our utility players. He shared time with Joey Alphonso at second base. Dave was a better hitter, but Joey had a better glove. Coach Webber emphasized pitching and defense over hitting so Dave played less than Joey.
PWD: What do you remember about Perno’s game / style?
MR: He was an extremely hard worker. He was always diving for balls left and right. Perno was a hard nosed, tough guy who was always in the dirt. I see that toughness today in his teams. I see it in guys like Lyle Allen and Matt Ceronie diving against walls for balls. It’s impressive to see the team reflect his character.
PWD: What was it like to pitch against Mussina? Was he a big star even then?
MR: I pitched against him both games, and he was a huge star. Back then – I think – the draft was during the College World Series. I don’t think he was drafted when we played him the first game, but he had definitely been drafted by the second game. He had all the hype and spotlight which was fine by me.
PWD: Did Mussina’s draft position motivate you in the second game?
MR: What motivated me was winning the first game. Besides, I wasn’t pitching against Mike Mussina. I was pitching against the Stanford hitters. Granted, they were the #1 hitting team in the nation, too. But I was more focused on them than pitching against Mussina.
I've always been a competitive person, and I never go in thinking that I’m going to lose.
PWD: What do you think about the 2008 team?
MR: Leadership is without a doubt the key to this run. Last year, they were disappointed with the way things turned out, and I think it motivated them. This year everything fell into place perfectly.
This is the strongest pitching team that we’ve ever sent to Omaha. Even when [the 1990 team] went, we only had three guys. This team has four starters, three strong guys out of the bull pen, and then Fields pitches the ninth inning. That’s incredible depth.
PWD: I'll post Part 2 of the interview shortly. In the second half of the piece, he talks about what it takes to win a title, the job Coach Perno is doing and the changes in college baseball today.
Part 2 is here.