ATHENS - Georgia ended up with a split of its all-important baseball series with South Carolina, thanks to a rainout on Sunday.
Arguably, the cancellation of the rubber game with the Gamecocks, the two-time defending national champs, might have been a blessing for the Bulldogs. While wining the series would have been a huge plus for Georgia's NCAA tournament hopes, the rain meant they at least got a split in the series.
In any case, the Bulldogs will now enter the final week of the regular season at 29-22 overall and 13-13 in the SEC. At first glance, they're in decent position:
- They have clinched one of the 10 spots in the SEC tournament.
- Their final SEC series is at Alabama, which has the SEC's worst record. And they have one more non-conference game, on Tuesday against East Tennessee State.
"From a standpoint of being in a good frame of mind, we worked really hard to get back to .500," Georgia head coach David Perno said on Sunday, after the game was called. "So now South Carolina leaves, and we've got LSU, Florida, South Carolina, Kentucky, all of them out of the way and we're sitting .500, one conference series left that we feel like we can do some good things. So if we can find a way to finish this regular season one game over .500 we'd feel great."
Still, the Bulldogs seem squarely on the bubble for an NCAA bid with two weeks to go. Their RPI has been in the range of 35-45 for some time. But Perno feels confident about his team's chances if it finishes above .500 in SEC play, so at least winning that series in Alabama will be critical.
Perno said he felt there would be a "minimum of eight" SEC teams getting bids to the tournament.
"Obviously you've got the front four," Perno said, alluding to Kentucky, South Carolina, LSU and Florida. "Then the middle schools, the Mississippi schools are both in position to go. I think we're in position to go. I think Auburn's got a shot. And if Vandy finishes over .500 they can go."
Georgia began the season with slightly higher expectations, ranked No. 11 in the preseason Baseball America poll. The Bulldogs struggled at several points, notably a stretch in April when they lost six of seven.
But Perno thinks his team has righted things, starting with a win at LSU on April 29 (salvaging one game from that series), then a sweep of Auburn, and the split with the Gamecocks. (There was also a loss to Georgia Tech on Wednesday.)
"We're playing good. We really are," Perno said. "We're playing as good as we've played the last month. Our defense has been really good. the only time we've kind of struggled from a pitching standpoint is getting those last precious outs. And then from an offensive standpoint is getting a timely hit. But hey it happens everywhere, sometimes you're going to get that timely hit, sometimes you're not."
The Bulldogs will need more of that timely hitting over the next two weeks, or else the season will again have ended in disappointment.