Georgia baseball bubble bursts, Bulldogs left out of NCAA tournament

During a game against Ole Miss at the 2021 SEC Baseball Tournament Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Ala., on Thursday, May 27, 2021. (Photo by Michael Wade)
Michael Wade

Georgia beat LSU on the baseball field, but the Bulldogs couldn’t beat out the Tigers for a spot in the 64-team NCAA tournament field.

UGA was listed as the third team out by the NCAA tournament selection committee.

The Bulldogs (31-25) finished the season squarely on the bubble but held some hope after beating the Tigers (34-22) in the first round of the SEC Baseball Tournament last week.

Georgia also had an impressive 3-4 record against No. 1-ranked teams this season, taking two of three from Vanderbilt in Nashville and notching a road win at No. 1-ranked Arkansas.

RELATED: Bulldogs enter SEC Baseball Tournament needing success to secure bid

But it was the head-to-head win over LSU that gave UGA most hope. Indeed, Tigers coach Paul Mainieri announced his retirement soon after, leading some to think the season over for LSU.

Eighth-year Georgia coach Stricklin had said he felt the Bulldogs’ 4-1 win over LSU in the No. 8-9-seed game at the SEC Baseball Tournament at the Hoover Met last Tuesday amounted to a play-in game for the winner.

RELATED: Georgia baseball tames Tigers, makes case for NCAA bid

But when the Bulldogs were eliminated by Ole Miss 4-0 last Thursday — only the third time this season they have been shut out — a bid was back in doubt.

The day before, No. 1-ranked and eventual SEC tourney champ Arkansas knocked UGA into the loser’s bracket with an 11-2 win.

Nine SEC teams made the NCAA tournament, all of them ranked higher than the Bulldogs in the RPI Rankings.

Georgia Tech also made the NCAA tournament as an at-large, despite having a worse RPI (46) than Georgia (41).

The Yellow Jackets, however, won both head-to-head meetings with the Bulldogs, including a 7-6 win in 14 innings on May 18. It was a game UGA led by a 6-3 count going into the bottom of the eighth inning.

RELATED: Georgia suffers tough loss at Georgia Tech, could prove costly later

Georgia was a regional host in the past two NCAA tournaments, earning a No. 7 seed in 2019 and a No. 9 seed in 2018. Prior to the 2018 tourney, UGA hadn’t made the field of 64 since 2011.

The Bulldogs were ranked No. 2 in the nation when the 2020 season was suspended on account of the Covid-19 global pandemic.

New UGA athletic director Josh Brooks has confidence in the Bulldogs’ baseball future, extending Stricklin’s contract earlier this season.

RELATED: Josh Brooks extends Stricklin baseball contract

Georgia showed grit in staying in contention for the tournament after seeing four of its top five pitchers suffer season-ending injuries.

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