Anguish resonated in Scott Stricklin’s voice Monday night, the Georgia baseball team’s exclusion from the field of 64 teams in the NCAA tourney field still fresh.
“You hurt for your seniors, the guys that won’t put on the uniform again,” said Stricklin, who spent the afternoon going through exit interviews with a team of Bulldogs who thought they had clinched a spot last week by beating LSU head-to-head in the SEC tournament.
“It’s tough to go through it like that, especially when you think you’ve done enough to get in.”
Instead, the Bulldogs will scatter, some playing summer baseball in California, others headed to Cape Cod. For those who return to campus, voluntary offseason workouts begin on June 15.
“I was really disappointed, I felt we had done enough to get in,” said Stricklin, whose No. 8-seeded Bulldogs beat No. 9 seed LSU in the SEC tourney 4-1 in a single-elimination game at the Hoover Met.
“We played and beat the team that jumped ahead of us. They threw their No. 1 pitcher against us, and we still won the game.”
LSU fans point to the Tigers having a higher RPI rating than UGA, 28 to 41, and better strength of schedule, 4 to 11.
But the teams had the same conference mark, and the Bulldogs went 4-6 against the league’s top three teams — Arkansas, Tennessee and Vanderbilt —while LSU was 1-8 in those contests.
“When you are on the bubble and that committee makes a decision, you can make a case, pros and cons for each team,” Stricklin said.
“For me, we did it on the field.”
Indeed, and that’s why you won’t hear Stricklin complaining about Georgia Tech making the NCAA tournament even though the Bulldogs have a better RPI than the Yellow Jackets (41-45) and strength of schedule (4-25).
Georgia Tech beat Georgia head-to-head twice.
Michigan, the 2019 CWS runner-up, got in with an RPI of 88 and schedule strength of 140. The Big Ten played league games only this season on account of its Covid-19 protocol.
Georgia wasn’t the only team with a beef, as some pointed to Alabama getting in over PItt.
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Stricklin left his players with some parting thoughts in their one-on-one meetings.
“I told them when you turn the page, it’s your page,” Stricklin said. “What’s that page going to say? What’s next for them?
“I wanted them to remember this feeling and how much it hurt. Have a chip on the shoulder and not put ourselves in this position again.”
The roster for the 2022 season won’t sort itself out until after the Major League Baseball Draft July 11-13.
Pitchers Ryan Webb and Jonathan Cannon are expected to be drafted high enough to leave UGA. Pitcher C.J. Smith’s arm troubles have likely ended his Georgia career.