HOOVER, Ala. -- If the Georgia Bulldogs look back and wonder “What if?” they'll be thinking of Wednesday afternoon. Down one with the tying run 90 feet away and the winning run another 30 yards behind him, the Bulldogs couldn’t get the job done against the Auburn Tigers, dropping an elimination game, 3-2, at Regions Park.
The loss is the Bulldogs’ fourth straight and threatens the postseason hopes of a team that finished 31-26. The SEC tournament in Hoover would have been their proving ground. Now the selection committee must judge a regular season wrought with ups and downs.
After the game, UGA coach David Perno was frustrated with the way he handled the game and couldn’t say whether a shot at the NCAAs would be in his team’s future. He and Auburn coach John Pawlowski passed each other in the hallway, the fourth-year coach of the Tigers wishing his counterpart good luck moving forward.
“We wanted to win the game to win the game; to stay around here,” Perno said, bristling at the notion of a must-win scenario. “... You play all season to get here and when you get here, you want to win. Nothing else. That’s it.”
Perno was asked to size up his chances at making a regional and, again, skirted any absolute statements.
“I’m not in that business,” Perno said. “I’m trying to coach this team. We have quality wins. We’ve beaten everybody at least once that we’ve played” -- his voice trailing -- “It’s a situation where it’s out of our hands.”
Tigers starter Daniel Koger tied up the Bulldog bats, throwing 5.1 innings of shutout baseball, striking out one and scattering seven hits. UGA wasn’t able to get solid contact against the freshman lefty, popping up a number of pitches and swinging at balls in the dirt.
UGA had trouble stringing together hits until late, stranding 14 runners runners. Of the Bulldogs' 12 hits, all but one were singles.
UGA seemed to put it together in the bottom of the eighth inning, getting two runners on with a walk and a single. A sacrifice fly put runners on the corners and led to a Nelson Ward single, scoring the Bulldogs’ first run of the afternoon. Pinch hitter Conor Welton followed up with a sharp RBI single into left field to bring the game within one.
Kyle Farmer gave UGA hope with a triple in the ninth inning with one out. He ended up never getting the chance to cross home plate after a groundout, two walks and a lineout to the left fielder.
Michael Palazzone took the loss for UGA, allowing three earned runs over 4.1 innings of work. He gave up six hits and struck out four. Palazzone ran into trouble walking three batters and allowing four of five leadoff men to reach safely. He also failed to keep runners close, allowing five stolen bases.
Blake Dieterich and Pete Nagel held down the fort for the remainder of the game, giving up eight hits without allowing another run to score.