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Tough ending to a great year

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Strong season sets Diamond Dawgs up for continued move ahead

Steffenie Burns/UGA Sports Communications

Over time, there will be more appreciation for the overall body of work when it comes to the just concluded Georgia baseball season, even more so if it serves as a catalyst to making the Bulldogs relevant on a continuing basis.

For now, however, Monday’s missed opportunity - losing twice in one day when only one win was needed for a Super Regional spot - will be a head-scratching ending to an an otherwise outstanding season. The 39-win year campaign that also included tying for second in the nation’s toughest baseball conference after being picked to finish fifth in the SEC East - that’s hardly anything to sneeze at.

For the first time since 2008, Georgia baseball was nationally relevant. It was a nice feeling to head into May with at least thoughts of hopes of making a charge toward Omaha - something that followers of this program had not done in quite some time.

In the end, however, Georgia’s season met the fate of other favored teams in the NCAA bracket, three others of which were national seeds. FSU, Stanford, Ole Miss and Clemson were all knocked off despite being at home. The toughest pill to swallow had to have been given to the Seminoles who went 0-for-2 in their own regional.

In postseason play, the bottom line is not only playing well, but also getting a good draw and hoping that you don’t run into a team that is getting hot. ACC frontrunners Clemson and FSU are sitting at home while teams lower ranked in the SEC’s postseason contingent, Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Mississippi State will advance to Super Regionals.

For Georgia, it hit a Duke team that got hot just when it needed to. The Blue Devils were nine outs from an embarrassing loss to Campbell on Saturday that was in line to be arguably the biggest Camels win in school history.

Instead, they scored 11 runs in three innings and from there, the Blue Devils found their way, and that confidence helped them to a pair of wins on Monday in Athens, 8-5 and 8-4.

When you get this late in a regional, the focus becomes that bottom rung on your pitching staff - getting all you can out of pitchers used more for relief and spot starting roles. Georgia’s pitchers did what was needed on Monday to put the Bulldogs in place to win, getting solid starts from Emerson Hancock and CJ Smith. Trouble was, Georgia never took full advantage of scoring chances or opportunities to blow the game open on Monday. While Duke pushed multiple runs across four times in both of Monday’s games, Georgia did so twice. The big inning just never materialized for Georgia in a day there the Bulldogs probably did not play quite their best and Duke played above their usual best.

Keegan McGovern and Michael Curry going a combined 2-of-15 a day after both homered twice against Troy did not help, either.

Monday was tough to swallow, but it cannot be discounted how far forward in one year this group of five seniors brought it ahead toward an even brighter future.

The key, of course, is building off this year and not making it an aberration.