Dawgs' post-season fate now in doubt

ATHENS — The prospects of Georgia's postseason fate are so perilous that even usually meaningless midweek games have taken on a tense feel.

That's why Wednesday's 2-1 loss to Western Carolina was so costly for the Bulldogs. The defeat won't affect Georgia in the SEC standings, but it's sure to ding its RPI, which is the team's only real ally in its argument for a postseason spot.

"Obviously it doesn't help," Bulldogs coach David Perno said.

Georgia was No. 26 in the RPI, according to Boyd Nation, one of the country's most reliable forecasters of the number, before the loss to the Catamounts.

The loss makes this weekend's home series against Auburn that much more important. The Tigers (30-20 overall, 11-13 SEC) start a three-game set at Foley Field on Friday at 7 p.m.

"We've got to sweep this weekend if we have any hopes of doing anything," right fielder Bobby Felmy said.

The Tigers are No. 12 in the most recent RPI projection. The Bulldogs' Final SEC opponent, Tennessee, has an RPI of 22, so Perno thinks his team can make up for any damage done Wednesday with five wins in those six games.

"We've got to beat Auburn," he said.

The Bulldogs (25-22, 9-14 SEC), a group that one week ago was almost guaranteeing a trip to Birmingham, Ala., and the SEC Tournament, have now set their sights a little lower.

While 14 league wins seems to be the magic number to make the conference tournament, the Bulldogs think they can earn an at-large NCAA bid with 13 conference wins. The last two seasons, an SEC team with 13 victories has made the national tournament despite not qualifying for the conference tournament.

"No one wants to back into anything, but I would take a back-in at this point," Perno said.

Mississippi State did that last season and Florida did it in 2003. Both of those teams had 34 wins overall, while Georgia, if it finished with 13 conference victories, would have just 31 if it also beats UNC-Asheville and Winthrop in midweek games next week.

The most teams the SEC has gotten into the NCAA Tournament is nine, but the league has 11 in the top 30 of the RPI this season, which makes Perno believe 10 teams could receive bids this year.

"If they go by (RPI), we have 11 worthy, but I don't know if you can jump to 11," he said. "Ten is a fair number."

Georgia will have to play better than it did Wednesday to continue the debate. Four Catamount pitchers held the Bulldogs to just five hits and a lone run, which came on an RBI single by Joe Billick in the second inning.

Western Carolina left 12 runners on base, but the Bulldogs had four runners thrown out on the base paths and only one extra base hit.

Felmy discounted the idea that he and his teammates were looking ahead to their final two SEC series and looked past the Catamounts.

"They just came in and put it to us," he said. "It just sucks losing, man. I don't even know what state they're from."

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